Beyonce Does It Again With Her Second Visual Album ‘Lemonade’
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to cool myself off. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.
Admittedly, when we first heard the title of Beyonce’s HBO special and sixth studio…we did a double take. What on earth could ‘Lemonade’ symbolize? It turns out a whole mess of emotions – perseverance, strength, poise, power, and determination. But of course, you can’t get all that good without the bad. You’re in charge of your destiny and the choices you make. Essentially, your actions create the world around you. For us, that seems to be one of the few underlying messages on ‘Lemonade’.
By now, we all know what the contents of ‘Lemonade’ are. Getting more personal than ever before, Beyonce is giving the world an inside look into the personal journey she underwent as her marriage began to crumble and how she managed to come out alive, stronger than ever.
We don’t need to go into the details. You’ve read them back in 2014 and you’ve read them in every article since this album was made available. What we do need to focus on is the body of work that Beyonce just put forth – an album that just might be her best yet.
The stage is set with ‘Pray You Catch Me’; a cinematic ballad that you can label as “a hunch”. Beyonce feels something else in the air – a wave of paranoia after much speculation on the fidelity within her marriage. Just after she utters ‘what are you doing, my love’? The sonics change into the dance hall inspired ‘Hold Up’ – a juxtaposition of cheerful production and a breezy tone paired with worrisome and explicit lyrics. Throughout the song’s narrative, Beyonce’s paranoia continues and the suspicion increases as she contemplates which is worse: jealously or insanity. She also manages to drop one of the album’s standout lyrics (‘imma fuck me up a bitch’) that will cause you to internally shout with glee every time you hear it.
And then things come to a head on the album’s first duet and most aggressive track – ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’. Call it whatever you want: a little bit of The Police mixed with Jack White’s style, ‘Ring The Alarm’ on steroids, or Beyonce’s breaking point. All we know is that she’s had enough. Singing in a catatonic state, she finally confronts the infidelity head on, giving a final warning shot with the lyric ‘if you try this shit again, you gon’ lose your wife’.
After reaching her peak, it’s time to not just walk the walk, but talk the talk. The trap-dancefall infused ‘Sorry’ is Beyonce’s biggest “fuck you” track to date (and perhaps a sequel to ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)?). The hurt is over as well as her worries. ‘Tell ’em boy, bye’ she sings over and over in a carefree manner that reflects the track’s loose and slick attitude. Oh, and Beyonce sings ‘suck on my balls’ which is iconic as far as we’re concerned.
Then, the focus of the story changes. No longer is the album about Jay-Z; the narrative switches to Beyonce. On the ominous, trap heavy ‘6 Inch, Beyonce is joined by The Weeknd as she remains headstrong on her grind; and on the creole drive ‘Daddy Lessons’ she pays homage to her roots and strength as a black woman. By the way, can we say how unsurprising it is that Beyonce has decided to dabble into an Americana sound (and nails it)? Come on, the girl is from the South! It was only a matter of time she got in touch with her country side…
For a split second, the singer explores the power of love and two on the alt-R&B mid tempo ‘Love Drought’ before some serious soul searching on the gut wrenching ballad ‘Sandcastles’. ‘And your heart is broken cause I walked away/Show me your scars and I won’t walk away‘ she wails over a simple piano accompaniment. It’s imperfectly perfect and the album’s most emotional moment as she begins to grieve the secrets behind her marriage. She’s fragile as she realizes things don’t necessarily work out the way you planned. Suddenly, the mood change. It takes true, inner-strength to move beyond the pain and rebuild again. ‘Forward’ may be the shortest song on the record (and really just blends into ‘Sandcastles’), but its tone and resilience brings us on the other side of Beyonce’s personal journey.
After she emerges, she feels empowered again. On ‘Freedom’, she’s triumphant again and free from the demons and chains that have held her down. Is it a reference to her own personal journey or is she speaking on behalf of all black women? While the track is heavy on its social and political commentary (hello, Kendrick Lamar), it could be up for interpretation based on the listener.
Finally, we’ve come full circle. We’re greeted with a similar vibe as the start of the record before we’re launched back into paradise on ‘All Night’. The storm is over; they’ve weathered it together. All is well again. You can almost pick up on the bliss in Beyonce’s voice as ‘I missed you, my love’ closes the album. Her journey is complete.
Get more of our thoughts on ‘Lemonade’ on POPTalk: Beyonce vs. Lemonade