Let’s talk about Beyonce. It’s a relaxing conversation, no politics, no controversy, just music.
And a major cheating scandal.
But mostly music. Lemonade, Beyonce’s latest album, is nothing but good. Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd, Lemonade is as versatile an album as I’ve heard in years.
It’s also an album filled with pain, sorrow, and forgiveness.
A thought I’ve had about this album is that it’s the song “Burn” from the Hamilton soundtrack turned into a better album. If you haven’t heard “Burn”, here it is:
If you haven’t heard Lemonade, well, I can’t help you there. I can tell you that it’s well worth the 20$ on iTunes.
See, the rumor mill has pumped out that Lemonade is a response to Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, cheating on Beyonce, his wife.
I mean, who cheats on Beyonce (or on anybody for that matter)? She’s not only one of the most striking women in the world, she’s one of the most powerful. America is in love with her. If we put her up against Trump, we’d probably have our first female President. She can ruin your life.
She kind of ruined Jay-Z with Lemonade, even if he didn’t cheat on her. And the thing is, it may stay a Tidal-exclusive. If you’re out of the loop, Tidal is the Spotify-like streaming platform founded and owned by Z.
I am in the process of listening to many, many albums for my end of the year recap. I’ve gone from Radiohead to Childish Gambino to Death Grips to Saint Motel, and compiled a good list of 20. But I desperately needed to talk about Lemonade ahead of it, because it’s too far apart from its closest competition.
I want to break Lemonade down song by song, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Pray You Catch Me
Opening like a quiet reflection, Pray You Catch Me is a heart-breaking opening to a heart-breaking album. Starting with the lyrics “you can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath”. It’s the first sign that something is wrong, and that Beyonce’s been left broken. It’s a song full of grief, pain, and hurt, all the things you expect out of a wronged lover and spouse. It’s haunting, and beautiful, and is the first lasting impression of many on this album.
Having seen the visual album, all I can picture listening to this song is Beyonce strolling down the street with a baseball bat. This is when Beyonce first claims her vengeance. She expresses her feelings with the lyric “what’s worse, looking jealous or crazy”. She calls out the bullshit with her own perfect rap verse, and with the refrain “hold up, they don’t love you like I love you”. She decides she still loves the man, despite the feelings she’s currently dealing with. This song is when I fell in love with the album.
Don’t Hurt Yourself ft. Jack White
This is a Jack White song. You can tell from the beginning. Then Beyonce comes in, amidst a mix of reggae and rock, and suddenly you’re grooving. She’s going to beat this situation, you can tell. “Who the fuck do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy”. She’s the winner here, and the man’s going to learn it. She’s too much for him, and she’s winning her confidence back. Even Jack White is outclassed by a spurned Beyonce. And there hasn’t been an anthem this powerful since Seven Nation Army.
Beyonce has nothing to apologize for, and this is her coming out with that fact. She’s got her ladies with her, and it’s time to party. To forget the situation. “I ain’t thinking ’bout you/middle fingers up, put them hands high/wave it in his face, tell him boy bye”. Stop interrupting Beyonce’s grinding. She’s just going to dance the pain away, and forget that boy. She’s not afraid to leave this boy’s ass if he doesn’t wake up. This is also the song that launched “Becky with the good hair”
6 Inch ft. The Weeknd
Another song that’s just a stockpile of power, 6 inch is Beyonce’s way of saying “I know I own every room I walk into”. “She murdered everybody and I was her witness” sets the scene, cause Beyonce owns everything and she knows it. She’s still trying to shake it off, but infidelity still haunts her. She’s grinding to forget, but it’s still there. The Monday-Friday grind is getting to her. In the end, she calls out “come back”.
My personal favorite song off the album, it opens with a bit of New Orleans jazz. It’s about the pains of growing up with a problematic father. A father who knows he’s problematic “he told me not to cry, oh my daddy said shoot”. He knows if a man too much like him comes into his daughter’s life, it’s time to shoot. It’s about the lessons you learn from your father, and remembering your roots. It’s also about looking out for the problematic men, and Beyonce (or her character) remembering those lessons from her father. It’ll leave you humming and saying “oh, my daddy said shoot”.
Now that’s she’s recovered a little bit from the lies, from the infidelity, Beyonce feels the tension and the feelings floating in the air. She’s trying to put love back into the marriage, but it’s not reciprocated. She’s now asking what fault of hers existed. She knows that the marriage still has power, that “you and me could move a mountain”. It’s the first turning point in the album, as it works its way towards “All Night”.
About temporary love as much as it is about forgiveness and the pain in it, Sandcastles is Beyonce attempting to leave. Attempting, and not succeeding. Because “every promise don’t work out that way”. She’s trying to move on, but it’s just not possible. And that’s it’s own kind of painful. And both of them are broken, and she’s ready to forgive him. He just needs to show back up.
Forward ft. James Blake
Blake does the heavy lifting on “Forward”, as Beyonce largely remains silent. She needs a break, and it’s well deserved. Blake is willing to cover for her. It’s time to be open again, to “go back to your sleep in your favorite spot just next to me.”
Freedom ft. Kendrick Lamar
Beyonce’s up, it’s time to kick ass again, and she’s going to work. “Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves” and there’s no bigger winner than Beyonce. It’s time to cut out the tears and get into gear. Freedom’s going to cut her loose, and she’s going to break her chains. Nobodies going to do it for her, so she’s coming to her senses and looking out for herself. All the while Beyonce sets the scene for Kendrick to come in and continue winning. Beyonce and Kendrick work in harmony and Beyonce shows why she gets all the rap mentions.
The ending to Lemonade (as “Formation” serves its own purpose), “All Night” is the final forgiveness in the marriage. “True love never has to hide”, and she’s learned a lesson. She’s hoping that he has too. Time to give him some time to prove she can trust him. She’s open to him again, though he has to earn it. All Night is a touching video, and is a reminder that though men are flawed, that they make mistakes, that they’re ultimately good. We get a look at how good Jay is with Blue (as well as with Beyonce), and it’s no wonder that Beyonce has forgiveness within her, yet it still manages to be a feat to be braggadocious about. This is the final victory. Beyonce ends it with the simple (yet deeply meaningful) “How I missed you, my love”.
Prepare to take his ass to Red Lobster. This song, presented in the Super Bowl halftime show that should have just been Beyonce vs. Bruno Mars, is not for everyone. It’s for the diminished voices, the ones who strive to accomplish in the face of scrutiny and oppression. It’s a victory song for the downtrodden of society, and it’s exactly what the world needs most now. It’s also Beyonce addressing the Illuminati rumors, because that’s secretly what we all wanted. Time to go hard.
Lemonade is storytelling at it’s finest. Through the pain, through the sorrow, Beyonce crafts a masterpiece. An opus for the modern age. Formation tells of an album that could have been, but Lemonade is the superior product. Whenever you feel the most heartbroken, turn on the album, and let Beyonce take care of you like she took care of herself. If there’s a lesson to be taken away from the album, its don’t cheat, but also, there really is no more powerful force than a woman scorned.