Whether these tracks destroy the last shreds of faith you had in love or reassure your belief that true kinds live through the storm, there’s no denying that Beyoncé Knowles Carter has juiced as much talent and passion as possible out of a shitty situation to make her new album, “Lemonade.”
After a Saturday night debut of the visual album on HBO, the music was released exclusively on Tidal (and later, iTunes) and created a kind of whirlwind on social media we haven’t seen since the release of her last album.
Though the jabs at Jay-Z about finally having a hundred problems, the probability that no one will ever name their daughter Becky again and a mistaken hate campaign against celebrity chef Rachel Ray are entertaining, don’t let the hype and rumors of the album distract you from the magnificence of the work.
Doing so would be a crime almost as shameful as the alleged cheating by the singer’s husband.
“Lemonade” is a pure masterpiece of heartbreak, loss, betrayal, hate, redemption and love. And unlike most “break-up” albums, this one has a happy ending — and a final track to grind out your problems to.
The album opens with a breathy sequence in “Pray You Catch Me,” where we first learn of the suspicion, intuition and doubt the singer has about her eight-year marriage. The longing is so apparent, you can’t help but dread the pain you know is coming.
We move on to “Hold Up,” which pairs happy, thumping beats with air horns and sad lyrics about determining whether to remain “jealous or crazy,” or passive to your lover’s indiscretions. The song could easily be a hit all season long as a beach jam or an aid after a summer romance turns sour.
“Don’t Hurt Yourself” provides the best collaboration of punk, pop and pure rage as Carter’s raw vocals pair with Jack White’s rips on the guitar. This track is exactly as it sounds: a warning. “If you try this shit again,” Beyoncé sings, “You gone lose your wife.”
“Sorry” could be a great female anthem about sticking with your girls and leaving your man behind you. It resembles much of the theme, but not quite the same pop appeal, as “Single Ladies.”
In “6 Inch” we get a glimpse into the struggle fame creates when celebrities must continue as if everything is fine while the bedrock of their private lives crumbles at their feet.
“Daddy Lessons” provides the biggest surprise on the album. A mixture of New Orleans jazz in the beginning morphs into Texan twang. In this song, the audience becomes aware of the common history of men mistreating women, and attempting to teach their daughters not to fall into the same fate.
The turn for the better on the album begins with “Love Drought,” where hope and desire for love create a need to work it out.
After pain and suffering comes forgiveness in “Sandcastles.” In this ballad, the sweet melody pairs with Carter’s R&B sound to admit that sometimes, the best choice is to not walk away. We haven’t heard such a passionate song on the music scene since Adele’s “When We Were Young.”
“Forward,” though only about a minute collaboration with James Blake, is a commitment to just that — moving forward.
Whether it be the chains of an oppressive love or government, “Freedom” is the perfect song for pushing when there’s nothing left to give, “cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” Assistance from Kendrick Lamar makes it even fiercer.
Finally, “All Night” provides a steady beat and horn combo smooth enough to patch up even the roughest of patches between a torn couple. If you doubted true love before on this album, this is where belief comes back.
And of course, who could forget “Formation,” the single that swept the Super Bowl 50 performance — and the world — long before the final release of “Lemonade.” This track is the ultimate celebration and proof you can still get down, even after life has tried to stop you.
If the success and beauty of the album itself wasn’t enough, the addition of the visual component puts it into award territory. HBO has already submitted the “Lemonade” visual album for the Emmy Awards, according to Variety.
In this hour-long sequence, we see scenes in the old South, the chaos of New Orleans after Katrina, traditional African dress, tributes to Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Movement and direct allusions to the Black Lives Matter Movement. There’s no mistaking the intention of this piece: “Lemonade” was created by a black woman for black women.
“Lemonade” isn’t about the “Becky(s) with the good hair” or other privileged groups of people who maintain control of the world. Beyoncé has given a piece of art for a minority that’s consistently gone unnoticed by major artists.
In a section of the visual album called “Redemption,” Beyoncé narrates the recipe for lemonade created by her own grandmother and compares the “make lemonade from lemons” expression to the hardship black women have faced throughout history.
“You passed these instructions down to your daughter,” she says. “Who then passed it down to her daughter.”
It’s then that the audience realizes who this work was really for. “Lemonade” is a tradition passed down from Beyoncé to the women like her in hopes of creating recognition, strength and eventually freedom from the historical maltreatment.
The real question here isn’t whether these cheating rumors are true or who “Becky” is. It’s will these women choose to answer Beyoncé‘s request and “get in formation.”
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