Refusing to Become Bitter, Beyonce Makes “Lemonade”

Jessica Zhou, Staff Writer


  She changed the game Beyoncé, then she did it Beytwicé. For the second time since her eponymous album, Beyoncé, in December 2013, Beyoncé Knowles has self-released her new album, Lemonade, immediately after her HBO special, the feature length film that served as a visual accompaniment to her album, on April 23rd.

  The title was inspired by her grandmother, Agnéz Deréon, who made lemonade out of both lemons and life. A recording of Jay Z‘s grandmother, Hattie White’s saying “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade” was featured on the album.

  It is important not to divorce the film from the music, as the “visual” album was meant to be an immersive and engaging experience. “I see music. It’s more than just what I hear.  When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies,” Beyoncé said in a video announcing the release of her first surprise album, which also featured accompanying full-length music videos on her Facebook page, dubbed “Self-Titled, Part 1.”

  The music crosses the boundaries of genre, dipping into country, pop, R&B, funk, rock, and New Orleans jazz, some genres in which African Americans’ contributions have gone overlooked, as reported by NPR. The film also pushes artistic boundaries, showcasing the richness of African American culture through a plethora of hairstyles, clothing, customs, and individuals featured on film.

  Memorable vignettes include: Bey in a flamboyant yellow dress, smashing cars and windows with her baseball bat, Hot Sauce, her in a Southern Belle gown remade with African textiles, singing along to a guitar player under a tunnel, and her in a flowing white gown, sitting on the branches of an angel oak tree with the rest of her #squad. Settings switch between the past and present, flitting between Beyoncé’s present home as well as a sugarcane plantation and its accompanying mansion, amongst other locations.

  The project was the combined effort of around 100 collaborators, including the likes of Jack White, The Weeknd, James Blake, Diplo, Nicki Minaj, Amandla Stenberg, Serena Williams, Zendaya, and Kendrick Lamar. Additionally, the mothers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were included in the film, a statement on the progress that has yet to be made by police agencies around the country, as well as a statement on the broader issue of the injustices African Americans must face daily.

 The not-so-subtle political statements made by Beyonce have not sat well with some onlookers.    Azealia Banks called out the artist for capitalizing on other women’s suffering. A couple days following the release of Lemonade, Banks tweeted, “She’s purposefully strayed away from political discourse her entire career to make sure she didn’t alienate white ppl.” She pointed out Beyoncé’s “purposefully avoiding ‘blackness’,” only embracing it now that it has becoming a trending national conversation.

  While a source of controversy, the album has naturally been well received by fans and the media alike. Naomi Hatter (12) enjoyed the album for its emotion, citing “Don’t Hurt Yourself” as an example. “The emotion that stood out to me the most was anger. The song was like, ‘You hurt me, but I don’t need you, so forget you.'”

   TIME’s Maura Johnston wrote: “Its songs feel fresh yet instantly familiar, over-the-top but intimate, with Beyoncé’s clarion voice serving as the fulcrum for her explorations of sound and the self.” Elle’s Morgan Jenkins commented on the feminist element, calling the album a “luxurious one-hour-long story that focused solely on black women and their relationship to the earth and to each other.”  On May 1st, Billboard announced that Lemonade became Beyoncé’s sixth #1 album when it claimed the top spot on the Billboard 200.

   Currently, the album is available for online streaming exclusively on music service Tidal, but can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.

  The tracklist for the album is as follows:

  1. Pray You Can’t Catch Me
  2. Hold Up
  3. Don’t Hurt Yourself
  4. Sorry
  5. 6 Inch
  6. Daddy Lessons
  7. Love Drought
  8. Sandcastles
  9. Forward
  10. Freedom
  11. All Night
  12. Formation