Two weeks ago the world stopped as Beyoncé released her sixth solo and second visual album Lemonade. The HBO special caused most fans of music and popular culture to sit for a little over an hour and take in what will likely go down as the most innovative music-based project of the year.
The film was a visual and cinematic feat, pushing the boundaries of performance art and how to package content. Beyoncé’s latest project is being submitted for Emmy consideration and could end up competing for an Oscar. Pitchfork dubbed the project “Best New Music”, Rolling Stone gave the album five out of five stars, and first week album sales are expected to surpass the 500,000 mark.
For all of the award-winning this project is bound to do, Lemonade still felt personal. The intimacy of the project is what stays with people and critics, as Beyoncé is known for saying very little to the public and playing her cards close to her chest. From lines about infidelity, being unapologetically Black, and relationships with her parents, she gives her loyal fans and critics a lot to chew on. But Beyoncé only allows us to see what she wants us to see, and for her to be this raw on record comes as a welcomed surprise.
Lemonade does bring a number of sociopolitical realities to the forefront in a way that seemingly only Beyoncé could. Having the mothers of victims of police brutality such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, stories of a cheating Black husband and his white mistress, and titling a song “Daddy Lessons” call each of those listening to think about how race and gender impact the dynamics of the world we live in.
In all of these instances, women, and black women in particular, are forced to be responsible for and react to the shortcomings of men, whether loved ones or strangers. W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of Double Consciousness is taken a step further in this performance as Beyoncé highlights the unique challenges of being both Black and woman. This identity that comes with a unique set of challenges also comes with distinct intelligence, strength, and reasons to celebrate. Moment by moment, understanding oneself, processing life with these identities, and living to tell the tale is reason enough to get in Formation.
For me, Lemonade was like watching my older sister share her heart with her friends. It felt as if my male gaze was hardly considered and this was a time for Black women to speak to and about issues pertaining to Black women, requiring everyone else to be a spectator at best. I felt a sense of conviction as Beyoncé sang “our love was stronger than your pride,” in one my favorite songs “All Night”. This line is layered in that it could be speaking to a time when she forgave Jay Z for stepping out on their marriage, or it could be speaking on the misogyny present in relationships between men and women in general. It could both and much more.
Beyoncé’s latest effort is arguably her best and undoubtedly an instant classic and a cultural phenomenon. Part movie and part album, there are no doubts this marks a significant moment in music. Beyoncé’s Lemonade transcends genre, collecting a myriad of sounds to tell a story of love, anger, and identity; not just for herself but for a countless number of Black women around the world.