Hip-Hop / R&B
Last weekend Beyonce released her Lemonade into the world. That last sentence might sound silly but it’s true, Beyonce didn’t release an icy drink but a full-length audio-visual album that debuted on HBO and Tidal. Yes, you heard that last part right. It released exclusively on Tidal, which makes total sense given her share in the company. A new Beyonce album is a good reason for people to jump on the Tidal bandwagon. However, with the album popping up on iTunes this morning, the whole release of this album further cements Tidal’s status as a joke, but that’s a story for a different time.
We’re here to talk about Lemonade.
Lemonade might be the most personal album we have heard from the singer. We’ve heard her get personal before, but this entire project feels like it was ripped straight out of her diary. The diary contains pages about her relationship with Jay-Z, her family, feminism, and black activism. Her message comes across loud and clear, a message that’s equal parts intimate and powerful. It’s easy for an album’s overarching message to get lost in the sound but this was probably the clearest an album has been in a while.
Beyonce doesn’t waste time, immediately addressing the elephant in the room with her first batch of songs. Her songs “Pray You Catch Me” and “Hold Up” address the relationship rumors between her and Jay-Z and the infidelity that is called into question. She makes it clear that she still loves her husband, but she’s willing to go crazy to find out where his loyalties lie. There’s also “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” a pointed track full of angst and thrashing guitars, thanks to some help from artist Jack White. It’s a strong track that puts fear in even the most hardened souls. With lyrics like, “If you try this shit again, you gon lose your wife,” things must have gotten pretty bad. I don’t know what Jay-Z did, but after listening to this song all I got to say is he better watch his back.
There’s a lot of songs about her and Jay-Z’s relationship, which happens to be the core of the album. “Love Drought” is a passionate plea to rekindle a relationship behind an airy cloud-synth beat in the background that really carries you away. Then there’s “Daddy Lessons,” which might be my favorite cut off the album. It’s Beyonce’s first foray into country, and she kills it. It’s a song about her father and the similarities between him and Jay-Z. It’s a deep song that really took me by surprise. It’s not your typical Beyonce sound, but she harnesses some of her southern roots and gives us a sound that I want to hear more of.
Although songs of love cover most of the tracklist, there’s also some feminism and black empowerment to be found. “6 Inch” is a song of female empowerment, featuring some vocal help from The Weeknd. It’s a positive and upbeat song about the grind and success that comes when you’re willing to put in the work. Lemonade’s sole single, “Formation” is a powerful black activism song that struck up some controversy for its imagery as well as its themes. “Freedom” is another song about civil rights, featuring the always vocal Kendrick Lamar. When you talk about issues of civil rights, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar have definitely been on the forefront of conversation. The track also ends in a touching way, with some words from Hattie White, Jay-Z’s grandmother. She says, “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.” There we go, it’s a statement that quite literally sums up the entire album’s message.
“Sandcastles” is the album’s turning point. You can hear the pain and tears come through in her voice in one of the most personal songs off the album. It’s on this song where she starts to contemplate what comes next. She’s made promises in her life, some of which she wasn’t able to keep. The same goes for Jay-Z. Despite all of this, their sandcastles still stand strong, weathering the storm. It’s a song full of imagery and hope. The rest of the album features a message of redemption and optimism, especially for her relationship with Jay-Z, which is always a good sign. “All Night” is the unofficial end to the album, topping it all off with some positivity.
Lemonade’s sound is just as powerful as her lyrics. Featuring the production work of individuals like Mike Dean, Diplo, Hit-Boy, Ben Billions, Mike Will Made It, Vincent Berry II, and Just Blaze, the album has a wide range of sounds that all work very well. You’re not going to find too many radio-ready songs on this release, with Beyonce favoring ballads over bangers. This might be disappointing for some but this isn’t the type of album that’s supposed to play well on the radio. It’s a deeply personal experience.
Now that the album is on iTunes, hopefully a bigger audience will be able to listen to Lemonade, which I might consider her best work to date. It’s a fascinating project that puts you right in the center of her thoughts. She opens up a lot in a surprising amount of ways. Her message is emotional, powerful, strong, poignant, controversial, and most of all, hers. She makes it clear, especially in “Sorry,” that she doesn’t care what you think. This is her life and her message and she wants to put it all out there. This is an album that we’re going to be coming back to a lot and it’s going to be the talk of the talk when it comes to album of the year.