Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ an ode to the black woman
Alexandra Lowery | Monday, April 25, 2016
Beyoncé has once again single-handedly derailed that very meticulous study schedule you took the time to plan out for finals week with the release of the highly anticipated, and highly mysterious, project “Lemonade.”
The 34-year-old artist did little to promote the premiere other than a vague Instagram post earlier in the week, which is more notice than Beyoncé has given her “Hive” fan base in the past (referring the 2013 drop of her fifth studio album, “Beyoncé,” without any prior promotion). Fans were left pondering if this was the album they had been waiting for ever since Bey dropped “Formation” and announced her 2016 world tour of the same name in February. They were not disappointed.
The visual album was a 60-minute broadcast on HBO, a short film that combined Beyoncé’s newest music, spoken word, political messages and thematic statements that one could dissect for hours on end.
The storyline of the album follows the stages in which Beyoncé learned about and eventually came to terms with her husband’s infidelity, all the while meshing beautiful imagery of what it means to be a black woman in America today. It’s here that women and men outside this group, the group for which Beyoncé made “Lemonade,” must understand that we are removed from the experience. Outsiders can appreciate the art and enjoy it but ultimately they must comprehend this is a love letter to black femininity and that it was made for black women to realize or reinforce their value and worth.
As Beyoncé moves through the emotions outlined in “Lemonade” (intuition, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope and redemption) she takes a journey that parallels the struggle of the modern black woman from pain to ultimate healing and liberation. Featuring samples of a Malcolm X speech in which he declared “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” cameos from many influential black females that have come under attack within the last few years such as Serena Williams and Zendaya, as well as the mothers of young black men that have been killed due to police brutality in modern history, the film unfailingly establishes this theme of the need for black female empowerment.
Made by black women for black women, “Lemonade” incorporates the beautiful prose of womanist poet, Warsan Shire, the ritual body art of the Yoruba people by Laolu Senbanjo and Michaela DePrince’s renowned talent as a black ballerina. Not far removed is the motif of black southern culture, the generational tale of black people in America, specifically for blacks in the South.
It is hard to remove the music from the images themselves, but the album alone similarly delves into unknown territory for Beyoncé. “Lemonade” debuts Bey’s first country-influenced track with “Daddy Lessons” and unlikely collaborations with the likes of Jack White on “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Further combining hip-hop, R&B, soul, dance and reggae, Beyoncé’s sixth studio album continues to prove that the world’s greatest entertainer isn’t done growing as an artist.
Closing the film on a hopeful note, Beyoncé explains the meaning behind the project’s name, offering a recipe for lemonade intermixed with clips from the birthday party for Hattie White, Jay Z’s grandmother, during which White can be heard saying “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” It’s an illustration of overcoming adversity for the black woman; Beyoncé choosing to stay with her husband and regrow their love harkens to the universal strength black women display on a daily basis.