Let’s ignore the controversy for a second and talk about Beyonce’s new album as the work of art that it truly is. No matter what else she delivers during her musical career, Lemonade will always remain a defining moment in Bey’s career. Sure, it’s not the first time she’s dropped an album out of nowhere, delivering visuals for every single song on the project all at once. But here, the videos are cohesive and manage to tell two stories at once.
If any of the people worrying about “Becky with the good hair” would have truly been paying attention to this collection of visuals, they would have quickly realized that Lemonade is more than one woman’s story. And, if they would have really been looking, they would have also realized that the tale being told could be just as much about a woman working through her husband’s betrayal – adeptly narrated by Warsan Shire’s very raw and sometimes cutting poetry – as it is about the Black woman’s relationship with America. By the time you reach the last leg of this project, you realize that lines like “Why do you deny yourself heaven,” might be a rallying cry for African-American women, not just part of a woman’s final interrogation as she’s on the verge of forgiving her lover.
Lemonade as a visual album gives you so many emotions. It is a celebration of African heritage, as represented by the Orishas Beyonce seems to call on as she leads a group of women into the Bayou. The film pays homage to New Orleans, celebrating both its rich cultural history and the pain of the not so distant memories of Hurricane Katrina. As she sits at the piano to sing “Sandcastles,” you catch a glimpse of a Nina Simone cover, yet another way to celebrate the resilience of Black women, creating magic from their pain… making Lemonade from life’s lemons.
Musically, this is the best album we’ve gotten over the course of Beyonce’s 13 year solo career. For the first time since her debut Dangerously In Love, she seems willing to step all the way out of her comfort zone, representing the full spectrum of her musical influences. The project features samples as old as a 1947 song called “Stewball,” recorded by a Mississippi State prisoner in 1947 and as recent as Animal Collective’s 2009 single “My Girls,” with a little Isaac Hayes and Soldier Boy thrown in there for good measure. The project offers a good mix of R&B formats, but also dips a toe on the rock, blues and even country side.
If all you got out of Lemonade is twerking and drama, you definitely might want to pour another glass.