Beyoncé has always been unique when it comes to releasing her music. In 2013, Beyoncé released her album Beyoncé out of the blue with no advertising and was still able to break records. The album debuted #1 for the Billboard 200, being Beyoncé's fifth consecutive number one album in the country. She needed to think of something bigger and better for her next album - and that she did.
Lemonade was aired as a visual album on HBO on April 23, 2016. This first-of-its-kind piece has been all the rave on social media. The hour-long video presents poetry by Warsan Shire, an influential 27-year-old black poet born in Kenya and raised in London by Somali parents, and intense visuals and concepts behind her music. After watching the film, everyone was convinced this was centered around one person: Jay Z. There were rumors of infidelity back in 2014 when Solange, Beyoncé's sister, attacked Jay Z in an elevator (click here for the video). Though the theme seems to consistently revolve around infidelity, there is so much more underlying the surface of the music.
The visual album is made up of eleven chapters that symbolize each phase she went through during the scandal.
Today, we will decode Lemonade.
"You can taste the dishonesty, it's all over your breath."
The scene opens with Beyoncé singing "Pray to Catch Me" in a public theater alone. The scene changes to a southern-outdoor theme, introducing a group of black women in old-fashioned southern attire standing tall together. This scene is essential to this chapter, since the entire first half is about her questioning her partner of infidelity. This is clearly shown out of a woman's perspective of infidelity, but is there more to it? At the end of the chapter, she jumps off of a building in an attempt of suicide, but the ground quickly changes into water. She is trapped in an underwater bedroom.
"What's worse: being jealous or crazy?"
The feeling of suffocation and drowning are two of the worst fears of any person. Heartbreak, anger and depression can give similar feelings to a person if the feeling is strong enough. Beyoncé begins to speak the poetry of Shire underwater, questioning herself if he would actually put her through this and what she could have done wrong. She finds a way out of the underwater room, and ends up at the doors of a popular street. She begins to sing "Hold Up", in a bright yellow sundress and a baseball bat with "Hot Sauce" labeled on it (referencing her single Formation. Plot twist: Hot sauce turns out to be a bat instead of a condiment). After destroying every window and camera with "Hot Sauce", she takes charge of a monster truck causing mass destruction. In that moment she isn't in denial anymore, and becomes angered.
"The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected woman in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman."
Though her lyrics are angered towards finding out the scandal her husband put her through, I interpreted this entire scene as anger towards white supremacy in the most badass way possible. She uses quotes from Malcom X, an American-muslim minister and human rights activist, while showing clips of multiple black women.
"So what are you going to say at my funeral now that you killed me?"
Here she goes again: making one of the best girl-power songs I've ever heard. Serena Williams, #1 American Women's Single Tennis Player, is also featured twerking in this chapter next to Beyoncé. All the black women featured in the chapter were fierce and sent a clear message: They aren't sorry and they will fight even harder to get what they want. You go girls!
The chapter ends with a group of black women, fully nude, walking together in the same direction simultaneously towards sunlight.
"That too is a form of worship."
The entire beginning of this chapter gave me chills. After graphically describing a scandal in the words of Shire, she proclaims "God is in the room". She is back in the theater with the red curtain from the first chapter singing "6 Inch" featuring The Weeknd, which is interpreted to be about a feminist approach for a proud stripper that's "worth every dollar and worth every minute".
"You look nothing like your mother. You look everything like your mother."
Featuring hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, this chapter takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans, famously known for its authentic black culture, is also notably a city where racism and discrimination has occurred. Rain and authentic-like family videos raise the question of, "Am I talking about your husband or your father?", referring to the mental, physical and emotional abuse of black women throughout history.
"Why are you afraid of love? You think it's not possible for someone like you."
This chapter begins in a stadium. Is this tribute to Beyonce's 2016 Super Bowl performance? Once again, a grouping of black women are following Beyoncé, walking together into a body of water. It can be hypothesized that these women are the future generations of Beyoncé, her daughter and her daughter's daughter.
"There is a curse that will be broken."
Undeniably authentic, real and emotional, Beyoncé questions the societal gratitude of women; the strength required to give birth often goes unnoticed. Beyoncé is featured as she sings "Sandcastles" as Jay Z enters this chapter of the story. Both are immersed in one another, Jay Z's hand covering Beyoncé's mouth, only to be removed and a kiss placed on his hand. No woman is to be silenced.
"You are terrifying, and strange, and beautiful."
Featuring a Mardi Gras Indian, an empty table is shown within a house. Images of lives lost are held and the remembrance of murders within the black community are made. As the chapter creates a memorial for these sons, it gives another perspective on what Black Lives Matter is about. Privileged citizens all over the country overlook these problems and try to convince others that "all lives matter". While that statement is true, it's important to recognize that the community is not trying to put a race above another, but to spread awareness and attention to the race that needs it the most. The fact is, racism is very much alive, and it's naive to say otherwise.
"I need freedom too."
Historical elements of the visual album return, as Beyoncé sings "Freedom", an easily distinguishable testament to the Black Lives Matter movement. Quoting poetry regarding the birth of baby girls, it could be anyone: black, white, brown. This is the first chapter where you start to feel exactly what it's titled: Hope. The music and scenery uplifts you. The chapter speaks of freedom for all and for racism to be a thing of the past.
"Nothing real can be threatened."
As with the stages of grief, Lemonade is both bitter and sweet. Its recipe, simple but important, is passed down from one generation to another. Beyoncé, through poet notion and mother-daughter interaction, symbolizes the transparency of advice and how the actions of the past build the future.
As told by Beyoncé's grandmother, "I've had my ups and downs but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I would start with lemons, but I made lemonade."