In the mere two weeks since Beyoncé dropped her sixth studio album Lemonade, it’s safe to say the world has found itself in a frenzy; struck in the balance between patriarchal kiss-ass Piers Morgan and the prowess of a movement of black rights and female assertion that has rarely found its place in the pop universe. Though I had never considered myself an avid Beyoncé fan, what struck me the most when listening to this album was the sheer humility that gleans the gaps between fame and legend. Although the album explicitly addresses Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity, Beyoncé’s story digs deeper than the realm of the scorned woman; this album is an emblem of the fight for black women everywhere to assert their narrative in a world that so often denies them a voice.
Starting as she means to go on
Beginning with elusive and brain-tingling vocal production, ‘Pray You Catch Me’ sets the scene, with a poignant and candid portrayal of Beyoncé’s suspicions over her husband Jay-Z, with the lyrics: ‘You can taste the dishonesty / It’s all over your breath / As you pass it off so cavalier’. Sombre and ethereal vocals pine throughout this song as she longs for her husband to recognise her awareness of his behaviour. This reflective quality navigates the album as she bounces through the summer-tinged dancehall and dub ‘Hold Up’ and country-caressed ‘Daddy Lessons’.
The album is also peppered with more flammable numbers including ‘6 Inch’ and ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ featuring rock guru Jack White. The often invasive and aggressive elements of ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ conjure images of gangstas and pimps, but dressed with an attitude of dominant femininity that defies tradition. She spits heat with the lyrics: ‘Who the fuck do you think I am? / You ain’t married to no average bitch boy’. Beyoncé is angry, Beyoncé is fierce, and Beyoncé won’t be silenced. This is a message that carries the album towards the acceptance of her cheating husband and thus their reconciliation in endearing and spiritually moving pop ballad ‘Sandcastles’.
Celebrating her heritage
As well as these painfully honest depictions layered between a myriad of genres, Beyoncé uses her platform as an international artist to highlight issues of police brutality and the oppression of the black community brought about the system of institutionalised racism and sexism. Her single release of trap track ‘Formation’ is representative of the narrative of the album as a whole. She sings ‘I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils’ and ‘I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros’, refusing to apologise for her blackness and instead sparking a celebration for her heritage and her identity as a black female artist. ‘Freedom’, featuring hip-hop enigma Kendrick Lamar, is also a call to arms as she sings, ‘I break chains all by myself / Won’t let my freedom rot in hell / Hey! I’ma keep running / Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves’. Beyoncé’s resilience in the face of the white patriarchy allows her to create an anthem of courage and power for the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the U.S, with similar tones to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’.
“I was served lemons, but I made lemonade”
Lemonade is an iconic album that captures the voice of our generation, of black women and black lives. Beyonce’s voice is a symbol of the struggle, discrimination and oppression that she has endured at the hands of a cheating husband and a world that attempts to stamp out her blackness. This is an album of empowerment, of righteous rage, of hope. Beyoncé’s grandma’s voice is heard and encompasses her message: ‘I’ve had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade’.
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