Lemonade by Beyoncé is as visually stunning as it is vulnerable. For this, I thank her courage, vision, and incredible work ethic.
Beyoncé shows us that there is power and beauty in being vulnerable, that there is power and beauty in being black.
This isn’t the first time someone has ever done this, but for her to do it on such a large scale, with such a large platform, is really incredible.
I was never a Beyoncé fan as a kid. Like, I knew who she was, and I knew she was part of Destiny’s Child. But I mainly knew her as what I would call her: The Lady That Can Sing.
This indifference changed when Beyoncé came out with her visual album in 2013. The internet absolutely collapsed in on itself at the total surprise. Intrigued, I listened to some of the songs and decided to buy the CD at Wal-Mart, shocking my mother and myself. This was a big deal for me–I never spent money on music. And I didn’t regret it. It was sexy, it was sad, it was powerful. It was empowering. Everything I never thought I was looking for in music, I found in Beyoncé. I’ve had respect for her ever since. She was no longer just The Lady That Can Sing.
I downloaded Tidal recently–yes, a music-streaming service, something I’d never do for anyone else–to go watch Beyoncé’s new visual album Lemonade. From reading some articles, I knew it was about marital strife (holy shit why would anyone cheat on Beyoncé). But I didn’t expect to be so emotionally invested in each song and video. I didn’t expect to feel so powerful and full of hope at the end.
Lemonade started off sad, was angry, then hopeful–an emergence of new beginnings.
I really appreciated how Beyoncé didn’t hold back in expressing her heartbreak. The anger, the sorrow, the utter despair–these were all things that I myself had felt intensely for the past year. When I went to watch Lemonade, I didn’t expect to be validated for all the extreme anguish I’d been feeling.
Near the beginning of the visual album, Beyoncé steps off a building and falls quickly below into–a sort of different universe, I want to say. A room full of water, she looks dreamy but detached. The fall, the water, and the chaos that came after made me swell with awe and understanding. It was like I was witnessing my own descent into despair a year earlier with new eyes.
It was also so refreshing to see Beyoncé smash the shit out of everything during “Hold Up”–in a flowy yellow dress, not giving a shit! It was everything I needed that I didn’t know I needed.
I feel that often, it is accepted that feelings of heartbreak and rage should just be packaged up and sent away. At least, this is what I’d convinced myself. Lemonade has forced me to come back to these ideals and question them. Expressing my grief might inconvenience others around me, but not expressing it could just further debilitate me.
I loved the rawness of “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, which features Jack White. It came off almost punk rock-ish to me, which I felt was really fitting for the lyrics and overall tone. I have a hard time trying to feel like a badass without feeling stupid about it. I have a hard time feeling angry at people without feeling guilty, even if I have a right to. This song, and the visuals of the album have helped me so much already, although everything is still sinking in.
The visuals were beautiful and overwhelming and just–hype!! If there is Serena Williams twerking anywhere, I will be there also. If Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya are sitting in some trees chilling, you can bet I will be there as well. As many other black people agree, I will probably have to pick up a flowy, flowery dress and go frolic around in a meadow somewhere with my baby hair and afro.
Another thing that impacted me from the very start about Lemonade was the presence of black women, just standing together, very present, or dancing together. Joining hands. I used to talk myself into thinking that the absence of black people in popular media didn’t bother me. Instances like this couldn’t prove me more wrong. There was something so powerful about seeing black women standing together, or gazing into the camera steadily. Perhaps it was because it was such a simple acknowledgement of humanity. A simple way of saying, I am here. The solidness of it shook me to the core, and all at once, I saw myself reflected in these women.
There is something to be said about sisterhood, especially in the time of tragedy–in this case, heartbreak. I feel that the sisterhood reflected within the visuals of Lemonade further proved this point. In many sequences, the women in the film are not doing much but existing. And yet that still exudes power and grounds the viewer.
The collaboration with so many greats on this film–Serena Williams, Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya, and Warsan Shire–all people I look up to–I felt like I was being seen too.
I listened to the album on its own, which felt different from the visual album. Not just because it missed visuals, obviously, but audio.
The lovely, startling, and breathtaking poetry that you hear between songs on the visual album is thanks to the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. I felt that the poetry elevated the visual album in a way that gave calmness between bursts of intense emotion. And even within that calmness, even while listening to Beyonce’s lulling voice recite it, it was like experiencing a quiet rumbling before a full-on earthquake. It is as if the sorrow, rage, and earnestness of these poems, cloaked in stunning uses of literary devices, snuck up on me and gently took my breath away.
It is interesting to think that Beyoncé was never one of my obsessions as a kid, and now I am making a home within her music. I feel validated, at ease, and don’t laugh at me!–blessed. I feel as if her voice, although classic in my time, has become richer. Her storytelling has become more compelling. I know everytime I come back to watch the visual album I will learn something new about myself, or about art. The collaboration with other black people and the detail alone on the album is inspiring in itself. This, at the very least, people must admit.
There has already been a lot of conversation buzzing around Lemonade, with people trying to fathom–what just happened?
What did you think?
Here’s some of my favorite videos of commentary surrounding Lemonade:
Suck Beyonce’s Balls by F0XY
Beyonce Said Drink This #Lemonade, Heaux!! By Evelyn From the Internets