Album Review: #10: Beyoncé - Lemonade
By sarah Muhammad
The privacy that comes with super stardom is difficult to maintain in the current storm of social media, where even a papercut gets published as a headlining story. But, what if you could go beyond the expectation and publicize the information yourself before anyone can get to it? When you are Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, this concept is not too far fetched, and occurs in the form of the release of a 12 track physical album and film, broken into 11 parts which encompass the classic motifs of 7 stages of grief, titled Lemonade. Riddled with the major themes of infidelity, imperfection, forgiveness and the Black experience, the pop icon delivers a voice to the voiceless, particularly black women who quietly wrestle with opposition to shine daily. On the Power anthem “Formation”, the singer pays strong homage to her roots (“My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana/You mix that negro with that Creole, make a Texas bama/I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros/I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils/Earned all this money, but they never take the country out me”) and delivers a message through the double entendre “Get in formation”, as she is calling for women to both grind to achieve their own goals, but also unite to defeat the societal barriers that keep them from being at the forefront of history. The song appears as the last track on the album because it represents the final plea to move into unification. The album begins on the opposite end with the track “Pray You Catch Me“, and in it, the singer wastes no time introducing the story of suspected infidelity by her husband, rapper Jay-Z, and literally takes a hammer through the glass representing the perfection of her marriage (“You can taste the dishonesty/It's all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier”). By addressing this in the first lines on the project, it sets the tone of apprehension and uncertainty throughout the story to come. Leading straight into the track, “Hold Up”, the singer delivering a crude declaration to her husband, a warning if you will, and proves that she in not too perfect to address issues of insecurity (“To ever feel this worthless/How did it come down to this?/Scrolling through your call list”), making it clear that no woman could ever surpass the amount of love she offers. The light and fluffy beat on the song (produced by Diplo and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend) signifies a menacing contrast to the actual content, which is brooding in nature. The complete removal from consideration comes on the track “Sorry” where the singer delivers an apathetic ‘eff you’ anthem instructing women to put their “Middle fingers up, put them hands high/Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye...I ain't thinking 'bout you” and embracing the power that they hold in their resistance to be affected. The turn in mood reaches the album by “Daddy Lessons”, a classic country piece where Beyoncé describes growing up under the influence of her father in the irony of his infidelity towards her own mother. With her father being her mentor and manager many years of her career, she was able to learn much from him about strength and leadership, but the lessons referred to in the song illustrate the understanding of destroying men in her life who betray her, men like her father, a complex dynamic which exists within many women choosing men they love who behave like their fathers. While tracks “Love Drought”, “Sandcastle” and “Forward” (with a notable feature from British singer James Blake), all characterize moving through the stages of forgiveness and acceptance, the track “Freedom” is the comeback where the singer regains her capability to be bold and tell the story of struggle to break free from the barriers that have been placed on the oppressed bodies of this country, namely, people of color (“Freedom! Freedom! I can't move/Freedom, cut me loose!”) and even recruits rapper Kendrick Lamar to deliver an exceptional feature co-signing the narrative of hope. The story on this album is match entirely by the grade A quality of production that it harbors, with the bill going to the likes of Kevin Garrett, Jack White of The White Stripes, Just Blaze, and Mike WiLL Made It, solidifying the project’s status as a power move and solidifying the singer’s spot at the top. The appreciation that came from Lemonade as an ode to the modern black woman has been immense since its release and hinges on the ability to be vulnerable and the most honest version of yourself while being in the center of mass criticism.
Best Tracks: “Hold Up”/”Freedom”
Best Production: “Don’t Hurt Yourself”/”Freedom”