For those who haven’t heard, musical icon Prince died last Thursday. Two days later, Beyoncé dropped Lemonade. The world stopped. What does it mean when arguably the world’s biggest star can give us another surprise album and completely shift the attention of the passing of legend to her latest body of work? It really doesn’t mean anything because it’s Beyoncé. When she’s involved, things like this just tend to happen. Beyoncé said it best on “Formation”, as if she was almost prophetic in foretelling what was going to happen: “You know you that bitch, when you cause all this conversation.”
I knew Beyoncé had reached Super Saiyan-level when she dropped her first surprise visual album back in 2013. How much self confidence does one exude to have the nerve to drop an album out of no-fucking-where and watch it shatter Billboard records? How airtight is her camp, who are able to keep all this shit a secret right under our noses? It’s perplexing, just as it is remarkable. With Lemonade, Beyoncé set out to create her most ambitious project to date, and in doing so, made the biggest statement of her solo career.
For all intents and purposes, Lemonade is a conceptual album. But the lines get blurred in distinguishing what is reality and what is exaggerated. Beyoncé’s Lemonade is her version of Marvin Gaye’s post-martial fallout Here, My Dear. Though she is clearly still very much so married, the juxtaposition of both her and Gaye’s albums share similar traits. Gone are the shiny pop records that has become synonymous with her name. Her aforementioned self-titled album showed glimpses of a more darker and edgier Beyoncé looming in the not-so-distant background. Lemonade welcomes this new character arc in the Beyoncé narrative. It further adds to the advancement of her celebrity.
For much of her career, Beyoncé has famously walked the thin line of being deemed as perfect in the eyes of her devotees. But when speculation of martial strife happening in the Carter’s household began to surface, many reevaluated those earlier sentiments. What makes Lemonade strike a cord with fans and her overall public perception, is the fact that, it humanizes her. The general themes that carry throughout Lemonade indulge in heartbreak, infidelity, empowerment, and reconciliation.
To used a quote from that wildly-panned Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, it’s a line where Alfred says to Bruce Wayne/Batman: “That’s how it starts. The fever…the rage…the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.” In this case, what turns a good woman cruel. Beyond the middle fingers and “suck my balls” tropes found in “Sorry”, a closer look details a woman that was devastated and powerless within her situation. Feeling powerless can do two things to an individual: you either wither away and fold, or you get angry and seek vengeance. She’s unapologetic as fuck, and it’s that rage is what fuels Lemonade.
Beyoncé is very aware of her influence and how she strategically utilizes it should be acknowledged and appreciated. Say whatever you want about her music. Some people regard it as “generic”, but sonically she has taken her style of music to new areas within this project. The ghost of Isaac Hayes is perfectly woven in the haunting The Weeknd-assisted “6 Inch” and “Freedom” sounds like it could have been a leftover from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly sessions. Lemonade is dark–very dark, especially in contrast to her prior releases with only her album Beyoncé severing as its closest relative.
It will take time to see where this album ranks amogst the likes of some of the greatest albums of all time. It’s too soon to compare this to The Dark Side of the Moon’s, Purple Rain’s, Thriller’s, Nevermind’s and Exile on Main Street’s of the world, but it goes without saying, that this, without a doubt, is Beyoncé’s best outing yet.