Making “Lemonade” out of a potentially sour situation
Earlier this week, Beyoncé surprised fans and the media once again with the release of not just one new music video, but an entire hour-long visual album entitled “Lemonade.” The filmic feat consists of several individual music videos for the songs on the album, linked together through beautiful, sometimes controversial images that accompany poetry adapted from lauded 27-year-old Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.
Each music video has its own separate theme and tone, and the talented singer and actress transitions through the changing scenery seamlessly, allowing the audience to follow her journey to new locations with creative editing and lines of spoken word about the struggles faced by a black woman.
Lately, Beyoncé has been drawing attention to her heritage with her song and video for “Formation.” The video was a first glimpse at the larger project that is “Lemonade,” and it shocked many with its shots of the Lower Ninth Ward, flooded and still severely damaged, while Beyoncé belted out her pro-heritage lyrics. Additionally, Queen Bey wants to extend her pride in her background to her daughter, as she sings, “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros,” indicating she will not change her daughter’s natural hair — and thus, she wants to set a good example for Blue Ivy to accept her race.
Like the “Formation” video, almost the entirety of “Lemonade” seems to share the same Southern setting, which establishes the scene for Bey to discuss her heritage and African American history. Many of the famous women who appear in the introduction of the video are dressed in plantation-era dresses, akin to those in the 1800s when slaveholders ruled the South, and the references to African American history, civil rights and womanhood don’t stop there. During one of her songs, Beyonce cuts the intro with a piece of a Malcolm X speech about the importance that Black women have in the community.
However, in the case of the visual album as a whole, race was a lot less talked about than another issue that Beyoncé raised to the horror of her fans — unfaithfulness.
Much of the visual album, including the lyrics to the first several songs and lines adapted from Shire’s poems (including “For Women Who Are ‘Difficult’ to Love,” ““The unbearable weight of staying (the end of the relationship),” “Grief Has Its Blue Hands In Her Hair,” “Nail Technician As Palm Reader” and “how to wear your mother’s lipstick – (the desperation)”), explicitly reference a man cheating on the woman who loves him. Beyoncé does not do anything to obfuscate this message, as she even explicitly asks in “Denial,” “Are you cheating on me?”
One line in particular caught the ears and attention of the world, as the singer repeated, “He better call Becky with the good hair” in her song “Sorry.” Which begs the question: If Beyoncé is talking about Jay-Z’s unfaithfulness, who is the mysterious Becky?
Of course, since Bey’s fans (also known as the Beyhive) are dedicated to their Queen, they immediately took to the internet and tore apart any leads they could get ahold of regarding who this “Becky” could be. Meanwhile, Jay-Z’s Twitter received a barrage of Tweets, ranging from threats to desperate pleas for more information.
Regardless of their polemic or dramatic responses, most viewers can agree that “Lemonade” is an intriguing, ambitious, culturally steeped work of art. The visual album is a little over an hour long and can be found in its entirety on Tidal, HBO, Amazon, iTunes and even on some Beyoncé fan pages on Facebook.
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