Take a Sip: Listen to Beyoncé’s Surprise Release Album“Lemonade”
Issue   |   Wed, 05/04/2016 - 00:38
Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade” moves listeners as it delves into womanhood, betrayal, love, empowerment and race.

For those of you who don’t know, Beyoncé, the 20-time Grammy award winning artist and cultural icon, dropped a visual album titled “Lemonade” on Saturday, April 23. For those of you who are aware of the album and haven’t watched it yet — perhaps because you think “Beyoncé is overrated” or you are under the assumption that the album revolves around rumors and infidelity — I urge you to reconsider your hesitation. Though “Lemonade” does discuss betrayal and pain, the piece transcends the limitations of existing solely as punishment for Jay-Z’s infidelity — a judgment that many media outlets have made. “Lemonade” is far more than a revenge album. In about an hour, Beyoncé explores the beauties of womanhood, motherhood, forgiveness and life as a person of color.

“Lemonade” as a visual album is divided into 12 chapters based on a series of titles that guide the audience through the musical experience. In order, the 12 chapters are “Intuition,” “Denial,” “Anger,” “Apathy,” “Emptiness,” “Loss,” “Accountability,” “Reformation,” “Forgiveness,” “Resurrection,” “Hope” and “Redemption.” Each stage is expressed with a song and poetry. Poet Warsan Shire wrote some of the spoken parts, which are perhaps the most striking and powerful elements of the album. After a few bars of the album’s opening song “Pray You Catch Me,” Beyoncé delivers the first of her many moving lyrics. Thus, the chapter of Intuition begins:

“I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quietly?

You remind me of my father, a magician ... able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men in my blood, you come home at 3 a.m. and lie to me. What are you hiding?

The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a fucking curse.”

As the poems and speeches precede, interrupt and follow each song on the album, they unite the work and craft an experience and atmosphere filled with passion and self-love. Within the first few minutes of the album, Beyoncé outlines many issues that “Lemonade” grapples with. She alludes to womanhood, race, family and betrayal. She provides an outline of her sorrows and transforms them into a list of resolves one hour later. Such lyrics had the capacity to move me more powerfully than almost anything I had heard before. In seconds, Beyoncé captures the emotions and thoughts of countless women.

The interludes of poetry create a safe haven, a further explanation of the music, and they give a powerful voice to the speechlessness that overcomes too many women of color. In “Redemption,” she gathers such emotions:

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live … Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade … True love brought salvation back into me … So we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again … You’re the magician. Pull me back together again, the way you cut me in half …Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk…"

From here, Beyoncé transitions into the song “All Night” before she rolls the credits and ushers in “Formation” to conclude the album. In “All Night," the viewer is greeted with open skies, smiling faces, and depictions of love. Here we finally understand what “Lemonade” means to Beyoncé and to the album. “Lemonade," made from bitter fruit and times of sorrow, finally tastes sweet and soaks our thirsty tongues.

As for the music of “Lemonade," Beyoncé unapologetically unleashes her talent and soul. Each song has a unique mood and creates a different reality for the listener. The album — categorized as pop — includes songs of the pop and R&B genre, as well one country song. And though the album’s genre remains fairly ordinary, the music is unusually harsh and extreme. The shift in sounds results in more passionate work than anything else Beyoncé has ever released.

“Freedom,” the 10th track on the album, exemplifies all the issues and themes that “Lemonade” covers through sound and visuals. In “Freedom,” Beyoncé stands united with black women, dressed in antebellum and culturally influenced costume. The result of their solidarity is a breathtaking display of beauty and strength. Standing on the grounds of a plantation home, the women claim their struggles and declare their strength.

Early in the visual album, a sound clip of Malcolm X declares: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” In “Freedom,” Beyoncé portrays her fellow women with the long overdue agency they deserve. She empowers all black women in addition to empowering herself. This song could not be any more pivotal after her first songs regarding misplaced trust and illusive hope in love. “Freedom” is seated in the chapter of Hope. The song acts as an anthem of hope for new beginnings and new life and as an ode to motherhood.

“The nail technician pushed my cuticles back ... turns my hand over, stretches the skin on my palm and says, “I see your daughters and their daughters.” That night in a dream, the first girl emerges from a slit in my stomach. The scar heals into a smile. The man I love pulls the stitches out with his fingernails. We leave black sutures curling on the side of the bath.

I wake as the second girl crawls headfirst up my throat, a flower blossoming out of the hole in my face.”

Ultimately, “Freedom” liberates both Beyoncé and her viewers and serves as a beacon for Redemption.

“Lemonade” has become so special to so many hearts over the past week because it of its raw authenticity. Within the hour, the viewer is transported into different states of mind and being that feel familiar. You experience love and hate, feeling needy and living independently. You confront long-term inequalities and you gain hope for a more equal future. But ultimately, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” coaxes the viewer into the paradise that is love.