“I didn’t come to play with you hoes. I came to slay, bitch.” This line from the “Formation” music video perfectly sums up Beyoncé on her latest effort, Lemonade, which was unleashed to the world on April 23rd following the premiere of her HBO short film of the same name.
After her 2013 game-changing “visual” fifth album, BEYONCE, many (including myself) wondered how she would be able to top it. Nothing like it had ever been done before, from the release to the production — it was revolutionary. And what’s more is that above all the hype, it was a legitimately phenomenal, sonically cohesive album; an album that will continue to hold up decades from now. But she has returned, middle-fingers up, with an even more eye-opening set of material than BEYONCE, Lemonade.
Lemonade is what happens after “Drunk In Love.” Featuring guest appearances by Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake and The Weeknd, it is an album full of anger, marital discord, and powerful, bold, raw and honest statements. It takes pop music to places it rarely ever goes and wastes no time marking its place as her most personal release to date.
The first five consecutive songs on the album heavily cover the alleged rocky marriage she and Jay-Z have had in past years. “What are you doing, my love?” she whispers on “Pray You Catch Me” before also letting us know she isn’t above snatching a few weaves to figure what’s going on with him on “Hold Up” crooning, “How did it comes down to this? /Going through your call list /I don’t want to lose my pride, but I’ma fuck me up a bitch.” She continues the sentiment on “Don’t Hurt Yourself” letting him know “This is your final warning/ You know I give you life/ If you try this shit again/ You gon’ lose your wife.”
If “Sorry” is as autobiographical as she’s portraying it then I honestly don’t know how she and Jay are still together, even admitting that she’d rather commit suicide than let him see her cry about him. It’s one of the most jarring and brutal songs she’s ever done. But she also ends the song with the line that has spawned the next great meme of 2016 saying, “he better call Becky with the good hair.”
On “Daddy Lessons” she reminisces about how her father helped mold her into the woman she is today over an acoustic guitar singing, “Daddy made a soldier out of me… tough girl is what I had to be.” As we enter the back half of the album we begin to see the anger dissipate and the healing (self and marriage) begin. She gives us one of her rawest vocals ever on the ballad “Sandcastles,” which recalls past gems like B’ Day’s “Resentment” and BEYONCE’s “Heaven,” and truly shows the depth of her vocal ability.
“Freedom,” featuring a killer verse from Kendrick Lamar, is my personal favorite cut on the album. It’s the one I’ve come back to the most. It would have fit perfectly on the Django Unchained soundtrack. It delivers one of the most uplifting lines on the album. “I break chains all by myself/ Won’t let my freedom rot in hell/ I’ma keep runnin’ cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” If that doesn’t make you want to at least do ten extra pushups at the gym then I don’t know what will. The song also shows us where the title of the album came from via a short speech given by Jay-Z’s grandmother, Hattie White, at her 90th birthday where she says, “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself back up. I was served lemons and I made lemonade.”
After all the animosity presented to us in the last ten songs the penultimate cut “All Night” finally shows some hope for the couple and ends the album in a positive place saying “Every diamond has its imperfections/ but my love’s too pure to watch it chip away … With every tear came redemption/ And my torturer became my remedy.” She shows that while a marriage can suffer, the love can be stronger than the pain.
I can’t think of an album in the last ten years that someone has poured themselves so personally into as much as Beyonce has done on Lemonade. Many choose to allude to or dance around the tougher topics in their music, but not Bey. With its incredible production, varied musical styles and overall theme and content, Lemonade will always stand as one of her most diverse works. “You know you’re that bitch when you cause all this conversation,” she says on the final song, and lead single, “Formation.” And yes, yes you have, Beyoncé. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.