If you don’t know who Beyoncé is by now, you probably aren’t living. I mean that both pop culturally and literally.
Beyoncé dropped her latest album, “Lemonade,” on Saturday and premiered a visual special on the HBO network. In three words: It. Was. Everything.
Visually stunning, lyrically groundbreaking and poetically mesmerizing from start to finish, the compilation of continuous videos was layers-upon-layers of societal messages, avant-garde fashion and art. The album was more than just a bunch of music videos; frames became tableaus and those became messages.
All these messages point to one thing – Beyoncé is at the forefront of black female empowerment. She’s taking charge of a pop culture that thrives off what blacks put in, but never get credit for.
“Lemonade” truly came at a perfect time because it’s further pushing the boundaries of what society has expected for black women. In fact, Beyoncé is shattering a societal glass ceiling, she’s at the top of the music industry, she is successful business woman without the need of a man beside her and she is becoming embedded in culture that has only been idolizing men since it began.
It hasn’t been until this past year that we’ve seen women of color, especially black women, get credited and acknowledged for accurate representation of their roles in society. It took how long for Viola Davis to become the first black actress to win an Emmy for a primetime leading role?
We’re still in the midst of a political uprising to fight for the gender- and race-based rights that are being tested and neglected.
I was never immensely into Beyoncé growing up, but when she dropped her last album, “BEYONCE,” in 2013, I really got into picking up what she was putting down. As a budding feminist at that time and huge advocate for equal rights for all, seeing her as one of the first mainstream black feminists meant something to me. Then, when “Formation” dropped before the Super Bowl this year, I was swarmed up into the BeyHive.
“Formation” was culturally important because it was saying two things: Women are equal and black lives are as important as anybody else’s. However, her video left me wondering how she was going to follow up this iconic — and what should be historical –– video. Truly, she is the game in the music industry, so how was she going to out-Beyoncé herself?
With all the album’s videos shot in New Orleans, there is a rich amount of black culture and history being shown. There’s appreciation, which is something that we don’t see in mainstream media. From outfits to hair to music styles and sounds, there is a consistent, empowering message of “I love my Black.”
Being women-centric, the videos tie a lot into the trend of #BlackGirlMagic,which, in itself, is a movement of empowerment for black women.
Take note: these videos were beautiful points of what cultural appreciation, not appropriation, looks like.
Lyrically, Beyonce has truly outdone herself. Each song is different in terms of style and genre, yet each as amazing as the last. Believe me when I say this: I’m not the type of person to sit through a whole album. There are only about four artists I’ve done that with, Beyonce being one.
Her songs in the videos revolve around chapters labeled after the Kubler-Ross stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Her songs follow these stages lyrically, many of them taking on the rumors of her marital troubles head-on.
Since the infamous 2014 elevator video with Solange and Jay getting into it, tabloids have been digging for proof that Beyonce’s marriage is on the rocks. From People Magazine to the Enquirer, people have been insinuating that something is going down. With “Lemonade,” Bey is able to address all the speculation personally, taking back the narrative of her own life from the Hollywood rumor mill.
She is unapologetic in putting her husband on blast and checking him for the wrong he has done, especially in songs such as “Hold Up” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” The act of acknowledging cheating spouses is something we’ve seen many artists, especially women, do, yet we shame them for doing so. Society shames women for telling the truth and being transparent. I wouldn’t dare ever shame Beyonce, so in the spirit of this women-empowered greatness, let’s keep that in mind next time we hear an artist do some diss tracks.
Despite the progressivity of our society, we hardly ever talk about how women make their own money and work for themselves. It’s still bathed in taboo for a woman to even think about what she does for herself, unless it’s with the help of a man. In the course of “Lemonade,” Queen Bey is shattering the notion that women can’t be bosses just like men.
Probably my favorite song and the most politically charged song on the album is “Freedom,” featuring Kendrick Lamar. This song is rooted in black culture and history, chilling listeners’ souls with nostalgic sounds of old spirituals and heavy percussions. The entire song takes on systematic racism and the ideas of slavery, both modern and old.
It’s no coincidence that just moments before the song starts, the families of slain black citizens such as Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner are shown, holding pictures of their loved ones who were killed as a result of systematic oppression.
Believe it or not, I’m only giving glimpses of the messages this album holds. If you haven’t yet, please do yourself a favor and dedicate an hour to watching the mini-movie, either on Tidal, iTunes or somewhere on Facebook. From start to finish, “Lemonade” is a masterpiece that reveals much of Beyonce’s feelings and struggles and tackles contemporary issues that women and people of color face.
In the final moments of “Freedom,” we hear an excerpt from Hattie White, Jay-Z’s grandmother, which perhaps really ties in the title of the album and encompasses the messages it has into a few lines.
“I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”