On April 23rd, 2016, an album had its premiere on HBO in the form of a visual story documenting love, deceit, betrayal, forgiveness and the current state of racial discrimination.
This album is Beyonce’s Lemonade, and a year later this visual experience has become not just a critically acclaimed and heavily awarded masterpiece, but a staple of pop culture and a raw, unfiltered look into the life and thoughts of pop’s biggest export. It’s become much more than an album. As we revisit Lemonade a year later, we look into why it’s just as important as it is today, not just the album itself, but the message behind the album and it’s visuals.
If there’s one thing that really shocked everyone when this album was first unveiled to the world, it was seeing Beyoncé bare her soul in a way that she never has before. The album follows the story of a love that’s tainted by cheating and dishonesty but learning to forgive and make the most of what life has given you. Whether this story is biographical or completely concept driven, you can’t dismiss for a second that Beyoncé captivated listeners everywhere and made them not just believe every word, but feel every word. Songs like Pray You Catch Me, Love Drought and Sandcastles tug at the heart strings, seeing Beyonce strip back and speak nothing but the truth.
She was also able to the complete opposite with songs like Sorry and Don’t Hurt Yourself, where you can hear Bey at her angriest, a year later and you can find yourself clenching your fist together whenever the line “He better call Becky with the good hair” is played. This album also saw Beyoncé take a creative risk by exploring new sounds and genres, such as the country driven Daddy Lessons which sees the pop megastar embrace her Texan roots and deliver a personal tale about her dad. Overall the album as a whole proves that Beyoncé is not a one trick pony and she is able to deliver something fresh, new and current whilst staying true to who she is.
In true Beyoncé fashion, the release of Lemonade was nothing short of a spectacle, with it premiering on HBO in the form of a short film. Now, although Beyoncé isn’t new to the visual game as she did the same when she surprised dropped her self-titled album, the visuals for Lemonade are a huge step up, something many fans of the queen bee thought she wouldn’t be able to top. Although the plethora of music videos from self-titled are some of the best music videos to come from a pop artist in a while (i.e Partition, Yonce and Haunted), the visual film that is Lemonade is more of a journey, a consistent stream of a storyline that is just as informative as it is stunning.
With scenes like Beyoncé swimming in a hotel room flooded with water as she struggles to deal with the thought of her man cheating on her, or Don’t Hurt Yourself which sees Bey get down to the nitty-gritty, putting every man on the planet in their place with the surge of anger and female empowerment accompanied by walls of fire and eerie interpretive dance. It also showcases black women from start to finish, with found footage of them sharing their stories shedding light on current situations. By introducing a visual aid to go along with this album, Beyoncé yet again has set herself apart from her competitors by setting the scene for this album in such a captivating and mind blowing way.
Formation: Black Lives Matter
What makes this album still relevant a year later and probably years to come is Beyoncé taking a stand against the racial predjudice that is taking place in the world around us. With the numbers of hate crimes towards the black community only rising as the months go on, the race problem will continue to be a devistating problem until it is understood that black lives do matter and we’re all equal despite the colour of our skin.
When Beyoncé dropped the surprise visual for Formation before the album, this was only a glimpse into how big of a celebration of black culture Lemonade would be. The Formation music video led to a lot of controversy, with many white americans calling Beyoncé out for making a problem out of nothing and giving white people “a bad name”. After her Super Bowl performance, there were police officers who took her Malcom X tribute as a threat and an offence, and led to them refusing to act as security at her shows. The energy fueled Freedom, featuring Kendrick Lamar, became a song that black lives matter rallies would chant down the street, due to it’s empowering message and a wake up call to everyone not listening, that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.
Overall, Lemonade is much more than an album, it’s a raw stripped back tale about infidelity and forgiveness. It’s a celebration of all genres, a brave venture into this new mixtures of sound and keeping true to who you are. It’s a visual masterpiece, full of regal royality and the beauty and grittiness of the world around us. It’s a celebration of black culture and lives, a celebration of black women and their existence will not be brushed under the mat. Lemonade has become a timestamp on how the world stood at 2016 and will become the blueprint to how these problems can be solved. With forgiveness, acceptance, coming together as one and making something beautiful with what the world gives you.