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Beyonce, once again, has taken over my entire life. If you’ve questioned where I have been or what I have been doing for the last 72 hours, my answer is simple: I have been consumed by the gospel of Lemonade according to Beyonce. On April 24th (which henceforth shall be deemed a national holiday), Beyonce released a full length visual and musical journey titled “Lemonade.” It deserves so much more than to merely be called a music video, so I’m going to refer to it as a music film. In an elegantly composed musical compilation, Beyonce was able to artistically comment on themes of feminism, love, and black empowerment.
This hour long film was a spiritual experience during which I laughed, cried, peed a little, and may have even left my body at some point, looked down upon myself shoulder shimmying to “Hold Up” and then resumed physical form. The cinematography, the lyrics, the outfits; I was mesmerized. Bey had truly outdone herself, and I was more proud of her than I imagine I will ever be of my hypothetical future children.
Lemonade is divided up into the 5 stages of coping that my therapist keeps trying to talk me through: Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. The result is an unmistakable nod to Jay-Z’s infidelity and a virtual walkthrough of her emotional journey. It was a lot to process so allow me to walk you through.
In Denial&Isolation we see Beyonce raw, stripped, and vulnerable. “Pray You Catch Me” shows a Beyonce alone and hooded in dark clothing. In a way she is demure and closed off from the viewer. Beyonce is portrayed not as quiet or sweet, but soft. Of course, this is before being touched by hell-fire.
Then, like any deeply wronged woman, Bey gets viciously angry. In Anger, she enters the scene in a stunning yellow dress that flows like water as she struts down the street like a god damn lady, a lady with…wait, is that baseball bat?
So that’s what she meant by “hot sauce in my bag, swag.” If becoming the number one international pop star hadn’t worked out for her, those swings indicate Bey could’ve had a promising career in at least the minor leagues. She proceeds to keep her cool and destroy an entire neighborhood’s cars.
It isn’t until we get to stage 3, Bargaining, that that dirty, cheating, lying Jay-Z shows his face. The audience is shown glimmers of hope via intimate vignettes of Bey and Jay. Maybe everything will be okay for America’s real first couple after all.
Depression, containing only one mournful song, is the shortest part of the film. I personally found this depressing because I’d have done anything for a little more Bey time. In fact it’s less of a song and more of an interlude, a transition, a deep breath Beyonce takes before continuing with her emotional healing.
Finally we come to Acceptance, and if the title hasn’t already spoiled it, Beyonce has learned that when life gives you lemons (I’m looking at you Jay-Z) the only thing to do is to make some Lemonade and forgive his cheating ass.
It’s easy to get caught up in the majesty of Beyonce, but it is extremely important that we don’t allow the spoken word genius beyond Lemonade to go unsung. Warsan Shire is the woman who lent moving poetic verses peppered throughout such as,
“If it’s what you truly want … I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized … you and your perfect girl.”
What is striking about this line is her willingness to violently change herself, a sentiment that any jealous woman could relate to. In trying to cope, she first tries to first change herself before realizing she is perfectly fine the way she is and it is in fact the man who needs to step it up. Just reading this line still gives me chills, and it is more than clear that Shire has an immense understanding of the absolute rawness of being a woman of color.
The whole thing was an emotional marathon during which Beyonce punched me in the face then gently wiped away my tears. I wish I had the opportunity to write and film an entire breakup album and then have it published under the record label of every man who’s hurt me. I cringed at the thought of Jay-Z being on set for recording as Beyonce released a tsunami of cathartic and personal beef. I’m sweating for him and Becky with the good hair.
But then I remembered the time Beyonce dropped Single Ladies and went home to her husband, awards, and millions of dollars, leaving all of us lonely idiots screaming along about how we didn’t need no man as we sipped overpriced drinks at the bar. Singing about the trials and tribulations of single life when you’re happily married is just a little shady, Bey. A wave of distrust came over me. Was this a real and raw portrayal of Beyonce’s journey through infidelity? Or was it all one big publicity stunt?
Beyonce has a better publicity team than most politicians. Go ahead and try to google “ugly Beyonce.” Maybe one picture of her at a bad angle shows up. I don’t have hoards of paparazzi following me 24/7 and I know that more ugly pictures of me exist on the internet than Beyonce. Well, all pictures of me compared to Bey are ugly BUT THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT. The point is that her PR team has time and again eradicated any story, image, or video that did even the slightest damage to Beyonce’s image. They are on top of their shit. Additionally, Beyonce and Jay-Z have kept almost every detail of their 14 year relationship a secret; from their wedding to her pregnancy. If this team is the equivalent of a steel trap, then why have they allowed the Bey&Jay cheating rumors to run rampant? Were they merely planting seeds in the minds of the eager public to fuel Beyonce’s next big project, Lemonade? The visual album was only available to the public (and not even most of the public privileged enough to have HBO accounts) for ONE day before being locked away in the exclusive and overpriced attic that is Tidal. It seems all too convenient that the cathartic album also boosted the membership of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s failing music site. This isn’t even taking into account that Beyonce does not write her own music, and all of the passionate spoken word connected to abuse and cheating are not hers but Warsan Shire’s. It’s questionable how much of Beyonce is actually in this album, and whether or not her contrived scandal is being used as a vehicle to further increase her and Tidal’s net worth.
As you may have guessed, there are pictures of illuminati celebrities connected to articles and statistics with red string covering the walls of my dorm. But conspiracy theories aside, it’s important to remember the collage of important messages transmuted through Lemonade. The more I watch it the more I realize it is less a Taylor Swift-esqe break up album and more so an album about empowerment, feminism, black power, and the fact that the media is for ONCE allowing a black woman to be angry without criticizing her.
The genius of Lemonade lies within the fact that Beyonce has created an album encompassing motifs of deep southern culture, Hurricane Katrina, Malcolm X, and the Black Lives Matter movement, capturing the attention of the public. This is incredibly important because the artistry of the songs is so good that Beyonce has people around the world (people who may have never even previously thought about these movements) dancing and singing along to songs about black women’s empowerment. She has effectively leaked an amazing and deeply needed message into the fabric of pop culture.
But the message lies within the images as well. In Lemonade Beyonce incorporates images of the mothers of Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown, among many others, and forces the audience to look at their pain, a microcosm of an entire demographic the United States hegemony has scorned. There are also images of black women, standing tall, strong, and powerful. In this way Beyonce shows the sheer diversity of black women. This imagery serves as a call to action, a protest against the world to stop attempting to pigeonhole black women as “angry” or “ghetto” or “powerless.”
Whether or not Lemonade was Beyonce’s brainchild or she was simply a walking talking narration created by a label, the message remains important. It isn’t a simple story of one woman hurt by one man, but an entire demographic that has been repeatedly forsaken by society as a whole. The album may be less of a love story between her and Jay-Z, and more so a love letter to women of color everywhere.
Anyways, I have to leave town on the next train and dye my hair because by the time this gets published the Illuminati will be after my ass.
(It is important to note that, because I am not a black woman and have not experienced institutionalized racism as acutely, I cannot conclusively determine or deliver the dynamic message that is Lemonade; however, as a listener this is what I’ve taken away.)