There’s something about Beyoncé’s music that never really spoke to me in her post-Dangerously In Love days, but I shouldn’t feel guilty about that because her music is predominantly geared towards women. And that is okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m exclusively stuck to listening to Male R&B acts, because that is the furthest thing from the truth. She just didn’t make anything for me to appreciate (outside of her hits, because those are legendary). When I saw Beyoncé live at Made In America those many years ago, that’s when I started to appreciate what she means to music, because she’s a phenomenal performer (as we all know). I also then understood why Drake made Girls Love Beyoncé, because (black) girls really love Beyoncé. Nothing was more poignant than when Formation dropped and the sheer excitement of that song & video (and Superbowl performance) created. But also, more than just being a woman, and a feminist to a certain degree, when there’s someone at the top who can represent the very people who are quite frankly the most looked down upon women in modern-day North American society, it’s very necessary to give them reason to celebrate themselves when all they hear & have heard, is that they’re not good enough. They’re more than enough; they’ve always known they’ve been enough, but Beyoncé is the catalyst in that belief made into a reality.
Transitioning into who Beyoncé, the artist is, and the way in which she has changed the game in how music is presented, she (certainly with the insightful aide of others) has managed to successfully go under-the-radar and release new music & visual spontaneously while having a strategic and calculated album rollout that didn’t involve much but a Tour announcement (before the album), a lead single, and a Superbowl performance. A couple of months later, you get a screenshot, which happens to also be an album cover, and an HBO special that came right out of left field. How does she keep doing this? I don’t have the answers, but the element of surprise is wholeheartedly accepted, and it just adds to another reason as to why I can see myself enjoying not only her music, but also just the different way in which she goes about delivering to her fans. It’s cool – we need new things to appreciate that shift a change in culture. Isn’t that what we love about music anyways? It’s about what that next ‘moment’ will be to spark a change. She has certainly had her fair share.
I will say this – although many people probably have not seen the long form visual album more than they have heard the album, the movie creates a different perspective than just hearing the album straight up, and breathes some context that might have been noticed without watching it. The movie is cinematically great, and visually stunning. On Beyoncé’s self-titled album, we saw her in a light that truly captured her being that grown and sexy woman, married & with a child (MILF life tuh rawtid), but in a boldly expressive light that hadn’t been seen to that degree at that point, it was really something. The visuals that came along with the music let you know that she was just more than your average, and on this album’s rollout & release, she continues to prove that, whether she’s drawing inspirations from past legends or not – she’s solidifying herself as a bigger name as each album moves forward. Life has given us Lemons, so here’s the Lemonade review.
Pray That You Catch Me starts off the album in a gloomy way, but nothing far from what we’d heard beforehand (Haunted is a good reminder to compare to, in some light). It was the first line that caught many people off guard, because we paint the Knowles-Carters as this happy couple (I mean, from what we see on the outside) and when she sings “you can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier,” it’s like you have to pause and understand if that was really said, or you play it off as though she’s singing in someone else’s perspective, since singers do that from time to time. I was going to roll with that theory, but given the whole Elevator issue, and that one ‘rumour’ that apparently drunk Beyoncé was saying she was joking about getting a divorce, maybe there was more to be taken seriously. As the song moves forward and there are more lyrics that paint the visual that something’s really not right with the Bey that loves love & praises it at any point (I mean, damn it, she made Halo & 1+1, this isn’t right).
“Nothing else ever seems to hurt
Like the smile on your face
When it’s only in my memory
It don’t hit me quite the same
Maybe it’s a cause for concern
But I’m not at ease
Keeping my head to the curb”
At the end of the song she whispers “what are you doing, my love,” and that sets off what will be a theme of a sort of anger that is very new & raw. I’m not sure anyone was prepared for it. Hold Up gets into that, and this is where watching the movie is also important because there’s more imagery that tells the story in a way that will make more sense as to how her emotions on this song in particular are conveyed.
“How did it come down to this?
Going through your call list
I don’t wanna lose my pride, but I’mma fuck me up a bitch
Know that I kept it sexy, and know I kept it fun
There’s something that I’m missing, maybe my head for one”
If there was ever a perfect meme (there are many, I’m sure, but one in particular) it would have to be Mr. Krabs, because there’s no way that anything is making sense right now. I know people got up in arms when Beyoncé said the word ‘bitch’ on Bow Down, but now she’s all out here cussing up and plotting on women on some real shit, and it’s like damn, that’s how you feel? Okay! Look, man, Rihanna already made me a fan with ANTI because of the way the subject matter & music overall finally hit me to the point of where I could appreciate it personally. Beyoncé, at this point, was having me intrigued to listen more like “alright, I’m in.” It’s certainly different, but I digress. I find it hilarious that on a beat that comes off as bubbly and calm, there’s aggression evident that creates tension. When R. Kelly said “when a woman’s fed up, ain’t nothing you can do about it,” I’m pretty sure he was talking about a Black woman in particular (Listen: A Woman’s Threat as well). The ‘Angry Black Woman’ label has been a tag used in a way that has had them not really express themselves in ways they want to, because it’s always portrayed in a negative light. Well, women are allowed to be angry; all colours, period. It’s natural, and really that rage hasn’t been heard from Beyoncé (at least, to me) since Ring The Alarm, but this is a more tactical and controlled anger that seems to have been pent up for some time. It’s very fascinating. That little usage of patois when she says “mi sing sey,” you know it’s about to go down in some degree. Don’t ramp with bod gyal, yuhzeeit. Also, shout out to Soulja Boy getting that nod as well with the Turn My Swag On reference. Collect those cheques, man.
The first two songs and how they built up to Don’t Hurt Yourself was set up nice, because it was just another element of the album that created some shock, and certainly had its fair share of controversy for all the gossip columns to write about for their precious clicks and miniscule think pieces. Again, I’m stressing here to watch the movie that comes with the album, because the imagery (it’s the last time I’ll bring it up, I promise). I don’t know where Jack White has been chilling these days, but it was nice of him to come out of hiding to lend support on this track in particular. It’s possibly (very possibly) my favourite song on the album as a whole, but just getting into it now, it’s the take-off-your-jewelry-and-square-up song on the album. Shawn Carter, what the hell did you do to provoke this?
The whole song is quotable (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard/seen/read “who the fuck do you think I is” a few more times than I should have, but that’s for another day) but the whole first verse can really be summed up in a Mr. Krabs face yet again (or put Jay-Z’s face in the filter and call it a day). What is important to note is that the Malcolm X line that she refers to lets you know absolutely who this album is for – Black women. Period.
“The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman.
The most un-protected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America, is the black woman”
There are a lot of warnings on this song that isn’t even all that deep & thought provoking. It’s a straight up “I’m not the one, do it if you’re bad, see what’ll happen. G’head. Do it. I dare you.” And you know what, that’s violence. It’s raw, and in its Rock format, I was digging the hell out of it on the first listen and on the 14th. Women are precious, but when provoked, they can be the most lethal weapons around – don’t do it to yourself, fellas. It’s not worth the drama, unless you’re into that sort of thing. I value my life & possessions. I don’t need all that.
“This is your final warning
You know I give you life
If you try this shit again
You gon lose your wife”
*insert yet another Mr. Krabs meme here*
WH….wow? What do you say to that? What do you really say to that? Sum’n nuh right. And then Sorry starts up and more controversy starts off. First of all, I was at a party when this song came on, and middle fingers went up, repeated use of “boy bye” went into my direction, and there was nothing I could do about it. Fellas, just prepare yourselves if it comes about when you’re in the spot. Don’t react.
I found it hilarious that within her whole Beatrix Kiddo/Jackie Brown revenge scheme music was going on, she took one of Hov’s lines from So Appalled and put her own spin on it (“I’m fresher than you all, so I don’t have to pause, all of y’all can suck my balls through my draws”)
“I don’t give a fuck, chucking my deuces up
Suck on my balls, pause, I had enough”
At this point, it’s comedic to the point where you’re entertained by this, and also you’re really starting to wonder if Hov’s life is in danger to some degree. He just needs to put it in rice at this point – what that ‘it’ is per se? No idea, but he’s got to get a stranglehold (maybe a bad word to use there) and figure this shit out.
The mark that created controversy beyond the album (and it’s really a shame too), was the “you better call Becky with the good hair” line, and all hell broke loose. Listen – white people – stop trying to be oppressed and think that every little thing that isn’t a racial slur, is a racial slur. Wetback, Nigger, Chink, and a whole host of others, are racial slurs, ‘Becky’ is not one of them. Becky is short for Rebecca. Becky is also a termed that was used to associate with White women, because of the fact that it was proclaimed that white girls gave the best blowjobs (hence, “gimmie dat Becky” – thank you Plies). This has been a phrase used for over 10 years, and no one cared. Beyoncé says it, and white people are screaming “racism.” No. Kike is racist. Becky is not. Are we done here? Have I made myself clear? Yes? Alright.
That being said, that’s where the whole “damn, Hov cheated?” conversations started to flare up, because those are fighting words right there. You can’t fight, but hey man, that’s not a good look. At all. More rice. Besides that, this is peak Dab & hit Dem Folks music, so surely it will be in the clubs all summer (sixteen), and fellas, if you’ve messed up to some degree and you catch your woman lip syncing this on Snapchat, just turn off your phone, remove the battery, and go with God. All I gotta say. She’s not having it with you.
6 Inch Heels threw me off a bit, because I thought there was going to be more pettiness and aggression, but it got sexy when I wasn’t anticipating sexy to come about. Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd from the greatest city in the world, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada (yes, I went there) has been having a hell of a year with the success of Beauty Behind The Madness, which had him draped up and dripped out in Grammy awards & Oscar nominations. Let that boy flourish. He definitely had his influence all over the song, and this is the Bad-Bitch version of Independent Women, in my eyes. It went from “you go girl, get your money & hustle on,” and this song is the product of that hard work & independence that just happens to be behind an Isaac Hayes sample of Walk On By (which may have more meaning to this song in particular). This song is hit or miss, because I’d probably want to hear it in a strip club or somewhere where it’s inconspicuous & the mood is set for it. I can only think of the movie The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and think this is Lisbeth Salander’s theme music when shit’s about to go down.
“She gon’ slang
She too smart to crave material things
She pushing herself day and night
She grinds from Monday to Friday”
This is the anthem for the average woman who is about themselves 100% of the time, and the go-getter who needs that extra motivation. This is probably gym music & Instagram caption worthy for a while. I can see why, but it’s not something that is willingly something that resonates with me outside of the dope beat.
Now Daddy Lessons was something of a surprise, because that Southern influence really rang true here. All you could hear in the beginning was the air of New Orleans, and then as Beyoncé chants “Texas,” it turns into a country song that I didn’t think would have happened. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t mess with country like that at all, but this was a toe-tapper, knee-slapper song that I was sure would catch the ears of a certain group of people and I was just waiting for the word “appropriation” to seep out, because the destruction that would ensue would be brilliant to watch from the sidelines.
Now Chris Rock said it best when talking about women and their relationships with Men and that as the main man in her life, which will dictate how she will go about her relationships with other men as she gets older. It’s certainly something to think about, and Beyoncé here adds her two cents about the lessons that her father has taught her that she holds dear to herself, and in a sort of reflect state, it helps bring her back to her core values and that self-respect that she’s firmly embraced. Now, mind you, she’s still pissed, but she’s just less than, right now.
“He held me in his arms
And he taught me to be strong
He told me when he’s gone
Here’s what you do
When trouble comes to town
And men like me come around
Oh, my daddy said shoot”
When you break it down and take in the fact that the advice from Beyoncé’s Dad to Beyoncé was to shoot a man like him if he came around, is a mind-fuck. I mean, not all fathers are perfect, but damn. That was out of left field suddenly. At least it’s honesty – that’s what’s appreciated. There’s something very valuable about a parent’s relationship to their children, because it really shapes them for what they can potentially become in life. It’s not just a hobby. I enjoy this song from time to time, and you started to feel that anger pass on by, and that was evident when it got into Love Drought.
At this point, you can start to feel a turn in emotions for Beyoncé on how she feels about her husband. There are still lines that highlight her insecurities an calls out the fact that the love is absent, but the hopefulness that it can return is there, and when there’s a feeling of neglect, there’s still that glimmer of light that can come to fruition, and really that’s all she wants here.
“Are you aware you’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me
If I wasn’t me, would you still feel me?
Like on my worst day? Or am I not thirsty, enough?
I don’t care about the lights or the beams
Spend my life in the dark for the sake of you and me
Only way to go is up, skin thick, too tough”
I know that as men, we can be dicks and tend to think with our other head besides the one that sits on top of our shoulders, but when we’re on the other side of the script, and we’re the ones experiencing the feeling of not being loved enough, you’d think that it’d be common sense to not give out that same energy, but it does happen that the emotions can wither for whatever reason. How to fix that? I believe it comes from restoring the bond and getting back to basics. Communication is key. On this song, Beyoncé feels as though it’s her fault that her man’s been driven away because of things that she’s done, which is a natural feeling when situations like infidelity occur. But she hasn’t given up on love, she’s just waiting for it to rain down on her again. It’s a joint effort, so “big homie better grow up.”
Well would you look at that, it didn’t take long to discover that love. Sandcastles is a moment in deep emotional convention that allows Beyoncé’s heart to speak from a soulful place. For the oddest reason (because my brain is obviously weird), while listening to this, I thought of the movie Inception, and where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is talking about him & his wife’s marriage when they went into her dreams and built a great city out of sandcastles, and grew old together. If you take pieces of that scene and lay it out to this song, I think there’s some resemblance, but that’s probably (and likely) just me. The symbolism of the song strikes me as someone who is yearning to win back the love of their lives, and really this is the lowest of low points, in sadness, before things can get progressively better. For the last time (okay, I broke my promise, sue me) the movie adds so much more context to the song and highlights why it’s an important piece, but the lyrics themselves are self-explanatory. She fought hard for her relationship, and when you hear her voice crack as you can feel the emotions build up, you can detect the hint of onions in the room. Something so small & straight to the point, it’s poetic, and as Forward comes afterwards to somewhat breathe new life into her love, it’s the voice of James Blake (a great one, at that) who creates, in harmony with Bey, an emergence of that hope she had been looking for, and it appears as though all is right in the world, and everyone can stop worrying about the Hip Hop Royal Couple taking a leave of absence or worse. Jus cool nuh?
Within all the memes & jokes that were firing off because of this album, one that made me howl (and shout out to Gyalcast for pointing this out) was that Beyoncé was going through Jay Z’s email, found the beat for Freedom, and stole it. Why it’s funny is because it’s a Just Blaze beat, and if you know your Hip Hop history, just go on from there. I thought it was hilarious, but back to the topic. This is a powerful ass song. I know there are folks out there who don’t want to hear yet another battle cry for Black people to belt out like they did with Kendrick’s Alright, but too late – this is one for strength and uprising. There’s a reason why I thought (after listening a few times) that this would be perfect for the new Birth of a Nation movie trailer, and because the internet is amazing, someone made one (using the song only) and created a trailer. It has that feel to it, and to feature Kendrick Lamar on it to contribute to what was already a showing out by Beyoncé on her own, it just added that imagery of Black Beret’s, Civil Rights banners, and the current Black Lives Matter movement that was been spreading like wildfire in the past couple of years. Also, within the song, it’s a freedom of being out of the rut in her love, so that she & he can move forward with their love, and this is the outburst of joy (and enraged joy), which is an enigmatic release of every emotion built. Kendrick’s verse is very militant. This isn’t the first time that he’s done so, and it was very fitting, given the imagery of the song. Hearing the perspective from a male in this light where he’s lashing out towards the very system that is built to hold men like him (and myself) down from anything progressive, it’s a necessary verse that draws in both the male & female audience in unison in a spirited effort, but is it’s completely for Black women to stand up and let their voices be heard to fight for ‘freedom’ of the many things that are designed to hold them back. No longer, they say. Break those chains.
Truth be told, I thought that Miguel should have been on All Night, because he would have sounded perfect. It feels like something he would be apart of. This is the moderately happy ending that really puts her heart at ease as there is acceptance that pain was shown, scars were left, tended, and are healing. Not fully healed, but at least in the process of getting better with time and the main ingredient of love (as cheesy as that sound s- I almost threw up).
“Our love was stronger than your pride
Beyond your darkness, I’m your light
If you get deep, you touch my mind
Baptize your tears and dry your eyes”
Love is supposed to be about balance & equality. Ideally, you want to be with someone who loves you as much as you love them and would be willing to walk through fire & hell on Earth to be with them. Some people don’t have that kind of patience, and others just don’t have that good fortune, but there is that special someone out there for everyone who can feel about you the way Beyoncé describes how she feels about her husband on this song. You have to go through it when you’re dealing with the thickness of layers that is Love. You’ll hurt, you’ll cry, and you’ll go through some shit, but as long as the love is there and you’re able to come together and shed those tears, and be each other’s firm embrace, then that’s really the “hashtag relationship goal” that everyone really is striving for.
“They say true love’s the greatest weapon
To win the war caused by pain, pain
But every diamond has imperfections
But my love’s too pure to watch it chip away
Oh nothing real can be threatened
True love breathes salvation back into me
With every tear came redemption
And my torturer became a remedy”
It’s a nice way to close the tumultuous circle, which started in the beginning, but if you thought the controversy was over with, SIKE! Formation was the song that started the buzz around this album right before the Superbowl, and lord, the think pieces were in abundance because this was a new militant Black Beyoncé that left her white fans in disarray and confusion. “Oh my God she said Negro” had folks in hysterics, meanwhile, Black women were losing their edges, getting their wigs snatched, and life was being served given (I think I said all of those phrases right – I don’t use them, but they was necessary here). Saturday Night Live did a great job in mocking all of the white tears that were flooding like Noah’s Ark, and it was pure, unfiltered, and splendid comedy. I didn’t think much of the song after hearing it a few times. Main reason is because the song isn’t for Men. Hell, it’s not even for White Women. This is for Black Women and Black Women only. The encouragement to show self-expression and appreciate the skin your in, again, it’s a rare message that’s being relayed towards women of colour, and Black women get it the worst. You’re damn right that they deserve an anthem to turn up to, which celebrates their sexuality & Blackness at the same time. Every man who loves Black women should go out to a club, wait for this song to come on, and just see the explosion of joy & happiness that ensues when the song comes to life. Shit, you’ll want to get in line too (there’s not actually a line, but you get it). It’s over a trap inspired beat, and shout out to Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee for getting that writer’s money (COUNT UP). The video (the actual music video, I swear) also brought in narratives that weren’t brought up in the song, like the little Black boy dancing in front of a row of cops with the ‘hands up’, or the “Stop shooting us” graffiti on the wall, or Beyoncé standing on top of a cop car in a flooded New Orleans. There’s a lot happening, and the fact that it’s Beyoncé coming out of the woodwork to highlight all of these messages, it doesn’t diminish the hard work & effort by those living day to day to fight our struggles with Police brutality & injustice, but more so a win for inspiring someone who has as much influence as she does. It’s a step in the right direction that felt genuine, contrary to the people who believed that she hopped on a wave just to sell records – come on, now. That may be naïve for me to think otherwise, but I just don’t see it.
This review was longer than I thought it would be, but I had to do it justice. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. How I feel about this album is pretty much how I feel about Rihanna’s ANTI. I wasn’t a big Beyoncé fan, but this turned me towards her direction in a bigger way.This album is for Black women, period. The difference between Beyoncé and Lemonade is night & day, because where you have on one hand the outward appreciation of being sexy & a grown up, you have on the other hand what surfaces when things aren’t exactly going right (terrible, even), and it also pays homage & appreciation to the women she shares a bond with on the surface level and levels deeper than that. This was a step outside of the box for her, and I appreciate those artists who go out of their way to challenge themselves artistically. It doesn’t work for most, but the attempts are always appreciated. That’s what makes music so interesting, and it keeps a level of originality on the surface where it appears that so many carbon copies are occupying the space. I’ve had the album on repeat for a while, and it doesn’t appear as though that’s going to change drastically overnight, although the flurry of good & great music is already in line. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX