Before this record, I had never really got into Beyoncé’s music extensively, outside of many of the singles she has released. That was probably because, when she was rising to the top with Dangerously in Love and I Am… Sasha Fierce, I was interested in more alternative rock and garage rock-based sounds of that time, like Coldplay, Arcade Fire, the Kooks and The White Stripes. But I always have enjoyed her as an artist and performer; she commands so much power and authority, both in terms of her name in the music industry, and for female empowerment in general. So I was really excited going into this record (and the HBO TV special that coincided with this record) as my first experience of listening to a Beyoncé album.
However, Lemonade was something I would not expect from her, but I mean that in the best way possible. Queen Bey has always been one for creating catchy songs about femineity, relationships and empowerment, but rarely has she got as personal as this. This record is so personal that it almost feels confessional.
Instrumentally, the album covers a wide variety of genres, ranging from the heavy garage-rock inspired track ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ to the country-inspired ‘Daddy Lessons.’ James Blake, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and Jack White all played a role in the music of this album, and it feels like Beyoncé is really tapping into some experimentation. But, for me personally, the album really gets it punch from the lyrics and themes, and from Beyoncé’s amazing vocal delivery.
The album tells the story of the struggle of a relationship, leading to mistrust between the two partners. This is a really interesting change of pace for Beyoncé. Considering her lyrics from previous songs have always focused on empowering of femineity, the fact that this record shows her struggling and pleading with her significant other on the tracks ‘Pray You Catch Me’ and ‘Hold Up’, before it builds into straight fury on ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ and ‘Sorry’, it shows a side to Beyoncé we have never seen before: she’s vulnerable, fearful and angry. This is really reflective of her occasionally volcanic and sassy vocal delivery, and it is completely spellbinding.
The album also makes many political statements, such as the with pulsing single ‘Formation’ and the anthem ‘Six-Inch’, but Beyoncé also touches on her southern roots with ‘Daddy Lessons’, which is so well put together that it made me wonder why Beyoncé has never tried country music before. However, the best tracks are without doubt the heart-breaking ‘Sandcastles’, where Beyoncé asks about whether relationships are just sandcastles that will crumble at any moment, and ‘Freedom’ where she picks herself and (with help from Kendrick Lamar) delivers a powerful political track. ‘All Night’ brings the arch of this story to a conclusion, with Beyoncé concluding this relationship should continue, but there are still scars, and trust must be found again.
This is a record is a statement. It is hard on the heart, and brings out the real spirit of endurance of the artist who created it. I thoroughly recognise this record is not even remotely aimed at someone like me. But the fact that even I can relate to it in some small way really shows how great this record is.
Rumours about this album have been rampant. Some are saying that this album suggests a possible divorce from Jay-Z, others have been going round asking about how much of this album is actually true or not. To those people who say that, you’re missing the point. Because this record, regardless of its origins, has a purpose that exists beyond that. Lemonade is something special.
Now, time for me to get into the rest of Beyoncé’s catalogue, I’ve seriously been missing out.
Beyoncé- 'Formation' (Explicit)
Beyoncé- 'Lemonade' HBO Special Trailer