We are so fortunate to live in a world where things like a visual album can happen. It’s projects like this that are so critical in making music exciting again. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of Beyonce, you need to respect what she’s doing to revitalize the music industry. I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember and my very first job was at the local Sam Goody.
Remember them?! Goody’s Got It?! YES!
After Sam Goody went bankrupt, I worked for Coconuts which then was rebranded and became FYE.
Why am I telling you this? I promise there’s a point so just hang tight …
What made these stores so great is that is cultivated a community full of people who lived for new music to be released on Tuesdays and there was always so much of excitement behind the music and its release – and it didn’t matter what it was. Since music went digital the way that it has, we lost that somewhere. The sense of community is gone. But Beyonce has figured out a way to bring that excitement back and it’s called LEMONADE.
We knew as soon as we saw the trailer for it that we were going to be in for something special and she absolutely did not disappoint. On April 23rd, the visual album was shown in its entirety on HBO. Now, it is available to stream exclusively on TIDAL and it’s something you definitely do not want to miss out on.
A music event that isn’t live that debuts on HBO? That’s exciting all in itself.
Her previous release, BEYONCE was also deemed a visual album – and a lot of us didn’t have expectations going into it because this was a relatively new concept. We were treated to a video that accompanied every track and we were thrilled. Some were related to each other, some not. LEMONADE however … is everything I think a visual album should be.
You know, now that I’m an expert and everything.
LEMONADE is an experience. It’s a trip we didn’t even know we needed to be on. We’re watching a married woman who has discovered that her husband has not been faithful – but it is so much more than a collection of angry songs as that might imply. In a recent post from TIDAL, it has been described as a “woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing.”
We’re being told a story of a woman –
I’m moving forward with the assumption that it’s her …
– who has suspected and subsequently discovered that her husband has been cheating on her. We get a glimpse of the anger, we’re seeing the resulting emptiness and self-loathing, and we’re looking at a woman’s quest to find it in herself to forgive the man who has dishonored her.
And maaaaaan, is this shit juicy.
The very first song PRAY YOU CATCH ME opens with the line “you can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath” and you just know that you’re in for a wildly personal ride. As she continues she’s praying for a moment where she catches him whispering and in that, prays that he catches her listening to those whispers. The imagery used in the accompanying video is equally strong and chilling and serves as a standout.
LEMONADE then moves into the colorful looking and sounding song HOLD UP – but don’t get it twisted! This isn’t a feel good song. We see B walking down the street in a flowy yellow dress with a beautiful smile while she joyfully and carelessly swings a bat around while repeating “jealous or crazy” – and she then moves on to bust up damn near everything in the street.
I actually laughed out loud watching this because she has so ingeniously created this moment where the smile on her face isn’t consistent with the fact that she’s busting up car windows and fire hydrants – hence, the brilliance. Once she has completed her walk of destruction, things really take a turn. The word ‘Anger’ flashes on the screen, followed by more spoken narration.
“If this is what you truly want, I can wear a skin over mine. Her hair over mine, her hands as gloves .. her teeth as confetti, her scalp a cap, her sternum my bedazzled cane.”
Confetti? Bedazzled cane? What the f*ck happened to you Beyonce?!
DON’T HURT YOURSELF features vocals from Jack White of The White Stripes. This is easily my favorite song on the album because I love these angry songs. Nothing better than a woman scorned! It sounds like something inspired by Lenny Kravitz – from the production, the raw emotion, and the distorted way the vocals are recorded. The song closes with the line “if you try this shit again, you gon’ lose your wife” which simply begs the question:
What did you DO Jay-Z?!
We’re then taken into the song SORRY that also provides some incredible imagery with some amazing one liners. “Looking at my watch he shoulda been home … today I regret that night I put that ring on” is just one of the lines that makes this song a must listen.
I was also pleased to see the man of the hour had a cameo towards the end of the album. We see the word ‘Forgiveness’ flash across the screen and the song SANDCASTLES starts. This song tells the story of a woman who is looking back on specific moments and may actually feel a little remorse for having walked away from the relationship and making her man cry. “Although I promised that I couldn’t stay, every promise don’t work out that way” is an incredibly strong statement and is the exact idea that this song is built around. Often in music we hear lines like this, but with a different intention. Usually we’re lamenting and saying that not every promise of fidelity is kept or saying that not every promise of fidelity works out that way – but to flip the intention like she did is smart and intriguing. Jay-Z is prominently featured in the accompanying video and it’s refreshing because it’s very hard not to have developed some pretty strong feelings about him from watching these previous videos and listening to those songs. There has clearly been some reconciliation here and I’m encouraged.
I don’t want to live in a world where Beyonce isn’t being treated right and even though this suggests that I have already lived in one … again, I am encouraged by the idea that I no longer do and I can go on with the rest of my day.
While I was in the process of writing this, I had a rather in-depth conversation with a friend about LEMONADE as a whole. He suggested that perhaps, this isn’t actually her story at all – that this is the story of her grandmother. This is actually supported by some dialogue towards the end of the album … but I’m not sure.
There was a whooooooole lot of emotion in some of these songs and videos. That’s not to say that she can’t just be performing the story of another so fantastically … but wow. Something to consider, for sure. Makes you think …
One thing we do know is that the album title was inspired by Jay-Z’s grandmother Hattie White, who is featured right after FREEDOM –
Featuring Kendrick Lamar! Another clear stand out!
– saying “I had my ups and downs, but I always found the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”
There are several other songs and videos that are part of this project that are fantastic in their own right –
Shout out to 6 INCH featuring The Weeknd who provided us with some clean and ultra crisp vocals …
– but I would rather urge you to just sit down and take an hour to experience this for yourself, from beginning to end. It’s so cool to have an experience like this and I think that with the visual element behind it, this can appeal to a number of audiences. One of the strongest things about LEMONADE is Beyonce’s commitment to the project and the art behind it. Some of the varying visual setups with this album are not your traditional “pretty” shots and that’s what I enjoyed most. The shots are dark, slightly eerie, and a little crazy. Some are considerably less glamorous than you would expect from somebody in her position – but that’s what makes this so amazing. Beyonce knew exactly the story she wanted to tell, knew what it would take to tell the story, and executed it in a manner that exudes a high level of class – and I can’t wait to sit down and watch this again.
Thank you, Beyonce for making music fun and exciting again … and for gifting us with a body of work that is so deeply personal. Everyone should head to TIDAL.com and experience this for themselves.
** UPDATE: LEMONADE is now available on iTunes and Amazon in addition to Tidal.