After an 18-year career, Beyoncé dropped a self-titled visual album and received her well-deserved spot in the Pantheon of music legends. On Saturday, April 23, she dropped her second visual album titled Lemonade and took her spot at the head of that table. Someone once said Beyoncé was the greatest of all time, and he wasn’t wrong.
Beyoncé was the fruition of her illustrious career. She had seemingly reached her peak with this album. Then came the song “Formation;” with a staccato beat and the most political video of her career, it marked a radical shift in Beyoncé’s artistry. This leads us to Lemonade. Beyoncé was her victory lap; Lemonade is a whole other track.
The album starts with “Pray You Catch Me,” a vulnerable introduction to the tumultuous journey that will follow. This track is followed by “Hold Up,” a Chance-the-Rapper-esque track with a fun Soulja Boy sample. The jovial, childlike attitude tricks you into thinking this will be a fun song, which only hardens the blow when we realize this song is about the moment she realized her husband was cheating on her and foreshadows her conflicting emotions that will ensue.
In the next track we witness Beyoncé in her most vicious state. With “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” assisted by Jack White, she unleashes the wrath of every person who has ever been scorned. She snarls at him with aggressive lines like “Who the f*** do you think I am?” and “You know I give you life.” Auto-tune adds a beautiful, raspy layer to her vocals. This is Bey at her condescending best. She follows this track with the cocky diss-track facetiously titled “Sorry.” We cheer her on as she smugly roars, “Suck on my balls.” However, once she says, “I regret the day I put the ring on,” we realize this song is about her husband of eight years. We realize the enormity of her pain and the insecurities that are present in her voice for a split second. She quickly recovers from her moment of weakness, calls out Becky (the side chick), and we once again cheer her on.
The next two tracks provide some explanation for her confidence. “6 Inch” is a collaboration with The Weeknd that’s right up his alley. This power anthem with a haunting bass line is about the hard working femme fatale, a character who Beyoncé embodies with ease. The Weeknd does his bit well, but this is Beyoncé’s show. Next is a country song, “Daddy Lessons.” The song finds inspiration in her Texan roots and delivers a compelling narrative about her relationship with her father, an otherwise private part of her life.
In “Love Drought and Sandcastles,” she admits the hardest truth of all, that she still wants to be with the man who hurt her. In a touching moment during “Sandcastles,” we hear her voice crack, as she reluctantly allows herself to be vulnerable and forgives him. We feel a flood of emotions: anger, confusion, pain but mostly (surprisingly) release.
Then we have “Freedom,” where she finds a worthy collaborator in Kendrick Lamar. Because of the passionate hook and heavy production, this is the finest political anthem of her career (she’s had a few of those). After “Freedom” comes “All Night,” a satisfying sigh of relief as this exhausting journey finally comes to an end. She finishes the album with the now ubiquitous “Formation,” as legions of fans organize themselves in said formation.
“Formation” reminds us that Lemonade is more than an album about heartbreak: it’s a culmination of a political journey. The film contains snippets of Malcolm X’s speeches and poetry by Warsan Shire. Perhaps the most powerful images were those of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown’s mothers holding pictures of their late sons. This is an album about a black woman living in a man’s world. It’s about never stopping “cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” The finished product (the music, the visuals, the philosophies) is a true masterpiece. Artistically, Lemonade is her rawest product yet. Lemonade is definitely the album of the year front-runner — possibly even album of the decade. This album is what happens when life gives Beyoncé lemons.