Beyoncé’s LEMONADE is Sweet Tea
This is a far cry from “Crazy in Love” Bonnie and Clyde Beyoncé. Hell, it’s a ways away from the FLAWLESS Beyoncé. She had a growth spurt. You know when your kid goes to summer camp in June and when they return in August, you barely recognize them? Yes. Bey. And LEMONADE is proof of this growth.
Beyoncé takes us through the stages of life, love, heartbreak and healing (and more) in LEMONADE.
Intuition. Anger. Apathy. Emptiness. Accountability. Reformation. Forgiveness. Resurrection. Hope. Redemption.
When she dropped Formation, I said that was the best thing she’s ever done. Two months later, I give that crown to this visual album of hers. This ground-breaking, heart-humming, ode to vulnerability and the magic of Black womanhood. THIS is Beyonce’s best thing yet. Actually, this gives Formation more context. AND we now know that the “hot sauce” in her bag might be the baseball bat she used to break things.
Basically, I cut off my locs right on time, because I don’t even have any edges for Bey to snatch. It’s like I knew. I’ve watched LEMONADE once. I feel like I need to watch it again, but in order for me to get my thoughts out before 2017, I decided to write this immediately after viewing. I haven’t sat in it to process it and I know there’s things I may have missed.
Still. I am hella impressed. Because what Beyoncé did here was break out of whatever artistic chains she had herself in before. She even threw in a country song (Daddy’s Issues). More importantly, she is breaking the wall she’s built between her, THE FLAWLESS BRAND and the people who consume her music.
Bey is at her most vulnerable and transparent ever, to even do this project. She is pulling back the curtains from what has been a relatively controlled persona. She has been the untouchable, and people lust after her life. We all know nothing is perfect but few things have led us to think that about Bey’s personal life. Now, she is not only opening the door, she’s basically having a townhall meeting about her marriage, even if it’s in hypotheticals.
Did Jay-Z cheat for real? It almost doesn’t matter. She created a whole album with visuals, around dealing and healing with infidelity. Beyoncé is nothing if not crystal clear about her messaging. IF he really cheated, this is her telling us the story of how they came back from it. IF he didn’t cheat, this is her warning shot of TRY IT IF YOU WANT TO. I, like everyone else, am leaning towards “he cheated.” The lyrics are very direct, and the motive is to make us think he cheated. This is what she can’t say in interviews, on display in movie form. It definitely gives some context to Solange wilding out on Jay-Z in that elevator a couple of years ago.
Our men cheat and we tell our closest friends. Beyoncé’s man cheats, and she makes a movie. Bey is LEVELS. This is her “Waiting to Exhale” moment and she is here to fuck shit up.
She (and her team) put a lot of thought into this. I love how she weaves spoken word throughout, written by the aching words queen Warsan Shire. Lines from her incredible For Women Who Are Difficult to Love. I remember the first time I heard that poem. It made me stop and go “WELL DAMB.” There’s a line that I wish Bey woulda used in this film. It goes: “You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.” WHEW.
Beyonce is at her best, at her most grown, at her most creative and LEMONADE is the shit. Legit. Like… I’m trying to find a word for it like “amazing” but I feel like I need to describe it in cuss words. It’s the fucking shit. For so many reasons. Let me count them.
It’s visually stunning
In the beginning when she falls off a building and lands in water, I almost gasped. That entire sequence was scrumptious. The team behind this film are badasses.
Again, I thought Formation was shot really well. But THIS? This is new layers of amazing. I am not a big visuals geek and this was like a party for my eyes. The mini-movie traveled through various styles for each song on the album. Sometimes, it was in color, sometimes black and white but the entire time, it was an eye feast. It was gritty when it needed to be, pretty as hell in other places, dark when it called for it, and even if I watched it silently, I’d probably still find it interesting.
I mean, Beyonce is gorgeous to look at but her face wasn’t even a distraction from the rest of the dopeness around her. It was just beautifully shot from start to finish.
The lyrics are gut punches
As I was watching LEMONADE, I took 9 pages of notes. A lot of my notes were lyrics from the songs, which packed a powerful punch. This wasn’t about being polite. It was about speaking some truths, no matter how ugly they are. It was about anger, betrayal, and responding to beloved’s fuckshit and roaming peen.
There were some dope one-liners all up through this thing. Each song had at least one line that had me go WHOA.
My favorite is of course: “He better call Becky with the good hair.”
CALL HER GOOD HAIR HAVING ASS IF YOU WANT TO. THAT’S GON BE YOUR ASS!
“You can taste the dishonesty. It’s all over your breath” – Pray you catch me
I bet it smells like funyuns.
“I don’t wanna lose my pride but I’ll fuck up a bitch.” – Hold Up
Some bitches deserve to be fucked up, Bey. They try it often.
“I am the dragon breathing fire. Beautiful mane I’m the lion.” – Don’t Hurt Yourself
See? I knew she was the Khaleesi. Let em know! (as you see, I’m ready for Game of Thrones tonight)
“Looking at my watch, he shoulda been home. Today I regret the night I put that ring on.” – Sorry
It be like that sometimes.
Basically, she comes for Jay-Z’s neck HARD. Told him that she’s the baddest in the game and his God complex still ain’t letting him act right. BLOOP. The lyrics are the right amount of shady and I’m here for them.
The costumes are fierce
Bey has never been one to slack on her #ALPHETS. This video is no different. The yellow dress in “Hold Up” was delicious.
The lace onesie with a cape in “6 Inch.” The red dress with the silver head piece that she wore as she sat amidst flames was everything. The ankara dress she wore throughout, and ended the video rocking. I mean COMME DES FACKONS and have us swooning, why don’tcha?
In the Blackest year ever, Beyonce continues to turn up the levels of Onyx. LEMONADE was an ode to diasporic Blackness. It starts with Bey rocking some braids with baby hair, to prepare people for all that Nubian. She had women in all types of hairdos sprinkled through the film. There’s righteous afros, luscious weaves and braids, standing around looking like an army of ancestral blessings.
But what stood out so prominently in this Black ass video was Bey’s homage to afro-spiritualism. From her “Sorry” song up, she featured elements of Ifa religion, with dancers, the face painting, and even a water ritual. In the words of Yoruba people, “awon omo egbe” showed up.
Her connection to that divine was as Black as she could get. She talked about generational curses, and breaking them. She gave glory to the Orishas throughout this video. SO BLACK.
This project is FUBU. For us, by us. It doesn’t give a damb about white gaze. It is for Black people. Black women, to be specific. Everyone else can watch but it ain’t for you. She even quotes Malcolm X saying “The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.” TELL THE TRUTH AND SHAME THE DEVIL.
The Black Girl Magic Cameos
This video was created by and starring Black Girl Magic. It centered us, saw us and praised us. It acknowledged our pain and gave room to our struggles and told us we could be mad about it all. It also showed that we can heal, surrounded by beautiful, bold, broken, Black women who find their way to wholeness.
Serena Williams came through and twerked and I relished it. This is a woman who is constantly put on the defense for her body, her talent and her entire being.
She dares to walk with her head straight, beat bitches’ asses on the tennis court and find beauty in her body. People come for her constantly and give her a thousand reasons to doubt herself. For her to be in this video, dropping it down in a onesie and daring someone to say some shit? I LIVED. Her and Beyonce sitting on their throne next to each other was perfect.
Then in the song Freedom with Kendrick Lamar, we saw the mothers of fallen Black boys like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, holding their sons’ pictures. We SEE you. We feel your pain. And we rise from all of it.
And then Beyonce had us get squad envy, sitting on a porch with Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg, Ibeyi, Chloe and Hallee.
Quvenzhane Wallis was holding Blue Ivy’s hand in one scene and I wanted to jump through the screen and high five everyone. From the elders to the young’uns. There was multi-generational love.
The video got extra meaning as we watched Hattie, Jay-Z’s grandmother celebrate her 90th birthday. She tells us “I was given lemons so I made lemonade.”
This isn’t just a collection of “Fuck that dude” songs. This is Beyoncé’s exploration of what happens when we place our hearts into the hands of men and boys who can’t live up to expectations. Beyond husbands and boyfriends, there are the fathers who break our hearts too. There are the brothers who disappoint us. What happens when we lose ourselves in the men in our lives? How do we come back from the brink of destruction?
It is beyond infidelity. It is about love in all its flaws and disappointment, but also in its ability to lift us up and our ability to move past it all.
Above all of that, it is a permission slip for those who have been hurt to show out. Bey ain’t necessarily saying that you should go bust out some windows. She is saying that the anger is part of the healing. Sit in the fire at night but come out of it in the morning. AGAIN: KHALEESI.
I also enjoy how LEMONADE ends, with displays of love in all forms. Black love, love amongst people of different colors, queer love, straight love and HER love. She shows her mom, Tina Knowles Lawson and her husband Richard Lawson. She shows home footage of her, Jay-Z and Blue, looking as cute as they can. We see video of her and him getting their IV tattoo on their ring fingers. Because things that fall apart can still come together again. At the end of all of this, she is still Beyoncé Knowles Carter, so “Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.”
LEMONADE is Beyoncé’s tea and it’s the perfect type of sour that ends sweet. Redemption came and it’s made me appreciate her so much more.
We said we crave artists who are pushing their limits of creativity? Well, let’s not overlook Bey. She’s growing, she’s woke and she’s here. Her voice is clear, her message is strong and our girl is taking no prisoners.
P.S. I will try one month membership to the BeyHive. I drank the kool-aid and the LEMONADE.
P.P.S. But, I still won’t be subscribing to TIDAL.
P.P.P.S. Yes, Rachel Roy shoulda just STFU because her posting and Instagram caption with “good hair, don’t care” made her seem like the Becky that Bey was talmbout. Now she’s getting dragged all up and down. In the words of Bunk from The Wire “There you go giving a fuck when it wasn’t your turn to give a fuck.” People don’t know that shutting the fuck up is always free. She shoulda been quiet.
P.P.P.P.S. White journalists or writers who are about to whine about LEMONADE, please stop right there. Put the pens down because NO ONE CURR.