When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When Jay Z cheats on Beyoncé, she makes a new album. And why not? Any musical artist can write about heartbreak (cue the 20 or more Taylor Swift songs), but not all artists can write about being cheated on.
On April 23, Queen Bey released “Lemonade,” a 58-minute visual album, on HBO. The album has since become a Tidal exclusive.
The album of 12 new songs probes many aspects of marital strife, such as betrayal, jealousy, revenge and rage. In the midst of all these vibrant emotions, female strength is a key theme that transcends throughout the album.
An evocative feature of “Lemonade” is the interspersed poetry between each song. The words, spoken by Beyoncé herself, but written by SomaliBritish poet Warsan Shire, are poignant and strong. They dredge up memories of Beyoncé’s estranged father, miscarriage and cracked marriage. During the poem “Intuition,” Beyoncé says, “You remind me of my father, a magician… able to exist in two places at once.” As the verse implies, the singer’s father cheated as well, making the blow of infidelity a recurring presence in her personal life.
Topics of race, misogyny and the social justice movement Black Lives Matter also appear on the album. For example, a section of the video cuts to black women in New Orleans where the film was shot. An audio voice over of Malcolm X comes on, expressing the idea that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Later, the mothers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, the two black men whose deaths were used to launch the antipolice, Black Lives Matter movement, were featured holding pictures of their sons.
Since this is an album primarily inspired by cheating, Bey is shown reaping revenge in true fantasy fashion by taking a bat to car windows and then driving over a line of cars while in a monster truck. However, after that, viewers get an intimate glimpse of her helplessness and heartbreak as she jumps off a building. In line with the 12 stages of grief, Beyoncé assigns each song an over arching emotion that is denoted by Shire’s poems. “Intuition” is the first poem, and is then followed by “Denial,” “Anger,” “Apathy,” “Emptiness,” “Loss,” “Accountability,” “Reformation,” “Forgiveness,” “Resurrection,” “Hope” and ends with “Redemption.”
Special guest performers included Jack Whitev (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”), The Weeknd (“6 Inch”), James Blake (“Forward”) and Kendrick Lamar (“Freedom”). Beyoncé sets off on her Formation World Tour on April 27, and fans can be assured that they will get a taste of “Lemonade” live.