When Beyoncé’s LEMONADE came out, Twitter presented it as a bastion of racial pride and feminism. I decided to make it my first Beyoncé album (I have several singles, but no albums). I must say, in that area, I was slightly disappointed. However, I was impressed with the album once I shed those expectations. Not that there aren’t fantastic songs concerning race- and gender-related issues, but they aren’t the main feature of the album (I’ll get to that later).
LEMONADE is named because the songs are about taking a sour and bitter situation and turning it into something sweet or productive. And each song (as well as the overall album) achieves that goal.
First, I’ll tackle the music: As I’ve grown to expect of Beyoncé, all of the songs have dramatically different beats and sounds-unlike most other pop artists. There are only a couple of songs I’ve started to skip, but that is solely to get to the next song, since the others are more energetic. The song I love the most is “Daddy Lessons,” because it does tackle the race and gender issues, but it’s also SO SOUTHERN, and it makes me imagine Beyoncé dressed as Annie Oakley.
Other favorites are “Sandcastles,” “Forward,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (because I love the contrast between her buttery vocals and Jack White’s grinding voice and drum beats), and-of course-“Formation,” because it’s everything a racial-pride/feminist song should be. All of her guests were impressive as well, from Kendrick Lamar’s breathless monologue to James Blakes’s purr (At first I thought it was Benjamin Clementine).
LEMONADE is getting a lot of shit because the majority of the songs about about an unfaithful husband. As my husband said, “I heard on the radio the entire album is her calling out Jay-Z for cheating.”
I mean, it might be, but that description is depressingly short-sighted:
LEMONADE is a concept album; It’s a narrative (movie/book) in record form. It narrates the collapse (and eventual reconciliation) of a marriage. You witness the wife become anxious, insecure, furious, then proud and resilient as her marriage collapses over the course of four songs, then become vulnerable and forgiving, and realizing she can trust her husband again over another four songs. (In the narrative, he does realize what he has lost and becomes repentant and trustworthy.)
I love concept albums (a la Pink Floyd’s The Wall), and I’m glad they’re making a comeback (mostly with screamo artists, such as My Chemical Romance and Fall-Out Boy). To hear not only a pop artist, but the current queen of pop, release a concept album is thrilling. If it had been any other artist, though, I would not be so impressed. However, Beyoncé does most of her music herself, from writing to production, which is rare in all genres these days.
I am more than thrilled that I can conclude this review by stating LEMONADE is a refreshing album.