In the past week, the music industry has been rocked by the release of Beyonce's latest visual album, Lemonade. The project debuted on HBO and instantly the internet was bombarded with the virtual onslaught of lemon emojis, lyrics, and most notably, questions.
I, myself, had several eyebrow raising moments as I watched half-listening and half-stunned at the blatant honesty Beyonce put into this project.
Overall, I was thankful. The music industry has often put successful artists into a confine of expectation and often they succumb to this artistic plateau. Thus, the music industry is rarely shocked by vulnerability and audiences are left with material that severely lacks substance.
However, the obvious confessions of infidelity seemed to overshadow the underlying brilliance of Lemonade so much that few have gone deeper into the subtleties floating in the pitcher. This pulp, these symbolic anchors, are worth are second, third, and fourth look.
So, lets pause and get analytical for a moment as we review the top 4 missed messages in Lemonade:
1.) The recipe
Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half a lemon. Pour the water from one jug then into the other several times. Strain through a clean napkin.
This recipe is a reference to Southern culture as few things are more culturally indicative of the South than a pitcher of cool lemonade poured into a tall glass.
This in itself is a nod to alchemy. The science of crafting precious metals from seemingly ordinary items. Beyonce throughout the album is telling the narrative of her personal struggles with infidelity from her father's past, her husband's shortcomings, and the idea that black women are constantly mistreated.
When life gives us lemons, we make lemonade.
This iconic piece of shade is a double entendre which shatters the fragile construct of relationships in the age of access-- and excess.
Yes, Beyonce opened the well known pandora's box that is the pop culture notion of the allusive "Becky". While this name is commonly utilized by rappers to stand for white woman, this is where most people stop paying attention to the narrative. Luckily, Aniese Tates, a close friend and classmate of mine, took to Facebook to educate the masses on the delicate reality behind the proclamation known as "Becky with the good hair":
"Becky with the good hair is not exactly a person, but a concept. For years black women have witnessed black men choosing European women over us. Black men are very quick to criticize and critique us, call us ratchet, thots, hoes, gold-diggers, whores while constantly praising non-black woman. Black women are always expected to reach a level of European beauty to actually be considered beautiful"
One word: yes.
Aniese's comment sums up the startling reality that most people chose to overlook in favor of shaming Rachel Roy and Rita Ora, Beyonce made Lemonade to empower black women in a time when the media force feeds us standards of European beauty.
3.) Kintsuji Pottery
At the beginning of Sandcastles, the camera focuses on a still image of a piece of Kintsuji pottery. This Japanese tradition uses precious metals to repair the shattered ceramic pottery.
Beyonce is illuminating the fact that while infidelity rocked and shattered her marriage, they have chosen to rebuild.
Now, they are stronger than ever.
4.) Warsan Shire
Holding the crown as the first Youth Poet Laureate of London, this amazing young woman contributed the pieces of spoken word poetry that is found throughout Lemonade.
Let's take a closer look at the art which frames the album:
I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quiet?
You remind me of my father, a magician ... able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men in my blood, you come home at 3 a.m. and lie to me. What are you hiding?
The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a f*cking curse.
Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said "Nothing real can be threatened." True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we're gonna heal. We're gonna start again. You've brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.
You're the magician. Pull me back together again, the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk. Knot after knot after knot. The audience applauds ... but we can't hear them.
These two pieces, Intuition and Redemption, start and end the album, and showcase the cycle of healing that women must face when grappling with forgiveness. Beyonce unveils her journey through Anger, Apathy, Loss, and Emptiness as she finds her way to Hope. As she arrives at Redemption, her audience has witnessed the hardship of finding yourself after betrayal and choosing to work it out.
In conclusion, Lemonade is an anthem for confidence, rebellion, and forgiveness as it dominates media outlets with the harsh realities of romance and survival as a black woman in the modern age.