by Sydnee Mayers
As I write this review, I find myself in the exact place where I first thought about writing this review, on an airplane somewhere between Indiana and California listening to the very album that I am reviewing. I always chuckle when those things happen, and for some odd reason they always happen to me. Speaking of happenings, Lemonade dropped onto the music scene in 2016, and lets be frank, the music world has not been the same since. The album and hour-long video montage that goes by the same title are creations of music superstar, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, solo artist, former member of the group, Destiny’s Child, and current wife of rapper and music producer, Jay-Z. Although the couple has been exclusive since the early 2000’s, major publicity on their relationship has been relatively minimal until 2014 when a video came out involving an elevator, two sisters, and a beat down. The video, which was later revealed to be an altercation between Solange Knowles and Jay-Z over the rumor that the latter had been unfaithful to his wife, sparked serious discussion on infidelity and the lack of privacy available for celebrity relationships. Fast forward to April of 2016, Beyoncé has just released her album, Lemonade, and its corresponding movie, on Tidal, a music streaming website owned by her husband. Theoretically, Beyoncé’s album release should not have inspired much outcry, except for the fact that her album and video montage were released without her husband’s knowledge and the contents of the album broke the silence on the topic of her husband’s infidelity. Having said that, Lemonade shattered the mold on the traditional response of celebrity couples in public cases of cheating.
Regardless of your opinions on the matter, there is a very noteworthy aspect of Beyoncé’s album that has not been addressed in the popular media: the order and structure of the album’s lineup. For most listeners, the order in which songs are arranged on an album is insignificant. However, when an artist takes the time to meticulously structure his or her album to convey a specific message, the outcome adds another dimension of brilliance to the work. In Beyoncé’s case, the order in which she organized her album revealed her perspective on the event that single-handedly broke open the security of her marriage and revealed her dirty laundry to the world.
Taking a closer look at Lemonade and all of its contents, Beyoncé chose to open the album with her song, “Pray You Catch Me”, a song that explores the anxiety and fear that surround the hunch that a partner may be cheating on you. The song delves into the shame that comes with keeping excessive tabs on your significant other and constantly worrying over every action she or he commits. In the song, Beyoncé’s repeated line, “I pray to catch you whispering, I pray you catch me listening,” is a lover’s plea for closure, the idea that concrete evidence, whether positive or negative, is better than the constant pain of not knowing. The artist then goes on to “Hold Up”, where she becomes introspective and considers the amount of love she has for her significant other and how that love supersedes any infatuation or lust that comes with an affair. The line, “hold up, they don’t love you like I love you,” reflects that moment of realization when you consider how much you care for the person who has fractured your trust and wonder if he or she knows that whatever side deal she or he has can never compare to the entirety of the love you have given to them. Whether Jay-Z had been unfaithful out of spite, passion, or simply boredom, there is no disagreeing with the fact that no one could love him more than the women who chose to be his wife and the mother of his child. Beyoncé transitions from these feelings of trauma and sorrow in the early songs of her album, to a feeling of disdain and resolution throughout the middle section of the album, particularly in the song, “Sorry”. Throughout this song, Beyoncé expresses her disappointment for the behavior of her husband, which has managed to embarrass their family, their daughter, and especially Beyoncé herself. Beyoncé solidifies her disapproval with the line, “suicide before you see this tear fall down my eyes. Me and my baby gone be alright, we gon’ have a good life,” which seems extreme when taken out of context, but realistically, she is declaring that she will not be a victim of her husband’s distasteful behavior out of respect for herself and her daughter. The final transition in Lemonade comes about in the form of what I like to call “karmic retribution,” meaning that not only is Beyoncé not going to be a victim, she is going to come back and thrive better than ever. In her culminating song, “Formation”, Beyoncé takes the outlook of rising above the nonsense of infidelity and living her life with more vigor than she ever has. Rather than wallowing in the pain of what happened to her, Beyoncé’s song, which is both experimental and upbeat in terms of sound, portrays that feeling of relief when you no longer let the past and the baggage weigh you down and choose to rise above and take on life with more pep in your step than ever.
According to a study conducted by Gallup, 55% of individuals have reported being cheated on by a current or former partner, which goes to show that the widespread epidemic of infidelity and the lack of respect for a significant other is not exclusive to celebrities. The sad part of cheating is that most people feel that they were the ones at fault or in some way provoked their partner to have an affair, when their partner is truly at fault for the ordeal. Albeit, it takes two people to make or break a relationship; nonetheless, an affair is simply a sign of selfishness for the parties involved and a lack of respect for others. The underlying tone that Beyoncé nailed with this album is the fact that with everything in life, a response to an action may come in different forms at different times and feelings often come in waves. Despite being a celebrity, what Beyoncé sings about in Lemonade resonates with many listeners and leaves them with a subtle encouragement, respect yourself and don’t let anyone make you feel less than what you truly are… #flawless.