It’s been 24 hours since Beyoncé unleashed her second visual album, LEMONADE. Several of us here at EST. 1997 are huge Beyoncé fans. While there is so much to be said about this great body of work, we decided to begin our coverage on the project with our first impressions. Undoubtedly, we will go into depth further in the future, but as the old adage goes… first impressions are everything. In LEMONADE’s case, our first impression is pretty much that it is EVERYTHING. But, please do read what the four of us have to say, more specifically…
“This album was made for me…” – That was my initial thought after listening to Beyoncé’s sixth album, LEMONADE. Very few albums of present have the ability to really resonate with me on a personal level. I find that most of today’s music is centered on superficiality, and tend, as a result, to be taken at face value. However, with LEMONADE, Beyoncé visually and musically takes her audience on a journey through the various stages of love; through heartbreak, rage, introspection, and eventually, forgiveness. I don’t want to go any further without stating that I don’t believe that the album is solely about her long-rumored marital strife with Jay-Z. To surmise that this is a long shadefest detailing his transgressions is, in my opinion, a very shallow evaluation. This album and the accompanying film go much deeper, and are much bigger than that.
LEMONADE was made for women. Especially Black women and our issues with the men we want so desperately hard to love us in the same ways we love them. How sometimes, in an effort to fill the voids left from (in this case) our fathers, translates to how we navigate our own relationships. It’s about the generational cycles of destruction that we continue to create in these relationships; the constant forgiving and forgetting, and enduring and sacrificing, that we put ourselves through, all to make love last. Equally as important, is the fact that this album paints a portrait of Bey at her most vulnerable, and most relatable. It solidifies the notion that she is only human, and is not immune to life’s trials and tribulations. My only wish was that the speaking parts present in the film were left as interludes on the album, as they painfully and beautifully bring the whole opus together, with many memorable lines such as “Her heaven would be a love without betrayal…” Ultimately, LEMONADE is a battle cry for recognizing one’s self worth. The whole project is a hearty helping of Black female exclusivity, unification and beauty, while simultaneously being the proverbial diary of a mad Black woman. LEMONADE reminded me why I along with many many other women should be proud to be part of the club, but to also keep in mind that I am mad too.
I have been a Beyoncé fan, no – “stan,” for a long ass time, since 1999 – before she and Destiny’s Child truly blew up. Through the years, I have watched this beautiful, strong, multitalented woman blossom into the force that she is today. Undeniably, Beyoncé is the most consummate entertainer that the music industry knows today. With LEMONADE, that has been confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt. Before, even after the monstrous artistic statement that was BEYONCÉ, her first visual album, there was something missing: true vulnerability and introspectiveness. In the past, Beyoncé had given us glimpses into the most personal aspects of her life, but she always kept that guard up. Self-titled hinted and alluded to personal subject matters and, if you read between the lines enough, it’s there – but LEMONADE is on a whole other level. LEMONADE is what I have been waiting for from Beyoncé – an album where she truly, unabashedly and unforgivingly lets her guard down and allows her art and her life to become one in the same. Had Beyoncé recorded sad, angry, vulnerable, heartbroken, and enamored songs before? Of course. However, they were all still general enough, shrouded in secrecy enough, to feel disconnected; like their purpose was first entertainment.
LEMONADE‘s primary focus is for you to feel her emotions like never before. She takes us through every bitter, sweet, and bittersweet moment of the lemons that life handed her. I never felt so close to her. I couldn’t believe she was sharing all of these feelings and truths with us. This is BEYONCÉ; the woman who wouldn’t even ACKNOWLEDGE the fact that she was dating and then married to Jay-Z was now telling us about this?! But why? Because it is a struggle that, unfortunately, anyone who’s ever loved a man has more than likely experienced. It’s palatable; it’s relatable; it’s real. This is Beyoncé at her realest, for her benefit, our benefit, and for the collective benefit of women and especially Black women. Not only does this film celebrate her strength, but it celebrates the strength of women, of Black women. The images included in the film, such as those of the mothers of Black victims of police brutality, are not random; they serve this purpose. Even Serena Williams twerking at her side in “SORRY” is not random; it is present for the same reason. LEMONADE is very much in your face, but its depth lies in its subtleties. This is no small, shallow, manufactured, store-bought glass of lemonade; no – this is a big, giant, deep well of real emotions for you to sip on endlessly, this is a Southern Black woman’s recipe for the world’s finest vat of LEMONADE.
I love what’s happening here. B put together a roller coaster ride of a concept album, that tells a story which so many people can relate to. It’s a great allusion to consider this album the lemonade she made out of the lemons of being cheated on, because this is some good shit. Her musically adventurous side is a big bonus, from the aggressive-rock “Don’t Hurt Yourself” assisted by Jack White and the country (!!!) storyteller “Daddy Lessons”. Then there’s the appropriately-placed, show-stealing Kendrick Lamar verse over a stellar Just Blaze production, “Freedom” and the gut-wrenching, tear-filled vocals on “Sandcastles”. The latter projects the emotional vocals I’ve always looked for in Beyonce and have barely heard until now. Visually the album is stunning, and even more, it features so many beautiful Black women, simply being beautiful. Now, when’s the physical version dropping B?
Beyoncé is really exploring a lot of genres on LEMONADE, the vocals are powerful without being overbearing. She’s actually very subtle in a lot of songs, but she’s using her emotional connection to the lyrics to get the point across instead of belting out. I love “Daddy Lessons” and how it mixes the Jazz and Country elements. Other standouts are “Freedom” (the chorus is just perfect) and “All Night,” so far. “6 INCH” will definitely murder at Urban/Rhythmic radio if released; it’s a bop for the club, similar to “Yoncé.” I feel like this album is closer to B’Day in terms of production approach; it’s very raw, instead of being polished. I can see a song like “Don’t Hurt Yourself” coming together as a jam session with the ideas flowing to her as she sang and brainstormed. The vocals, the collaborations, the production – are all impeccable. LEMONADE is insane and I’m in awe. Beyoncé did it again.