Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Beyoncé’s sixth studio album, Lemonade, is a masterpiece.
Lemonade is the most creative, most ambitious, and most authentic album Bey has recorded to date. Making this work even more important is the hour-long film that accompanies it, which visually presents each of Lemonade’s songs as corresponding to different emotional states a woman goes through when dealing with infidelity in a relationship: Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope, and Redemption. In the film, Beyoncé takes you through each stage of the infidelity narrative with a spoken word reading of works by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, whose poems complement the stunning visual storytelling with their honesty and vulnerability.
Naturally, the Beyhive and the media went wild speculating about Jay Z’s alleged cheating when Lemonade came out, but we’ll get to that later.
Below, some things we learned from listening to the compelling, intriguing, and mesmerizing work that is Lemonade. By the end of this article, if we’ve convinced you to grab that album (and not just through illegal means, you criminal—you can get it on iTunes here!), then our work here is done.
1. Queen Bey is not as indestructible as we think she is—and we love her more for it.
We’ve put her on the pedestal all this time, treating her more like a myth than an actual person, and now here she is, laying bare hurts and scars and resentments for all of us to see. We know what you’re thinking: If even Beyoncé can get her heart trampled on by some cheating asshole, then what hope is there for us mere mortals? But instead of appearing weak, Bey earns our respect even more by showing us that she is a real woman, one who has experienced hardships, weathered shitstorms, and came out on the other side stronger than ever. This makes her an even more believable role model: She is Beyoncé, but at the same time, she is one of us.
2. Acknowledging the negative emotions you feel in a relationship conflict is vital to healing.
In Lemonade, Bey pulls no punches in putting her emotions out there, swinging from hurt (“You can taste the dishonesty / It’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier”) to rage (“Who the fuck do you think I am? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy”) to dismissal (“Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye”) within the space of a few songs. And why wouldn’t she? Any girl who has ever experienced getting cheated on can attest to how traumatic an experience it is, one that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, so any emotion a scorned woman feels in the midst of infidelity drama is totally valid, no matter how extreme.
In the track “Hold Up,” she poses this question, which she herself answers in the same breath: “What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy? Or like walked all over lately? I’d rather be crazy.” If achieving catharsis by letting your nega feels out instead of bottling them up inside means being called “jealous” or “crazy,” then we’d rather be that than be some long-suffering doormat.
3. After everything, if a relationship is still worth saving despite cheating, by all means, save it.
Bey’s anger bubbles and simmers and reaches a boiling point in Lemonade’s first few songs, but in the latter part of the album, she softens, because she ultimately finds a reason to stay: true love. Scenes featuring Jay Z and Bey being all ~tender~ in the visuals to the songs about reconciliation suggest that she found exactly that with him, despite his faults.
Of course, not all relationships tainted by infidelity are worth a second chance, but it is up to you to figure out—after much reflection and feeling of feels, of course—what is best for you.
4. We’re still none the wiser about what really went down between Jay and Bey.
Since Lemonade and its string of songs about infidelity dropped, names of possible Jay Z mistresses were bandied around, from Rita Ora to Rihanna to fashion designer Rachel Roy to celebrity chef Rachael Ray (seriously). However, neither Jay nor Bey has addressed the rumors, choosing instead to play the solid couple and keep us all in the dark. It’s also important to remember that, for all the bare-faced feels dripping from her songs, Beyoncé is still a pop star who capitalizes on human emotions to sell records. Plus, there are tons of songwriters credited on Lemonade, so who knows how much of a hand Bey really had in writing those lyrics? Even Beyoncé biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli isn’t convinced that Lemonade is about Jay Z’s infidelity; he believes that it more likely draws inspiration from Bey’s mother Tina Lawson’s experiences being cheated on by her father Mathew Knowles, as well as Bey’s own experiences getting two-timed by her first BF Lyndall Locke. So until Jay and Bey speak up or new damning evidence pops up that’s more than an Instagram caption that just happens to include the words “good” and “hair” in the same sentence, we’ll never know for sure.
5. The struggle of being a black woman is real.
Somewhere in the visual for “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” human rights activist Malcolm X’s voice rings out: "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." In Lemonade, Beyoncé doesn’t just tackle the difficult subject of infidelity; she also pays homage to her roots by casting the spotlight on the struggles suffered by and the immense strength of black women. Helping drive home the point are cameos by strong black women who have overcome challenges and made a mark in different fields: tennis champ Serena Williams, actress and singer Zendaya, actress and activist Amandla Stenberg, Oscar-nominated young actress Quvenzhané Wallis, America’s Next Top Model alum and vitiligo spokesmodel Winnie Harlow, ballerina Michaela DePrince, and breast cancer survivor Paulette Leapheart, among others. Showing another facet of the struggles faced by black women are the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner—young black men who died from police brutality—who appear in the film holding photographs of their sons.
6. When life gives you lemons, turn that shit into lemonade.
Perhaps the most important thing Lemonade teaches listeners is that personal struggles, once overcome, can make you stronger, more self-aware, and more sure of yourself. In other words, you can definitely turn lemons into lemonade—and yes, that age-old adage is exactly where Beyoncé gets the title for her album.
At the end of the track “Freedom,” you’ll hear a clip of Jay Z’s grandmother, Hattie White, saying in a speech: “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” #LifeGoals right there.
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