10 Thoughts About Beyoncé and Her “Lemonade” » VSB

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10 Thoughts About Beyoncé and Her “Lemonade”

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Unless you literally live under a rock – there’s a good chance that those who live in caves are up on game, MetroPCS is out here winning – you are either aware, have seen, or have had at least two lengthy conversations about Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade, that debuted on HBO on Saturday night, complete with the release of her sixth studio album of the same name on Tidal during the special. Since Saturday night, social media has been ablaze with tweets, IG posts, and commentary about Yoncé and the latest addition to her catalog.

I had some thoughts. And because sharing is caring, I will share them, though all of these are less specific to Lemonade and more about everything surrounding Lemonade. I guess I’m a white journalist.

1. I was one of those people who ‘pacifically did not get Tidal. On purpose. I was already paying for Spotify and because of that there’s almost no reason to get Tidal, even for those artists who exclusively release music via Tidal. I have all of Jay, Kanye, and Beyonce’s albums. I managed to download The Life of Pablo without subscribing to Tidal so I was ahead of the game. And let’s be real, none of these people are stupid; limiting your musical output to one single streaming service shortchanges a money stream. They are all business people on top of being musicians. Well, this shit all changed on April 21. Prince died. I shed a few purple tears. And then I started reading about how none of his music was available anywhere ELSE but Tidal. Prince was all about being an artist who controlled his art, so any service that purports to be artist-centric in terms of paying artists, well, The Purple One was about that life. If he says Tidal only, he means Tidal only.

So on Friday, April 22, I got Tidal. I own several Prince albums on compact disc. If you’ll remember, I have yet to open up my boxes of compact discs since moving into my home. I wasn’t about to wade in those waters (children wade) so I put on my big girl panties and accepted that this is how big of a deal Prince is: he made me get Tidal.

This is getting long – and yes Virginia, that’s what she said – but this is how much of a great person Prince is, even in death. Because I had to get Tidal to listen to Purple Rain, that means that when Lemonade dropped on Tidal, I was ready to go and devoured it without having to deal with the “dammit I have to get Tidal for this!” mental machinations. See, because I love Prince, I wasn’t even mad I had to cop it to listen, Prince said he’d die for me (or u); the least I could do was up Tidal to listen. On Saturday night? Totally worth it.

All this to say, thank you, Prince.

2. Part of the fun of artistic consumption these days is the social engagement of it all: we’re all watching and listening to these things together. This is both a gift and a curse. It’s a gift because the internet is FULL of the most hilarious and comedic minds ever. It’s a curse because groupthink is real: folks take one story and run like Michael Johnson in 1996. Those of us who were watching were all (yes all) like, is Beyonce about to end this bitch with a sign that says “Jay and I are done”??? It’s definitely her most personal output to date, by far. But I had to re-center myself half way through. It took them motherfuckers YEARS to even acknowledge they were married publicly, all of a sudden Beyonce is gonna put ALL their business out on front street? I don’t care how pissed she is (or has been) at Jay, that’s a tall order for a couple of the most famous and powerful people in the entertainment industry and world who enjoyed years playing coy.

3. The visuals for Lemonade are absolutely amazing. Stunning, even. Once I finally figured out what the hell was happening, and yes it took me a second, I was able to step back and truly appreciate the art being presented. Shit was beautiful. The weaving of the songs into the poems by Warsan Shire, who I’d never heard of before Saturday night (similar to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie before “Flawless” – thank you Beyonce), was super well done. Queen Bey and her team put their foots all up and through this short film. And even though Deep Beyonce is a hard sell, it still worked beautifully.

4. With that being said, listening to the the album as part of the visual presentation is better than when listening to it without them. This is NOT to say that the album isn’t good. It’s a super personal, concept album and I enjoy it a lot. Listen to it all the times. Just Blaze murked “Freedom” and her vocals, in the parlance of those who slay, slayed. I’ve given it multiple listens at this point so I could put some respeck on Beyonce’s name and because before I go speaking about something, I like to have at least SOME idea of what I’m talking about. Plus it’s Yonce. Ain’t no way I wasn’t about to delve into it. Watching the film adds so many layers that aren’t necessarily there when listening. I found myself skipping some tracks. For instance, “Sorry” just doesn’t play the same way without watching Serena Williams put some stank on it.

5. Which gets to a point about the film, got damn! There was so much symbolism and so many easter eggs for which I’m not well enough versed to discuss. But scrolling through Facebook and seeing article upon article about this fact or that facet of the film lets me know that Beyonce had one mission with this film: whatever the next level is, Beyonce said, I want that level. She probably wrote the words “change the game” on the white board before strategizing and if somebody had an idea that wasn’t part of that mentality, they were fired.

6. Speaking of Facebook, it is AMAZING how many articles were produced between 10pm Saturday night and noon Sunday. It’s almost as if all of us who write (myself included, but I wanted to listen to the album several times first) immediately went into our thought-boxes to figure out how we were going to write about it. Be clear, I don’t care how many articles already exist, I’d wager that nearly every single person who writes about music and or culture will share their opinions, no matter how grand or small, somewhere. This again, is a gift and a curse. I saw a lot of people talking about who should or shouldn’t and who can or can’t write about Lemonade. And I think that’s unfair. This site included. No shots fired at Dame because I get the point being made and we talked about it. No Becky with the good hair issues around here.

But you don’t put your product out – and let’s be clear, no matter what the intent, it’s art – for public consumption on motherfucking HBO intending for EVERYBODY and their mama to watch it and then believe that only a segment of the population has a true protective right to speak on it. It ain’t like it ran on PBS after Sesame Street. I realize that it’s probably not Beyonce’s intent, but seeing so many people on Facebook expressing that effectively white people needed to sit this one out is pure bullshit. While some people – myself included – can’t speak articulately about much of the symbolism in the visual, what I CAN do is use my eyes to look at what I see. I can tell you if something is stunning even if I don’t know what it represents.

I can tell you if music is great or sucks, even if I don’t know the context behind certain lyrics. Until Sunday, I had no idea that Rachel Roy was an alleged sidepiece to Jay. Hell, I forgot she existed. I always thought that the thorn in their side was Rihanna.  I do understand that everybody doesn’t have the nuance to speak with authority on all pieces of art. But I also know that people like Beyonce create art to be consumed by all. I understand the need to protect our art. But I also think that Beyonce created this and pushed it to the masses because she wanted EVERYBODY to see where her artistic head space is. Some folks would get it. Others wouldn’t. But sometimes the folks that don’t need to get dragged across the coals and exposed as frauds who don’t HAVE the context or wherewithal to get some in order to critique art in the event they refuse to learn. A lot of learning can happen from taking the time to write about what you saw.

7. This is Beyonce’s sixth studio album. She is now at the point where I think we’re required to start ranking her albums. Here’s my order: Beyoncé, 4, Lemonade, B’Day, Dangerously In Love, and I Am…Sasha Fierce, which was just awful, save for a few songs. I remember when 4 came out, I didn’t think it was awesome. Revisiting that album has taught me (years ago) that I’m an idiot. I was also wrong about Kanye West’s Late Registration, Common’s Be, and Teedra Moses’ Complex Simplicity.

8. Let’s talk about the Jay angle for a moment. I’m sure Jay heard this album a long time ago. I’m sure they had all the conversations about it while it was being created. I’m sure they’ve gone through and mended all of the fences. At least those that existed before Saturday. And I’m sure when Jay gets asked for the umpteenth time about it, he’ll say, “Beyonce is an artist and one of the greatest to have ever done it. I won’t stop her from creating her art and I stand 100 percent behind her ability to do so.” I also know that when Kanye dropped “Big Brother” on Graduation, Jay said that was Kanye’s version of events and his truth, but shed some light on his side.

My boy and I were talking about this and he was like, if EVER Jay needed some motivation to drop a concept album, this is it. Point is, if Jay drops Lemons next month, I won’t be surprised.

9. I love everything Beyonce has done in the past 3+ years. From the moment she dropped “Bow Down/I Been On” back in like March of 2013 she’s been on this tear that has caused folks to say, “what in the world is Bey doing?” She’s been on full art status and it’s all been worth it. She’s been putting her money where her mouth is and taking stands and showing her personality and giving us the best that she’s got.

10. One last thing, “Formation” doesn’t fit this album. Oh, and Beyoncé has the greatest team of all time when it comes to shutting the fuck up.

Kthxbi.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • God Shammgod

    Still trying to put my thoughts completely together on the effort – but I’ve come around on seeing as how Formation is the appropriate bookend to the project, and as an appendix of sorts, actually means something different in the context of the story being told than what we assumed when it first dropped.

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      Yup.

    • Ari

      Appendix is the perfect word for Formation. I definitely agree.

    • JennyJazzhands

      Did you peep that the bat she was swinging in lemonade had the name “hot sauce” printed on it? Made me feel totally different about having hot sauce in her bag.

      • Quirlygirly

        I saw that on some social media site. I laughed hardily! In that case, I do carry hot sauce not only in my bag, but in my car and by the side of my bed.

        • Val

          The side of your bed though! Lol!

      • NonyaB

        I saw it but I didn’t take it literally. More like something that comes in many forms, from spice to a can of whoop-azz and also as a brand, e.g. how she had bags with “Hot Sauce”printed for sale when she dropped Formation.

    • MsSula

      Totally agree. Formation is the definite needed Appendix.

  • Lots to unpack here…

    * Love how PJ and Champ play off each other. You compliment each other well.

    * I’d heard of Warsan Shire through the VSB comments section.

    * Agreed on how visually stunning Lemonade is. Putting together such a vision is incredible to watch.

    * That said, the album feels like the Ultimate Girl Talk conversation put on a series of MP3s. It’s not bad, but I got the hint by the second track that this was soooo not aimed at dudes. That isn’t a Bad Thing. It just makes me wonder why more recording artists with her level of shine don’t try things like that. It shouldn’t be limited to coffee shop open mic nights.

    * Serena Williams as the video hoochie in Sorry is a boss move, case closed.

    * And with that, I’ll cede the floor to the ladies.

    • Mary Burrell

      Serena was making it rain

    • Jaris Cole

      “It just makes me wonder why more recording artists with her level of shine don’t try things like that.”
      I’d say that very few recording artists have Beyonce’s level of shine. Even fewer have her confidence and knowledge of self. Lastly, many of them live their lives in the the public eye so there’s really not much they can share with us that they haven’t already shared. Remember how much people were flocking to the Beyonce, Solange, and Jay-Z story? Remember how Beyonce made a statement basically asking for privacy? The lack of knowledge regarding her personal life allows her to “bare her soul.”

    • Nik White

      Dudes might want to listen as not to repeat Jay’s errors and get caught out there by a chick who doesn’t have the artistic ability to process their mess so they get cut – literally – instead.

  • MysteryMeat

    Dang P you be on it. I am in Walmart and Formation JUST went off on my headphones. I downloaded Tidal today,got off early, and listened to the album omw home on public transpo (go green!)

    I missed the concept movie thingy and now I want to see it because NOW the album makes sense. Its not bad AT ALL, but I bet it’s sick-o-ning with the visual.

    I too was sitting here like “daaang wat did Jay do??!”

  • Ari

    There’s just so much to unpack about this album. I’ve only watched Lemonade once, but the image that sticks with me is the one of (I’m not sure what it is called and I don’t want to botch this but) the woman dressed in the Mardi Gras Indian costume in full feathers and beads walking around the dining room with the tambourine. That scene was just…

    More than anything, I’ve really enjoyed watching Beyonce peel back the layers though the years.

  • Veronica Luckett Kirkland

    You hit the nail on the head, I only bought TIDAL because all of my Prince music is either on Album, or CD. I have no way to play either. If it was good enough for him, then….

    Seems as if someone gave her permission to be an artist and not just a singer. ( I think she read Talib Kweli’s piece on Lauren Hill.) She decided that she can no longer be owned because it keeps her in a box.

    I agree with you that all writers should be able to write about it, but I agree with Damon most of the time and it just felt weird to think that he and I were not on the same page. I disagree with you that ‘Formation” doesn’t belong because the entire “Lemonade” film is about a woman being empowered. Empowered to hurt and heal with the help of her sisters.

    • MsSula

      “Seems as if someone gave her permission to be an artist and not just a singer”

      Same thing I spouted off after listening and watching.

      • Veronica Luckett Kirkland

        Nice

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    “Part of the fun of artistic consumption these days is the social engagement of it all: we’re all watching and listening to these things together”

    When people bought music, we called this Tuesday. Internet dis-aggregation

  • MsCee

    I loved Lemonade… but I’m so annoyed with the fact that of alllllll the topics she covered… the importance of Black fatherhood, Black motherhood,BLM etc. The only thing I see being discussed is “they getting a divorce.” Seriously people, that’s all you got from that? Well, rant over. Lol

    • LKNMRE

      THANK YOU! It’s like they watched the first ten minutes then got on Twitter.

      • panamajackson

        Humans gon’ human.

      • Sometimes you gotta sit with a thing, and THEN you gotta talk to other people about it. Sometimes our first mind isn’t really the right one, and rarely the deepest one.

    • panamajackson

      It’s the most salacious part. I think what happens, typically, is that folks are amazed at the willingness to put that out there. The rest will be addressed in the zillion thinkpieces that will come from this album.

      • I love how the word “salacious” sounds like what it means. Kind of like “Lascivious”
        However, while I think some things covered are personal and specific to HER, I think alot of this is obsevational commentary. She’s a person and thusly has a lot of people in her life that she loves and cares for.

        My best friend, who is a dancer, was speaking to me this morning, and mentioned that while she has not been through half the things I have, she is CERTAIN she could choreograph a piece that speaks to some of the things I’ve shared with her, that would convey the emotions…simply from being my friend and being empathetic towards me.

    • Annalise Keating

      re: all the topics covered on lemonade- are we talking about lemonade the audio album or lemonade the video?Because I didn’t hear any coverage of black lives matter on lemonade the audio only version.

      • The song Freedom.

        • Annalise Keating

          Freedom is my favorite song on the album. Don’t really hear any thing that is specific to BLM in the part Beyoncé sings. Maybe in Kendricks part if I reached a little.

      • MsCee

        When I say BLM, I was speaking on the visuals of Trayvon Martin and other slain Black men…she didn’t specifically say Black Lives Matter, sorry I should have clarified that.

        • Annalise Keating

          No worries. Like Panama mentioned in his article, the video was definitely more powerful than the audio. Touched on a range of topics.

          Perhaps we could cut the reviewers some slack because They could be focusing more on the audio and this is why they are suggesting most of the album is about dealing with and healing from infidelity.

          • AnswerMe

            Glad you said this. I think I’ve only seen Formation the video once and so I missed a lot of key visual elements that I didn’t pick up on in the song. The lyrics NEVER/still don’t amount(ed) to what I felt people made them out to be and so I need to watch it again. And with Lemonade I have the audio but didn’t see it so I have to take that into account.

      • pls

        Freedom Freedom, Where are you? Cuz I need Freedom, too.

        Sounds like an explicit endorsement of BLM to me!

        • Annalise Keating

          Ok.

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      I totally agree. But it’s sort of significant too. I think by her putting his infidelities out there it proved she’s not as “guarded” and “perfect” as people (myself included) have accused her of being. Everything about Lemonade matters. Everything.
      P.S. Can we also talk about how she shut down trolls (*raises hand again) who accused her of not carrying Blue Ivy in addition to the cultural themes of the album?

  • LKNMRE

    BEY HAS BEEN SINGING ABOUT CHEATING SINCE SAY MY NAME. WHAT MAKES Y’ALL THINK THIS IS JUST ABOUT HER AND JAY! STOP BEING OBTUSE!

    • panamajackson

      stop yelling.

      • LKNMRE

        I can’t.

        • panamajackson

          I feel the same way about being awesome. It’s not that I won’t stop. It’s that I can’t stop.

          • LKNMRE

            That’s why we’re all here! Cause y’all refuse to stop being awesome!

          • TheCollinB

            Shout out Chris and Neef. The spirit of your message made me wanna go listen to their only hit song ever.

  • Brandon Allen

    I typed in Tidal.com into my address bar which is a major step.
    But I remained strong and refused. Got my lemonade thru other means.

    • God Shammgod

      Its on ITunes. lol.

      • Brandon Allen

        Boo to itunes.

        • LKNMRE

          And Amazon.

          • JennyJazzhands

            I don’t see it on Amazon. I just checked.

    • LMAO my friend hit me up like “do you need my HBO Go and Tidal passwords?” I’m like “of COURSE I need all of those things” Like…duh?!

    • panamajackson

      Good man.

    • Other means, eh?

      • Julian Green

        Trappin’ out the bandwidth.

        • What does that mean? I’m just trying to get a hookup on some free Lemonade, man -scratches neck-

          • RewindingtonMaximus

            You aint ready pimp, this might change your life

            • I’m tweakin out! It’s been eleventy hours and I still haven’t heard this album!! If you know somethin, say somethin!!

          • Tyrell Holmes

            rgf.is is where I download all of my music from….it’s there

            • Yay!! Thank you :)

              Will my computer get a digital cold sore from using this site? ‘Cause I’ve never heard of it.

              • Tyrell Holmes

                I have a Mac and no issues…and I’ve been using this site for years

              • Tyrell Holmes

                There ya go

          • NonyaB

            You should also get with plugns like Video DownloadHelper – facilitates things appearing on your desktop from sites where they’re supposedly stream only.

          • Velvet Von Blacc

            Sandrarose.com

    • NonyaB

      True. There were and are other ways to get some lemonade. (?? ? ?)

    • Jacqueline

      You made Lemonade out of Lemons…

    • TJ84

      http://www.mrworldpremiere.tv

      That’s how I saw it..

    • Wild Cougar

      I got my free trial, re-watched lemonade, listened to a few Prince songs I’ve never heard and promptly canceled.

  • Ess Tee

    #9 is really where I am with Beyonce. Post 2013 Beyonce is all right with me. I don’t really have any fully formed thoughts about Lemonade save to say that it’s been on repeat (no shuffling, just playing it as arranged) since yesterday morning.

    • Ari

      I concur. I didn’t become a true Bey fan until the Beyonce album. I do feel like she was testing the waters with her self-titled album in 2013 to see if we could digest a Lemonade-type album. I’ve only played “Sorry” on repeat, but maybe I will listen to the album all the way through now that I’ve gotten that song out of my system..

      • Leggy

        “Hold up” is my jam. It makes me slowly and gently whine but also makes me very sad.

        • Ess Tee

          You wining with a baseball bat in your hand or nah?

          • Leggy

            a Baseball bat named “hot sauce” of course, gotta do it right.

        • Ari

          The video was so hysterical I couldn’t pay attention to the song. I think that’s my problem. I have to listen to the music without watching the videos.

        • I LOVED Hold Up…but gah! Every song makes me feel feelings! Hold Up makes me think “Boy…it don’t get no better than ME” The images of her joyously vandalizing property make me kinda happy tho.

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