Featured, Music, Pop Culture

Beyonce’s “Freedom” Is Her First Anthem I Can Appreciate Too, And I Really Appreciate That!

I joked before that the difference between Beyonce 10 years ago and Beyonce today is akin to the difference between regular-sized human being Barry Bonds and head-the-size-of-a-city-street-trashcan Barry Bonds. Even adding that she’s made such improvement as an artist that she’d be suspected of doping if she was an athlete.

A better analogy, perhaps, would compare Beyonce to Stephen Curry. Like Beyonce, most assumed Steph had reached and would stay at a certain peak. For Beyonce this is pre-Beyonce Beyonce. And for Steph this would be pre-2014-2015 season Steph, where he was dead in the middle of “perennial all-star” Steph and hadn’t yet reached “yo…this motherfucker is not from this planet” Steph. (Let me put it this way: As recent as the summer of 2014, Steph was maybe the 4th or 5th most valuable player on the FIBA Basketball World Cup team, behind Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. And now he’s basketball Jesus.)

Also, they both have dads who could definitely be played by Michael Beach if a movie was ever made about them. And moms who could be related to Salli Richardson. They both have talented but decidedly less famous siblings. They both have daughters who are already better people at three than most will be at 43. And they’re both married to people who’ve been sainted by fuckboys. (Although, in Ayesha’s case, it’s not really her fault.)

Anyway, even before the leap she’s made over the past couple years, Beyonce has always been great at one thing: Anthems. No one in music — not Justin Timberlake, not Rihanna, not Jay-Z, not Kanye, not Taylor Swift — has been a part of more anthems in the last couple decades than she has.

Naturally, this begs the question: What exactly constitutes an anthem?

Well, my arbitrary and completely made up right now definition is that a song is an anthem if it can answer each of the following questions:

1. Would it be included on both a Crossfit playlist and a party pre-game playlist?

2. Is it aimed at a certain demographic of people, and does it intend to make this demographic hype/happy when the song is heard?

3. If you are not a part of said demographic and the song happens to come on while you’re at the club, do you say “Shit, here they go” to yourself as you walk to the bar and attempt to avoid the dance floor stampede?

4. Would it be a perfect theme song for a 90’s sitcom on FOX?

5. If a Black person created it, do White people like it just a little bit too much?

Considering the criteria, each of the following songs could be considered anthems.

“No, No, No”

“Bills, Bills, Bills”

“Say My Name”

“Independent Women Part 1”

“Survivor”

“Bootylicious”

“Irreplaceable”

“Ring the Alarm”

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

“Diva”

“Run the World (Girls)”

“Bow Down /I Been On”

“Flawless”

“Formation”

“Freedom”

That’s 15 anthems. That’s a gaggle of anthems. A shitload of anthems. And that’s not even including the dozen or so songs like “7/11” that could arguably be shoehorned on the list.

Yet, the first 14 of these songs all share a characteristic. They’re all what would be considered “girl power” anthems. Each of these songs are speaking directly and specifically to women. Sometimes its to empower. Sometimes its to remind other women of their inherent flawlessness. Sometimes it’s just saying “no” a bunch of times and calling it a “song.” Sometimes it’s a song-long way of saying “He should have went to Jared.”

Either way, there’s not much ambiguity here. If I happened to hear any of these songs at the club, I knew its was a good time to re-up my Honey Jack and ginger ale. Or perhaps go to the bathroom. Or maybe even check and see if the number I got earlier is a real one and not Pizza Hut’s.

In the context of Lemonade the short film, “Freedom” is also an anthem of female empowerment; Black female empowerment, specifically. It’s no accident that the song comes directly after the “Forward” montage of Lezley McSpadden, Sybrina Fulton, and other Black women and girls holding framed pictures of murdered Black men…which came directly after “Sandcastles,” Beyonce’s Calvin Klein commercial moment with her husband. These are Lemonade’s two most melancholy moments, and “Freedom” effectively lifts us out of it.

Without the visual context though, “Freedom”…well…let me just take you through the thoughts I had when listening to it in the car the first time.

1. Yo…this fucking bangs!

2. No…for real…this shit fucking bangs!

3. Just Blaze didn’t just put his foot into this production. He sat down and put his whole entire ass in this bitch. My goodness!

4. How pissed would I be right now if I were a rapper knowing that Blaze gave Beyonce the best hip-hop beat of the last five years? I’d be ready to fight that dude.

5. FREEDOM! FREEDOM! I CANT MOVE! FREEDOM CUT ME LOOSE! FREEDOM! FREEDOM! WHERE ARE YOU! CAUSE I NEED FREEDOM TOO!

6. HOLY SHIT MOTHERFUCKER DAMN! YOU’RE RIGHT BEYONCE!!! WHERE THE FUCK IS MY FREEDOM??? I NEED FREEDOM TOO!!!

7. FREEDOM! FREEDOM! I CANT MOVE! FREEDOM CUT ME LOOSE! FREEDOM! FREEDOM! WHERE ARE YOU! CAUSE I NEED FREEDOM TOO!

8. Ok, here comes Kendrick ready to overwhelm the fuck out of us. LET’S GO!

9. Ok, I wasn’t overwhelmed by Kendrick. Just whelmed. Sufficiently whelmed. But definitely just whelmed. But, anyway…

10. FREEDOM! FREEDOM! I CANT MOVE! FREEDOM CUT ME LOOSE! FREEDOM! FREEDOM! WHERE ARE YOU! CAUSE I NEED FREEDOM TOO!

If you happened to be walking the streets of Pittsburgh at any point in the last month, and you happened to see a guy in a 2011 Dodge Charger with the windows down and screaming FREEDOM! FREEDOM! at the top of his lungs, there’s a 196 percent chance it was me.

Thing is, I know I’m not alone. No, I haven’t seen any other guys in Chargers screaming “FREEDOM” at people walking their dogs. But I know this appreciation for “Freedom” is shared with other men I know who don’t typically go gaga for Beyonce anthems. Both Panama Jackson and Jozen Cummings have expressed similar sentiments to me. I still wasn’t convinced, though, so I performed the completely unscientific experiment of playing it while the two harshest music critics I know — my 15-year-old nephew and my 17-year-old brother-in-law — were in the car with me. And instead of saying “Damon, why is your music always so waaaaack?” as they’re wont to do, they both started nodding their heads.

Also, if you actually look at the lyrics, they reinforce the idea that the song transcends gender. For the types of guys who also loved songs like “Formation” and “Partition” but hesitated from mouthing the lyrics in mixed company because of the way our socialized masculinity and constrictive definitions of what it means to be a straight male account is set up today, there are no such moments here. You can let your “Freedom” flag fly free too!

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Jennifer

    Facts.

    A couple days after “Lemonade” came out, I heard “Freedom” blasting from a car outside of my apartment and went to my window to see what was up. The sound was coming from the car belonging to the Alpha who lives upstairs (he’s light-skinned too, so take from that what you will). My first impulse was to stick my head out the window and scream, “Yaaaaaaaaas!” I stopped short of yelling, but my head did make it out the window. I’m glad we’re all connecting on this song. It’s hot!

    • PinkRose

      What should one take from him being lightskinned?, His house negro ancestors were slaves too.

      • LKNMRE

        Ain’t nobody talkin about lightskins.

        • PinkRose

          They be talking ’bout being lightskindeded all the time up in here, LOL!!

          • Kas

            I don’t blame lightskint people fo how they is. It ain’t they fault they aren’t dark.

            • PinkRose

              The problem with this comment is that if you switched light with dark and vice versa, all h ell would break loose!!

              • LKNMRE

                (That’s what privilege is.)

              • Kas

                I wouldn’t care. Anybody who is taking fair skin vs dark skin debates seriously needs to be on YouTube discussing apple cider vinegar and not in grown folks’ conversations.

                • PinkRose

                  It is ALL in jest, why are YOU taking it so seriously?

                  • Kas

                    You sounded like you were serious. My bad.

                • PinkRose

                  Metamucul, anyone?

                  • Kas

                    Going to have a big cup of coffee instead. :)

    • Ess Tee

      Last month not long after I jumped in the shower at my gym, I started hearing Lemonade playing from someone else’s phone. This was maybe a week after the drop. There are rules about playing anything from phones without earbuds in the locker room, but I was like, I’m cool with this.

      After I finished then went back to my locker, I took the longest time getting ready because I wanted to see who was blasting Lemonade so I could gush along with her. It was a White girl, and yes, White girls can feel Beyonce and this record, but I really wanted to gush with a Black girl lol.

  • Vanity in Peril

    It’s a great song.

    5 yrs ago me is shocked…SHOCKED at the levels I am feeling Beyonce on.

    • Come on and get in formation.

      • Vanity in Peril

        Am I doing it right?

        • Kas

          With all the hotness!!!

      • Vanity in Peril

        How bout now?

        • Are you slaying? Because you gots to slay.

    • Ess Tee

      You and me both.

  • RaeNBow

    Best song on the album!!!

    • Naw that’s Daddy Lessons

      • Damon Young

        daddy lessons is 5th to me

        • MsSula

          Daddy Lessons is 5th as well for me behind Don’t Hurt Yourself, Sorry, 6 Inch, Freedom

      • RaeNBow

        ‘Daddy Lessons’ is good, tied with ‘All Night Long’ for second though. ‘6 Inch’ is a very close 3rd.

        • pls

          I been getting my life on the way home from work to daddy lessons. She could sell a country album.

      • Epsilonicus

        Agreed

  • PinkRose

    Single ladies/put a ring on it IS an anthem for men who aren’t afraid of “wifing” a good woman.

    • Gbadebo

      streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch
      edit:…but I commend you on your effort

      • Damon Young

        lol

      • PinkRose

        Lemme guess, you’re single and will be until the cialis won’t work?

        • Hugh Akston

          What’s wrong with that?

          • PinkRose

            Absolutely nothing. Just be sure to add that tid bit of info to your Black People Meet profile so the good sistas out there know to leave your “love em’ and leave ’em” a ss alone.

            • Hugh Akston

              I always do

              But I’m out of the game so that’s a moot point

              • Kas

                Did I miss something, or does PRose always go this hard?

                • Hugh Akston

                  Honestly I have no idea

                  There are some here that I recognize their names* and I respond to them and there are those I merely respond to the comment without realizing who it was…she’s in that latter category

                • Epsilonicus

                  Always. It can be a bit unnecessary

              • Andie

                Your name sounds sooo troll like. But I love the name Hugh.

            • If that’s what “Good” sistas do, then I’m just waiting for the FBI to investigate me for Al Qaeda and ISIS links. LOL

        • PDL – Cape Girl

          Cackles….not Cialis? Lawd, I’m going home

        • Gbadebo

          hahaaaaaaaaaaaaa…how did my opinion turn into a personal life statement?
          …again…good try, but WRONG.

        • Kas

          I’m married AF, and that was definitely a stretch.

        • Are you Plastic Man’s long lost love child? LOL

          • Andie

            I think that lady called me a wh0re before. But maybe it was somebody else. These e-streets are ruthless.

            • Kas

              People are calling each other out of their names on this site? That would suck.

              • Andie

                Not a lot.

              • PinkRose

                No, people got in their feelings when I called out “modeling” with a cigarette and alcohol to MAJOR contributors to cancer in Black women. and said that my kid’s Instagram page doesn’t exude Thot. None to worry, the posts got the admin delete action

                • Kas

                  I would hate to see what you would post if you “wanted” to hurt feelings. But we cool, I ain’t looking for no trouble. I want all my pinky toes to stay attached. :)

            • PinkRose

              I didn’t call you a whOre. FACT.

              • Kas

                I believe you.

                • PinkRose

                  Cool, I post enough here to be known for not mincing my words.

                  • Kas

                    You don’t mince, chop or grind.

        • You out here swanging… lemme stay on your good side.. want a hug?.. how about something good to eat?..I promise I won’t make you no cucumber casserole or nothing..

          • PinkRose

            Can I substitute string beans in place of the cucumber?

            • as long as you don’t mind those crunchy onions on top.. sure.. :)

      • PinkRose

        I’ll bet ALL of the men upvoting you are single and do NOT ascribe to the 90 day rule, LOL!!

        • Kas

          Married, but I have no idea what the 90 day rule is.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          Married, and I the only 90 day rule I know involves escrows.

      • Freebird

        Flawless

    • DBoySlim

      Nah.

    • Jennifer

      You tried it. lol

      • Lea Thrace

        tried it so hard. and still failed. smh

    • Hugh Akston

      Probably….possibly

      Though I’m still trying to understand the logic of men afraid of marriage when the majority of divorces are initiated by women?

      Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde

      ‘Women get married because they are curious, men get married because they are tired’ lol or something like that

      But kudos to both parties that try

      • PinkRose

        That sounds like some “marriage is for White people” BS.

        • Hugh Akston

          Talking about beyond stretching…

      • Kas

        Women get married hoping to change their man. Man get married hoping their woman will never change. Both are typically disappointed.

        • Gbadebo

          This needs to be taught to the children.

        • Gbadebo

          I’m all for change though. As a couple, you should grow and change together….over time.
          “Over time” is the key…and where people mess up.

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            And together is also a huge sticking point.

          • Epsilonicus

            Or you should notice that some ish is just detrimental to having good relationships, platonic or romantic, and thus change them…

        • Hugh Akston

          Dropping wisdom

        • TheCollinB

          Is this tattooed in your skin? If not it should be.

        • Janelle S

          I don’t get the “you can change him” mentality. I know ladies who have that mind set. My husband is roughly* the same mess today as he was the day I met him. I’ve long given up hope that he’s actually going to clean that bathroom weekly like he told me he would when we moved in together…

          *Roughly because 15 years is gonna do what it’s gonna do, whether we were together or not.

          • Kas

            I am slightly worse 9 years in

            • Janelle S

              That’s all of us. He puts up with too much foolishness from me.

      • The fear of family court is REAL in this streets. I happened to mention on a Red Pill site that I got divorce, filed first, got custody of my daughter and get (meager) child support. You would have thought I was Jesus of Nazareth riding a donkey on a palm covered path. The horror stories of divorce are not a game.

        • Kas

          Luckily, no kids or alimony for me to pay from my first marriage. I did have to kick up a bit of cash, but as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you.

        • Hugh Akston

          Can’t put a gif here…but yes you do represent miracles to us all..so bowing down we shall…you’re getting child support SON? Haven’t met a man that has…read stories like yours…and those are rare to say the least

          Yes those courts are a big factor as to why I’ll never get married…

          • Kas

            I’m sure you are somewhat joking about marriage. It’s a wonderful thing. You can’t let worries about what may not work out in the future keep you from maximizing your joy in the present.

            • Hugh Akston

              Nope. Not joking at all. I had some practice. Before I used to say…well…maybe when I am such and such age…then at least we can flirt for a few while..until I open my big and say “no marriage or kids”….that’s the quickest to get rid of someone is what I find out lol

              Im enjoying life…I’ve traveled all the continents…(Antarctica doesn’t count for us) except for South America…

              Don’t need a headache…I enjoy my peaceful boring life…besides I am an educated lame* got no game to keep something last forever…

              though im sure it’s a beautiful thing for those that are in it…

              • Kas

                I love it, but if it isn’t for you, it isn’t for you.

          • PinkRose

            No need when you can get everything you want from a woman without marriage. #notmyson

            • Hugh Akston

              …………………………

        • PinkRose

          I totally get it, I’ve got bonus kids. But some of ya’ll need to stop wifing Thots then wondering why you’re on the cover of the national enquirer wearing a permanent Kayne shrug.

          • Kas

            Time out for you. I’ll let you know when you can rejoin.

          • *blinks*

            Yes. Of course.

          • Hugh Akston

            “But some of ya’ll need to stop wifing Thots”

            so the majority of those women filing for divorce (you like numbers…what’s the stats on that again?) are Thots?

            got it..

            • PinkRose

              Do you need reading glasses ol’ man? Where is the word majority in my original post?

              First cialis, now reading glasses. What’s next, a walker?

              • Hugh Akston

                i guess you don’t understand implications..or questions…what are you 5?

                “First cialis, now reading glasses. What’s next, a walker?”

                wait was that you trying to throw an insult? like a 5 year old little baby? lol try again

          • Epsilonicus

            You don’t have to wife a thot to go through these troubles

        • Freebird

          Good for you my dude.

  • Say lissen here, when I first heard Freedom – I immediately knew that was Just Blaze.

    PAUSE

    Just Blaze gave Bey a track.
    When was the last time we REALLY heard from Just Blaze?

    WAYMENT

    Let that sink in… JB gave Bey one of the best to ever do it a track like you said “Best Hip Hop beat in 5 years”. Old Kanye could’ve killed this track, Blueprint Jay could’ve murdered this track but to give it to R&B/ Pop Star talk about ballsy and ahhmazing at the same time… (Amazeballs)

    Links phone to the car & rolls down Windows ?

    • Damon Young

      yeah, i tweeted “is that just blaze” as soon as it came on when i was watching lemonade. it’s quintessential blaze.

      • TheCollinB

        It’s unapologetically Roc Just Blaze at that.

    • Just Blaze is the greatest hip hop producer that doesn’t get mentioned in nearly the capacity he should. That should be discussed one day.

      • Andie

        Prince Paul

        • Handsome Boy Modeling School >>>>

      • TheCollinB

        Just Blaze will never be able to get the full credit because of the early production that pretty much ripped Bink’s style. If Bink never sculpted the future sound of the Roc with the work he did on the Dynasty album many folks believe Just wouldn’t have done what he did with their music

      • Agreed! I just typed the same thing, but I hadn’t seen this yet.

      • I totally agree with you!! He was a major part of my soundtrack in my high school & collge days!!!

    • Nicole

      Just FYI, Just Blaze didn’t give Beyonce the track. In his interviews regarding the song, he has made it very clear that Bey came to him with the track mostly done and just wanted him to add his flair to it, and that shows how producing is more than just making beats, it’s about knowing who is good for what part of the song. Credit to JB for his touches, but this wasn’t an instance of him having a track to give her.

      • Now that’s interesting!

  • IDK I relate to waking up flawless

    • Damon Young

      i do too

    • “Pretty Ricky what they call him.”

      • Cynthia Sauceda

        “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!ti52urtwo days ago grey MacLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !ti52u:?:?:.?.?.?.? http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsLeadsGetPay-Hour$98…. .????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!ti52u….,..

    • Lea Thrace

      just need you to know that i still love you young buck. Never change!

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      Damn right.

    • MysteryMeat

      Ditto

  • BeautifullyHuman

    I can’t believe you forgot “Love on Top.” You probably won’t attend a wedding that’s not spinning this.

    Also, add “Party” and “Get Me Bodied” to the list.

    • Damon Young

      love on top is my favorite beyonce song. but it is not an anthem.

      • BeautifullyHuman

        It’s a love anthem though…lol.

        • Damon Young

          ……..

    • RaeNBow

      Party is DEFINITELY an anthem. the anthem that sealed the deal for a thousand homecoming hookups the year it dropped.

      “I may be young but i’m readyyyyyy…” Had the old heads winning at many an HBCU.
      Or so i’ve heard.

      • Andie

        I am so going to homecoming this year. Like. I am really excited to go. I just have the maturity now to appreciate it in a way I never could have appreciated it before.

        • you went to Howard right?

          • Andie

            SPELMANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

            • ChokeOnThisTea

              Whoop, whoop. I turned down a full ride to go there (don’t ask), but my sister graduated from there and LOVED it. I used to visit her sometimes and always had a blast!

            • Ice Jones

              cau girl here. homecoming is definitely different as an alumni. before it was cool but now it’s just fun in a way that i can’t even put into words. my girl and i walked around with our glasses of wine and pointed and laughed at the cute lil undergrads. the only thing that remains the same is that nobody still cares about the actual game.

            • lissa_the_cocoa

              Hey Spelman sis!!! I was thinking the same thing about homecoming – I wasn’t really into it in college but I want to go back so bad and enjoy it in a way I couldn’t have before.

              • Andie

                Can’t wait to see ya down there :)

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      “Get me bodied (extended version)” is still my sh it.

      • BeautifullyHuman

        Yassss!

    • lissa_the_cocoa

      LOL, I walked out of my ceremony to Love on Top, so whenever the hubby and I hear this song we got to start jamming.

      And yes to Get Me Bodied. I wouldn’t say Party is an anthem really.

  • Bey just won’t let Rihanna be great for one summer.

    • TheCollinB

      Not at all. And I caught Rihanna’s show the week before Bey and thought Bey might be in trouble cause Rihanna was on…..but then

      • Bleep Gilliam

        Yeah. Bey sorta ruined future concert experiences for me. Lol

      • pls

        I heard Rih’s show was good, too!

    • Rihanna had last summer though. BBHMM was blasting all summer.

  • Andie

    Damon is like the only person in the world who can say ” Both Panama and Jozen have expressed similar sentiments to me. They’re
    both light-skinned though, so I couldn’t really trust that”. And it be “Flawless”. You talented.

    • I wasn’t sure how to feel about the necessary attack on PJ and Jozen. I laughed but it may have been inappropriate.

      • Andie

        Because it was “flawless”

  • DBoySlim

    “For the types of guys who also loved songs like “Formation” but
    hesitate from mouthing the lyrics in mixed company because of the way
    our socialized masculinity account is set up today, there are no such
    moments here.”

    Eh I would agree if “Formation” was a good song but…

    • Hammster

      but it is…or maybe the video hypnotized me into going hard for Formation.

      • DBoySlim

        It’s the Panda of R and B.

    • pls

      let that base drop one time.

More Like This