For most musicians, it would be pompous—and probably impossible—to convince HBO executives to make their service free for a single day and debut an hour-long “visual album.” For Beyoncé, it’s entirely fitting.
And as if the dramatic release of “Lemonade” wasn’t attention-grabbing enough, the lyrical content of the album is equally surprising. Beyoncé reveals in the first track that her husband—rapper Jay Z—has cheated on her, and uses the rest of the hour to go through stages of grief, anger and finally forgiveness.
When Beyoncé released the power-anthem “Formation” earlier this year, I thought it would set the tone for the rest of her new release. But most of the songs on “Lemonade,” while they do share the “Formation” theme of self-love, are much more introspective and revealing than I’d expected. From the outside, it’s easy to assume Beyoncé leads the perfect life—including the perfect home life. That said, it initially came as a shock that she faces the same struggles in her relationship that so many “regular” women do, though it probably shouldn’t have.
No one really needed a reminder of why we all love Beyoncé, but “Lemonade” offered it up anyway. She’s not one of those artists we love because of something great she did once but was never quite able to top; consistently, she’s been able to evolve and become more exploratory with her sound, while at the same time maintaining and expanding her massive fanbase. As easy as it would be for her to sell just as many CDs singing about money and fame, she takes on the greater task of connecting with listeners through emotionally difficult—but universally relatable—subjects. That alone is explanation for why so many people dropped what they were doing on Sunday to appreciate her latest work. Long live Bey. (And let’s all throw out our copies of “The Blueprint,” shall we?)
— Jenna Ramsey, News Editor