Beyoncé just reached a pinnacle in her career as she received the most Grammy wins by any female artist and any singer in history. Now, her renowned evergreen visual album “Lemonade” turns five years old today. If you didn’t have Tidal, you had their free trial in April of 2016 because what was going on with the Carters? Around 1.2 million new subscribers flooded the music platform to hear what Queen B had to say. Laying it all on the table, Beyoncé took listeners through the infidelity story in her marriage with rapper Jay-Z and explaining the elevator incident with Solange. Beyoncé also touched on the topic of systematic racism along the way. The sour situation became a musical masterpiece that stands today as one of her best albums and, to some, one of the greatest albums of all time. Amid the drama, Beyoncé’s side of the story was expressed soulfully on every track, and it made you wonder how such a stressful event brought about such empowering music.
Drama doesn’t preserve the true success of an album; however, replayability does. So what is Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” to the world now, five years later? Musically, the album speaks for itself. The intersection of genres on each track proves to the Beyhive that Beyoncé is dedicated to her craft, and she undoubtedly has the versatility to explore almost any vocal style. Lyrically, the album is relevant in its empathy towards women and the black community as a whole.
“Lemonade” is made up of 13 songs, including “Hold Up,” “Sorry,” “All Night” and “Formation.” Looking at the titles of these songs, you may already be familiar with some of Beyoncé’s iconic lyrics. The melodies may be playing in your head as you read this, or maybe you’re just thinking about that Superbowl halftime performance of “Formation.” The point is, these songs have been tanning comfortably in the spotlight for the last five years, and the nostalgia they induce will indubitably be acknowledged for years to come. Here are some of the unique music/vocal combinations that may stand out when listening to this album again as well as significant lyrics.
“I smell your secrets, and I’m not too perfect / To ever feel this worthless” (Hold Up)
To every fan in the Beyhive, Beyoncé is a goddess, too beautiful ever to be treated unkindly. In her song “Hold Up,” the lyrics signify her desire to be seen as human regardless of her appearance and reputation. The song is one of the more popular ones on the album, and it’s very conversational, similar to the line-to-line vulnerability of a diary entry. The instrumentals were circus-like and taunting, and Beyoncé sings with a staccato Reggae flow.
“When you hurt me, you hurt yourself / When you play me, you play yourself” (Don’t Hurt Yourself)
Here is the retaliation listeners were waiting for. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is a rock concert of emotions. Feelings of denial and frustration sneak into the lyrics as Beyoncé goes over the potential outcomes of her future with Jay-Z. This bar is a message not only to Jay-Z but to herself. She tells Jay-Z that the mistakes he makes have just as much an effect on him as they do on her.
“With his gun and his head held high, he told me not to cry / Oh, my daddy said shoot” (Daddy Lessons)
“Daddy Lessons” has a jazzy introduction with trumpets singing gayly, and then the instrumentals transition into a more country and folk-like vibe. The song paints the picture of your typical complications in a father-daughter relationship, but there’s an interesting tie back to those years where she was first experiencing how a man loves. Listeners learn that Beyoncé was raised to be strong. It feels like a homecoming as she finds herself again in her lyrics even after her father’s passing.
“Open correctional gates in higher desert/ Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression” (Freedom)
These lyrics are from Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the song “Freedom.” Along with “Formation” and its racially symbolic visuals, this track is the most relevant track of this revisit of “Lemonade.” “Freedom” is meant to feel like a revolution is upon us.
Music has always been an outlet for the black community in expressing the challenges of being black in America. As artists find craftier ways to get these messages across, Beyoncé had her own vision of what revolution looks like in her song “Freedom.” Though the song was written over five years ago, it applies to what is happening with the Derek Chauvin trial for his killing of George Floyd. Announced this past Tuesday, Chauvin was found guilty on all charges, and people inhaled a breath of fresh air all over the country after praying for justice to be served.
Re-listening to “Lemonade” is the equivalent of walking into a house of mirrors; each one is a distorted representation of the original reflection. Each feels like a different stage of Beyoncé’s heartbreak, and her vulnerability allows us to see her experience through her music like never before. Something that makes “Lemonade” so special is the album’s title and the symbolism it carries. At the end of Beyoncé’s song “Freedom” is a quote from Jay-Z’s grandmother stating, “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” This album will forever stand as a reminder that we have the choice to either live with our lemons or make lemonade. What will you choose?