When Beyoncé announced the premiere of LEMONADE last week, viewers were left to ponder on what it would be, predicting it was simply the follow-up single to “Formation.” No one had a clue that Queen Bey would spill the tea about her marriage to Jay Z. For the past two years, there has been major speculation about a divorce brewing and Bey-Z heading for splitsville. In chapters titled “Intuition,” “Denial,” “Anger,” “Apathy,” “Accountability,” “Reformation,” “Forgiveness, “Hope,” “Resurrection” and “Redemption,” Bey seemingly confirmed that her marriage damn-near ended but was able to overcome the turmoil.
Throughout these chapters, Beyoncé tries to dodge heartache, looking for solace in spirituality. She swings from being furious to unbothered to forlorn to being ready to reclaim her love.
Mrs. Carter gives her audience an unfiltered view of her anguish coupled with striking poetry from Somali-British wordsmith Warsan Shire’s “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love.” Malcolm X is also included, deeming the black woman the “most disrespected and neglected” person in America. With these words come hopeful images of the everyday black women who have been able to smile through their struggles. The hour-long visual album finds Beyoncé in the bayous of New Orleans, submerged in water to flush her misery, in sugarcane fields crooning about the taste of lies and surrounded by fire after being burned by the love of her life. Along with Louisiana at center stage, African culture is also highlighted via nods to Yoruba spirituality and the Mangbetu tribe of the Congo. With appearances by Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest Oscar nominee, and Serena Williams, arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, Beyoncé upholds ideals of Black power.
For LEMONADE, Beyoncé’s worst fears are confirmed and she then proceeds to go bats**t. In “Hold Up” she bounces through the streets as she smashes windows, fire hydrants and anything in her way to release her rage against the side chicks. She’s then unapologetic as she has a girls night out in “Sorry.” Eyes everywhere were wide as she sang, “Tonight I regret the night I put that ring on.” Bey even mentions her husband’s alleged mistress, “Becky with the good hair.” Naked curves then appear walking through a grassy field, symbolizing women scorned saying goodbye to love and leaving all the pain behind. To see Mrs. Carter tossing her wedding ring is shocking and reassuring, showing that Beyoncé gets fed up just like the rest of us.
The striking short film also turns its focus to the powerful woman with deep-rooted daddy issues who connects them to the sorrow inflicted by her husband. In “Daddy Lessons” she pays homage to Mr. Mathew Knowles as she reflects on how her father schooled her to protect herself from men like him. Adversely, she then combats any negative images with home videos depicting Knowles as a nurturing father and grandfather to Blue Ivy.
Lemonade then shifts to images of other heartbroken women. As James Blake sings “Forward,” Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, Mike Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden and Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr appear with faces of both strength and grief, holding photos of their deceased sons. A Mardi Gras Indian brings blessings to an empty dinner table lit with candles in a ceremony symbolizing hope for Black families. Beyoncé offers an a capella performance of the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Freedom” as the women of Lemonade watch her call for deliverance from the present-day racism. She impressively takes a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and meshes it with the Mardi Gras culture to represent healing.
Beyoncé finally finds her way back to love in “All Night,” as she not only spotlights other couples who gleam with #relationshipgoals, but also inserts endearing home videos of her and Jay Z, from getting their “IV” tattoos to their wedding day to Blue’s early years. She was able to forgive, since her vision was no longer clouded by fury. She also looks to be on a mission to end the cycle of a generational curse of families pulled apart by betrayal. In the beginning, she was irate and ready to end it all, but later understands leaving is not as easy as she wants it to be when the heart is involved.
The inspiration for the project’s title is also revealed: Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie White. She recalls her own granny being an “alchemist” who “spun gold out of this hard life,” and shares a home video of Mrs. White from her 90th birthday party, where she delivers her “lemons from lemonade” recipe. The two matriarchs taught her to find the beauty in the ugly circumstances life gives you.
With themes of sisterhood, heartbreak and forgiveness, Beyoncé showed not only her strength but the strength of all Black women. No matter the obstacles and adversities, we also find the “antidote in our own kitchen.”
(Photos from top to bottom: HBO)