On Saturday night, (or shall I say Sunday morning for us Brits) Beyoncé dropped her visual album “Lemonade” on HBO.
It was a much anticipated project, one that even the Beyhive were not clued in on. Was it a film? An album? Another documentary? Her tour dates were already out so it made sense she’d be dropping new music, but still, the mystery remained. Not a peep had been leaked and her team were as dormant as a mouse. But all was to be revealed. And at 2am in the morning, Brits hustled to tune in live via Periscope and other live streaming websites to watch Lemonade at the same time as Americans – 9pm EST. It wasn’t long before Twitter blew up with lemonade emojis and the Beyhive swarmed in all their glory to interrogate her lyrics; songs like “Sorry” and “Hold Up” had caught their attention and they were flocking to attack the “Becky with the good hair” Beyoncé is baiting in her lyrics.
Rachel Roy, Rachael Ray and Rita Ora are being hit with the bee emojis and memes are popping up with no mercy. I chuckle but not for long. I’m not a member of the Beyhive and I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Beyoncé so I’m pretty impartial to this social media war. But I’m stricken by this woman. She’s been in the industry for a decade, is amazingly beautiful and has more talent than the average superstar with killer dance moves, a heavenly voice and solid acting skills. On top of that she’s “woke,” clued in with the politics of our times and has a connection with black women that most mainstream artists struggle to achieve.
What’s her secret?
TIDAL has promoted a tweet on my timeline, harping on about how I can stream Beyoncé’s new visual album and still I’m not interested in watching it. I’ve already cancelled my free trial and £9.99 monthly is a far cry from any amount I’d be willing to pay for a music streaming service.
But then I saw it. Him. Piers Morgan, the man who lives to monopolise black outrage, chiming into the debate. I hate to say it, but it was Piers Morgan’s gratuitous disdain for Beyoncé’s new album that made me boil the kettle, prepare a cup of tea and find the link to her album.
And boy was I glad I did.
I heard words. “For Women Who Are Difficult To Love.” Warsan Shire. “The Look of Love”. Nina Simone. I saw faces. Ibeyi, Amandla Standberg, Zendaya Coleman, Winnie Harlow, Quvenzhane Wallis. Serena Williams. I recognised mothers. Eric Garner’s. Trayvon Martin’s. Michael Brown’s. Oscar Grant’s. I peeped Africa. Mangbetu women of Congo. Nefertiti of Egypt. Oshun of the Yoruba.
I sat engrossed and watched these visuals unfold before my very eyes. In no mood to scrawl up a think piece, I sat mesmerised, sipping my tea as I tried to digest what I’d just seen. Intense. Strangely familiar, not just because of the visuals I’ve mentioned but also the narrative and how it progressed. It was a journey – from Intuition to Apathy, Emptiness to Forgiveness – we saw Beyoncé experience a rollercoaster of authentic emotions in show-stopping form, whether they were personal to her or not is beside the point.
Is Beyoncé talking about Jay-Z cheating?
Was that song about her father?
Is it right she featured the mothers of those black men killed by the police?
There’s been talk that black celebrities are exploiting campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter because they are popular and gain traction and that this is all a marketing ploy. But that argument does not sit right with me. After all, when has it ever been marketable to tailor your content to a black audience when we are the minority in both Europe and the USA? Surely, it would be much more profitable (and easier) for mainstream artists to tailor their content to their majority white audience so as to make more money. And besides, the themes Beyoncé is exploring are commonplace for the black female populace. So regardless of whether she speaks on them or not, the fact remains: black women are still getting cheated on, complicated daddy-daughter relationships exist and the police are still killing black men and calling it lawful.
All in all this album was more than Beyoncé. I’ve always been a believer that music should either be a product of the times or timeless but Lemonade, for me, is both. It’s an example of how we, as black women, can take the sour lemons of life and channel them into something great. And I for one, find that a refreshing message to leave.