Nine Great Things To Read About Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’
Bey is bringing out the best in everybody.
One of the most bizarre conditions of the internet age is the expectation that you should have an instant opinion on every album, every TV show and every movie within 24 hours of its release. This, particularly in the wake of Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, has led to some very poor writing and some hot takes from people who really have no business writing about Beyoncé/anything (ahem, Piers Morgan).
It's ok to not write a thinkpiece
— Marc Snetiker (@MarcSnetiker) April 24, 2016
But it’s also led to some fantastic, nuanced and illuminating pieces. Social media moves so quickly it can be easy to lose track of these gems, so here’s a list of our favourites to have cropped up over the last few days:
‘Lemonade Is Beyoncé’s Body And Blood’ by Clover Hope, Jezebel
A look at Beyoncé’s performance of “black woman solidarity” and how her vulnerability is her strength, with Lemonade being one of the few times that we see her perfect image “crack”.
“She busts car windows with a bat and wears Yoruba paint and cornrows. Speaks through the words of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Swears a whole lot. Fuck. Shit. Bitch. She sits on the steps of a Southern home — a throne — surrounded by young black women she’s influenced: Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya, Ibeyi. Like some kind of majestic mother.”
‘Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the Undeniable Power of a Black Woman’s Vulnerability’ by Dee Lockett, Ashley Weatherford and Lindsay Peoples, Vulture
A very through roundtable that doesn’t read like people scrambling to quickly express their opinions on Slack, but instead a nice dissection of the visual element of the album.
“I think this album is a love letter to black women. An hourlong ‘I love black women, I love your struggle, I love your tenacity, I love your will to win, I love that you’ve turned lemons into lemonade’ special. I couldn’t even count how many black women were part of this visual album. Lemonade is pure black excellence.”
‘Beyoncé’s Lemonade is about much more than Jay Z and infidelity’ by Ijeoma Oluo, The Guardian
A piece about how Lemonade is less of a break-up album and more of an articulation of the entrenched inequality women of colour face when expressing anger and frustration. “Our very existence is a protest,” she writes.
“We are the women left behind. We are the women who have cared for other women’s children while ours were taken away. We are the women who work two jobs when companies won’t hire our men. We are the women caring for grandchildren as our sons are taken by the prison industrial complex. We are the women who march in the streets and are never marched for. We are the women expected to never air our grievances in public.”
‘What to read after watching Beyoncé’s Lemonade‘ by Nichole Perkins, Fusion
A reading syllabus that will tempt you into opening a million tabs that freeze your browser, Nichole Perkins unpacks some of the references Beyoncé makes in Lemonade and offers additional reading, from poetry to academic texts.
“Lemonade is not simply another ‘he done me wrong’ album or video. The relationship at the heart of the lyrics is a Trojan horse, opening to the shores of black womanhood as healing and salvation.”
‘LEMONADE: A BEYONCÉ REACTION ROUNDTABLE’ by Doreen St. Félix, Molly Lambert, Ira Madison III, Hazel Cills, Jane Marie, Teo Bugbee, Carvell Wallace, Jamil Smith, Amy Nicholson, and Simon Vozick-Levinson, MTV News
Okay, it’s another roundtable, but MTV employs some of the best music writers in the world, so of course this rules. They cover so much it’s hard to believe that these are just some of their initial reactions.
“Beyoncé is taking over this genteel Southern world that was a historic site of evil and pain and making it into something beautiful, positive, and utopian.”
‘Beyoncé’s Lemonade Lyrics Entangle Two Rachels’ by Katie Rogers, The New York Times
Okay, so this is a little gossip-y, but let she who didn’t text a friend “wtf, who do you think is Becky?” cast the first stone! Katie Rogers breaks down the theories of who “Becky with the good hair” is (the other woman mentioned in the track ‘Sorry’) and how this led to celebrity chef Rachel Ray getting a lot of misdirected hate on Twitter.
“The Beyhive largely reversed course after discovering that Ms. Ray, the Food Network fixture who prefers to go by ‘Rach’, was the victim of an unfortunate misspelling. But her Instagram page remains a smoldering wreckage of lemon and bee emojis.”
‘“Sorry, I Ain’t Sorry”: Beyoncé and Black Sexuality’ by Allison P. Davis, The Ringer
A short piece about how Beyoncé challenges respectability politics through her assertion of a raw sexuality (extra points for the ‘Bootylicious’ references).
“The sum total — for me as a human, but especially as a black woman — was that you can spend your whole life apologising, or you can assert some power and move on. Because in a post-Lemonade world, there is no space for apology, there is no space for permission, and there better not be any room at Red Lobster after everyone understands that.”
‘The Writing Life of a Young, Prolific Poet’ by Alexis Okeowo, New Yorker
This profile isn’t about Beyoncé, but it is a great look at Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet whose work features heavily in Lemonade.
“Her poetry evokes longing for home, a place to call home, and is often nostalgic for memories not her own, but for those of her parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, people who forged her idea of her ancestral homeland through their own stories.”
‘Beyoncé Unearths Pain and Lets It Flow in Lemonade‘ by Wesley Morris, The New York Times
Fans of ex-Grantland critic Wesley Morris know that pretty much everything that he writes is gold-spun genius. Predictably, his take on Lemonade is no different.
“But she’s daring to think beyond herself. The heavy hangover of the piece involves what lots of men have done to lots of women, black women in particular. Between songs, we hear Malcolm X intone that no one has had it rougher than they have. Think about what it takes to make lemonade. You have to split open a lot of citrus, remove the seeds, strain for pulp and add a lot of sugar. It’s a process. Black women are good at lemonade.”