Ever since the bombshell of a video statement “Formation” fell out of the sky, Beyonce fans, affectionately known as the BeyHive, have searched and searched for clues for when the Grammy-winning megastar was going to drop her sixth album. On Saturday night, the world got their wish as “King Bey” unveiled her latest album, Lemonade.
The 12-track project was released as another visual album, but rather than having each song come with its own video, Lemonade was accompanied by a short film When Beyonce posted the trailer for Lemonade the week prior, it was unclear what she was previewing. No one knew whether it was a music video, a short-documentary, or anything else.
What we ended up with was a meta-impressionistic mini-movie set perfectly in the multi-social backdrop of New Orleans, adapted from some visceral poetry from Somalian-British poet Warsan Shire. The film and album follows a linear conceptual narrative that chronicles Beyonce going through several stages of emotions put upon by her husband’s infidelity. The sparse “Pray You Catch Me” is an affirmation of her intuition. Trap soul track “Sorry” explores the apathy of the scorned Bey, and the piano driven “Sandcastles” see her looking to forgive her spouse, recognizing his well meaning attempts to rectify his indiscretions. Each visual is preceded with Mrs. Carter reading the powerful and words of Shire that drive the story home, such as “I tried to be prettier,” and “I whipped my own back to give you dominion over me.”
The features on the album as short but meaningful, with Beyonce utilizing her guests to assimilate their sound to fit her song’s theme. The stand out “Don’t Hurt Yourself” features Jack White on guitar and the chorus, melding his signature twainy rock-and-roll edict to help warm her husband that all bad he does to her he does to himself. Perhaps the best song the album is the Kendrick Lamar collaboration on “Freedom,” with a funky organ hook that gives the track a tone of an old Negro spiritual and 21st century protest song, courtesy of production from Just Blaze.
Lemonade follows the lineage of superstars before her who used film as a creative component to their music, be it The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, Prince’s Sign O the Times all the way to Kanye West’s Runaway. Beyonce has helped innovate a contemporary marketing technique that had a ripple effect on top tier artists as well as modern day fandom. Ever since her eponymous album dropped like a thief in the night in December 2013, the death of the proper release date began, practiced to similarly affect by D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar. Now it is becoming common place for artists to release projects at almost a moments notice, rather than months ahead of time. With social media opening the window to nearly aspect of an entertainer’s life and process, Beyonce has restored a mystique in album making.