In December of 2013, Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise self-titled album. It was hard to top that feat, but she managed to do so with her new single “Formation,” debuted at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show after her music video dropped and stunned listeners.
This song brought on so much attention to Beyoncé’s platform because its lyrics attacked modern racism; and supported the Black Lives Matter cause. Her dancers at the halftime show also held up a sign saying “Justice for Mario Woods” to the cameras. (Woods was a young black victim to police brutality, shot down by the San Francisco police a couple months before the game.)
“Formation” signifies the new era of Beyoncé. No longer are her powerful vocals used to spread messages of sexuality and monogamy, but to promote black and female empowerment.
Beyoncé’s sixth studio album, Lemonade, dropped on her husband Jay Z’s music platform, Tidal, on April 23. This was after an hour long visual album was released on HBO. The music video has panels of Louisiana swampland and many black female celebrities. The list includes Serena Williams (tennis star), Amandla Stenberg (teenage bisexual rights activist and actress), and Zendaya (actress and singer).
Although seeing several of my role models on the screen was a beautiful element, the most compelling aspect of the video was the cinematography. There was one scene of Beyoncé strutting towards the camera in a canary colored chiffon gown, the wind billowing out the cloth and her hair. The South’s diverse nature is also incorporated; symbolizing the place where the black race in America came from and to which they can return. The sole visual appeal of the video alone is something of true wonder and whimsy.
The actual songs off of Lemonade are of equal beauty and variation. In the first song of the album, “Pray You Catch Me,” Beyoncé utilizes her well known power house vocals in a soulful ballad. Then she switches it up in “Hold Up” which has more of a rhythmic Rastafarian feel. The biggest surprise is “Daddy Lessons,” which sounds like a song from a Carrie Underwood concert, but in the best of ways. Although these are genres different to Beyoncé’s usual pop/R&B style, she pulls them off so well.
Beyoncé has chosen to feature several well known artists of similar talent. Jack White, The Weeknd, James Blake, and Kendrick Lamar join her in her songs focused around deeper messages regarding society and her own personal experiences.
The public tends to believe the illusion that celebrity relationships are straight out of a fairy tale, and Beyoncé and her husband of eight years, Jay Z, are no exception. However, the new album shatters that illusion. Many songs include lyrics that revolve around a cheating spouse. For example, in “Sorry” (“Looking at my watch, he shoulda been home/ Today I regret the night I put that ring on”) and in “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (“Beautiful man, I know you’re lying/ I smell that fragrance on your Louis V, boy.”)
While there is wild speculation about the marital problems of the Knowles, I am silently praying that my favorite power couple stay together. Aside from Jay Z’s 100th problem, there has also been dispute about how her video only features black women, excluding the white race. However, at a time where racism still exists in certain parts of our country, is it really acceptable to beg for white inclusion in a black empowerment film? The video and album is meant to celebrate the African American race, its roots, and culture, not to reaffirm white visibility in the media.
The powerful lyrics resonate with the listener in defiance to the recent events of the past year of racially induced violence. Beyoncé and her husband also are both avid supporters of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, donating money and advocating on social media.
The release of “Lemonade” has brought high praise and multiple rumors to Beyoncé. Regardless, the musical and visual album both exemplify Beyoncé’s massive amount of raw talent. Meaningful lyrics, important messages, passionate vocals, and stunning camera work all make up another wonderful album by the queen of the music industry.