wed 21/08/2019

CD: Beyoncé - Lemonade | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Beyoncé - Lemonade

CD: Beyoncé - Lemonade

Beyoncé's personal and political project is dark, visual and deeply spiritual

'A formidable storm of bold statements': Beyoncé's LemonadeBeyoncé, Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, what do you do? Well, Beyoncé took the fruits of her musical labour, those of the black women before her and those hanging between her husband's thighs, to create something pretty sharp. This is a new sound, a new music movement, a new way of hearing her music.

Her sixth studio album is way more than just that. It is accompanied by a film, a "visual album" that premiered on HBO and is streamed on Jay-Z's subscription-based music service Tidal, which allows a way more kaleidoscopic, intense and profound experience.

Accompanied by spoken-word readings of Warsan Shire's visceral poetry and split into chapters of intuition, denial, anger and apathy through to forgiveness and hope, we see Beyoncé throwing herself off a building, smashing cars with a baseball bat, hurling her wedding ring at the camera and walking naked through fields. For the most part it's dark, flashing like an episode of American Horror Story, disjointed and nightmarish.

Lemonade simultaneously tells intensely personal stories about the pop diva's much discussed personal life – namely rumours of husband Jay-Z's infidelity – alongside fragments of the stories of black women, historical reference and themes of race, suppression, women's rights and slavery. Cameoing famous faces from Serena Williams and Halle Berry to the mothers of black men killed by US police, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, the film more than the music touches on voodoo and African tribalism, historical reference and feminist issues.Whether referring to race or her relationship, the anger, sadness and fear are intertwined universal themes – ones that Beyoncé has delved deep into, to explosive effect. 

In "Pray You Catch Me", there are threats of taking their child and leaving, with words like "You can taste the dishonesty/ It's on your breath as you pass it off so cavalier", and "Hold Up" seethes with a swinging reggae rhythm, with Beyoncé singing almost ahead of the beat: "What's worse, looking jealous or crazy? Jealous or crazy?" But the anger reaches fever pitch in the memorable "Don't Hurt Yourself" featuring Jack White. It's a rock-rage-fest, thrashy and aggressive in which she issues a “final warning”: “If you try that shit again, you’re going to lose your wife.”

"Sorry" is a bitter outburst, directly referring to "Becky with the good hair" (which sent gossip columnists and Twitter into overdrive) and containing the excellent line “Suck on my balls, I’ve had enough". "Daddy Lessons" is a riot of a song with a swing tempo and bluesy, country sounds. "Love Drought" is also catchy, and then "Sandcastles" reminds us of more classic solo vocals to a piano melody.

"Freedom", featuring Kendrick Lamar, contains direct references to the alchemic lemonade recipe of the album's title – here recited by Jay-Z's grandma – while "All Night" seems to rectify the couple's problems, standing them on more solid stead before "Foundation" smashes out the last track on the album. With lyrical references to riots and slavery, Beyoncé re-fuses her personal and political tales into a last blast of hope that peace will triumph over anger and adversity.

There is less of the typical R&B sound that we're used to and more visionary pop with a frighteningly rough edge, tracks with reggae roots, one with a country twang, and a piano ballad that feels like familiar territory within a formidable storm of otherwise bold statements. Lemonade feels like a spiritual project and one that Beyoncé is firmly at the helm of, telling her truths and those of black women she represents in a way that is both perceptive and proficient, all while holding her husband firmly by the cahunas. I only wish it had also been her franchise that was streaming the project live – surely that would've been the final nail in this conceptual coffin.

There is less of the classic R&B sound and more conceptual pop with a frighteningly rough edge

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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