Beyoncé — LEMONADE album review

Making hits from heartbreak: Beyoncé turns lemons into lemonade on her newest release.

There are very few times in which a listener can hear a new album the day it comes out and immediately know it is a classic. This has happened to me only once before, last year with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Until Saturday. Beyoncé “Beyoncé’d” us with another surprise visual album, LEMONADE, and it only took one full listen for me to realize that I was hearing an album which will, in a few years time, will likely be hailed as groundbreaking. Her effortless genre blending paired with her unmatchable voice and fearlessness when it comes to singing about touchy subjects are only a few of the qualities which make LEMONADE stand out from its peers.

As a white male, I will never be able to fully comprehend the power and depth of Beyoncé’s message, since the album is obviously geared towards and speaking for the millions of black women worldwide who haven’t had a voice until now. But this separation between me and them, and the fact that the music is still able to resonate so fully with someone completely outside of its target demographic makes it all the more impressive. Its accompanying visual (like her last, LEMONADE has a film it is paired with) features a plethora of the most recognizable black female celebrities, from Serena Williams to Zendaya. Even the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner make appearances, emphasizing how close to home LEMONADE’s message hits and how diverse the people are whom it represents. The film’s visuals, are, of course, beautiful, and follow the stories of Beyoncé and many others through heartbreak, anger, pain, forgiveness, acceptance, and confidence.

The music, too spans this complex range of emotions. The first third of the album deals with sadness and betrayal as Beyoncé contemplates some dishonesty that has been going on in a relationship — just one of more than a few hints that the former rumors about husband Jay-Z’s infidelity were true. She conquers reggae in Hold Up and rock-n-roll in Don’t Hurt Yourself, asserting immediately that this is a Beyoncé album like no other. Gone are the radio-friendly club bangers. Gone are the impersonal tunes that served as filler on her previous works. Not a single track (of which there are 12) deserves to be taken off of the album, as even the short interlude Forward works as a transition between the emotional Sandcastles and banging Freedom.

The album’s sad beginning serves to make its triumphant end more powerful. Freedom, one of the most upbeat and best songs on the album, is loud, wild, and even boasts a Kendrick Lamar feature. The gentle sways and doo-wops of All Night make the track one of Beyoncé’s best odes to love. Even Formation, which, as a single, didn’t do much to showcase Beyoncé’s span of talent or craftiness, is so powerful at the end of LEMONADE where it becomes an anthem of confidence.

Formation is Beyoncé’s mission statement; she empowers, boasts, and flaunts the iconic blending styles she is so celebrated for. And when she says, “I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it,” it is clear that there is more truth to this statement than those of other rappers that sing similar claims. Beyoncé doesn’t use her fame to just walk around and be rich; she’s used it as a platform for philanthropy, feminist work, and political campaigning. She just might be a black Bill Gates in the making.

Grade: A

Best Songs: Hold Up, Freedom, All Night, Formation

LEMONADE can be streamed on Tidal or purchased on iTunes and Amazon.

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