Politics, art, and LEMONADE

In case you haven’t heard, though you probably have, Beyoncé has dropped LEMONADE, her latest album, a visual album, and has naturally created one of the largest media circuses we’ve seen in the entertainment industry this year. Multidimensional in its topic matter, Beyoncé fearlessly comes clean about everything with which she identifies. Her message is clear through the album alone, but the poetry and cinematography that accompany it (and make up the hour-long video) transform the music itself into a complicated, intersectional piece of art.

graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Aileen/" title="View all of this person's work">"Aileen</a></span>

graphic by Aileen Wu

Though the music focuses on the infidelity that previously plagued her relationship with her husband, rapper Jay-Z, the entire work stretches much further than the confines of her marriage. The film, along with Beyoncé in general, is unapologetically black. Set in the midsts of endless women of color, LEMONADE is an ode to black womanhood and the seemingly endless struggles associated with it. We’re greeted with the presence of female black icons in almost every chapter of the film. From Serena Williams to Amandla Stenberg, sugar-coated in Malcolm X’s voice, the Civil Rights Movement intertwines itself with Black Lives Matter and leaves us all wondering why we haven’t been paying more attention to black women in a light other than that of the tacky cat fights littering VH1 in the first place. Beyoncé oozes power, and there is no question about her ownership of her identity.

People seemed to completely lose themselves when Beyoncé reminded all of us that, yes, she is in fact black, during this year’s Super Bowl performance. The Black Panther apparel was too much for an embarrassingly large portion of Americans, and in retaliation, they decided that Beyoncé’s entire performance was inherently anti-police and promoted violence and insubordination. Well, her latest album sure didn’t do anything to alleviate the pain from the still-healing wound that was “Formation,” because there’s no questioning what color Beyoncé is after LEMONADE.

The importance of her restating the seemingly obvious in a cinematic and musical flourish comes from the upsurge of popular anger with attention to police brutality. Thanks to social media, it’s once again relevant that as a whole, American law enforcement is systematically crafted to either kill or lock up people of color. I say relevant, because the misuse of power never stopped happening—mass media just stopped caring. Yet, having a black president isn’t enough to bring the appropriate amount of attention and urgency to the downward spiral of a race war we’re about to enter as a nation. So, Beyoncé coming out with LEMONADE and making race an overtone to the entire creation is essential to the much needed publicity race-relations in America. But naturally, the media chose to focus on the fact that Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé as opposed to the Black Lives Matter overtones evident throughout the short film. Surprise, surprise.

I’m in no way saying that this factor of the album is unimportant. We should actually thank Jay-Z for being incapable of keeping it in his pants. Without his whorish tendencies, there would be no album. And where would we be then?

The infidelity is equally as important as the race factor, but not for the reasons mass media has latched on to. Actually, it’s the media’s reaction to Jay-Z cheating in which we find the importance of Beyoncé being betrayed by her husband. News outlets, as opposed to focusing on Jay-Z, her husband, you know—the one in the relationship—focused on whoever the hell “Becky with the good hair” is. And once they had an idea, they viciously attacked Rachel Roy, a fashion designer who alluded to being the infamous Becky via her Instagram. An Instagram which had to be set to private due to the copious amounts of hate and threats she received from the Beyhive (Beyoncé’s fan base, for those of you who don’t know). Interesting how the cult which is self-labeled as progressive and accepting—due completely to the fact that they’re obsessed with a black woman, which is evidently all you need to be a progressive these days—is the largest, cohesive group of slut shamers on the internet.

The best part of LEMONADE is the arch it forms within its storyline. Seemingly predictable due to the content matter, it’s surprising in its conclusion. You may have guessed by the lack of divorce papers being tossed at Jay-Z that he and Beyoncé managed to patch things up. As a matter of fact, she even went as far to thank him at the beginning of the opening show of her Formation Tour. Without him, she insists that she wouldn’t have been able to get through the turbulence that was their marriage being put to the test.

Queen Bey has been kind enough to share a story with us. Of course, that kindness only stretches as far as a 30-day free trial Tidal membership will get you. Regardless, it is unique in its possession of a storyline, in its display, in its political voice. Not all music has the ability to encompass the entirety of the artist; yet here we are, lucky enough to be thrust into the heart of Beyoncé if we so choose. I urge you to dive into the music head first. Watch the film—maybe you’ll learn something. If not, at least you can say you’ve seen it.

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