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The Courtauld Institute of Art

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Review of Beyoncé's Lemonade

April 30, 2016

 Illustration by Tennessee Williams

 

So we return to my favourite and the en vogue subject - Beyoncé. And lemonade. Lemonadé? The semiotic indication of the word lemonade has changed forever. No longer will the word signify the sweet tangy drink that sends your salivary glands racing. Rather, it will recall the iconic, cult visual album released by Beyonce last week. This is a record that transcends Beyonce’s oeuvre and vindicates her into a whole new league of genre - is it hip hop? trap? electro? or even punk? Every track (some calibrated with artists that vary from Jack White to The Weeknd) assumes a different tone like the canonical Beatles self-titled. Beyoncé is a master of transcendence. This record takes influence and sound from everything from country to punk. It highlights Beyoncé’s talent as a master innovator, not a copier. Is this Beyonce’s White Album? Will this influence a Manson-esque following of women worldwide calling out the wrong doings of their men? I hope so.

 

This record is a masterpiece, although not the dance-floor, canonical, catchy Bey we know from her first four albums. Like a true artist, Beyoncé has evolved and her art has too - into a politically motivated, liberating series of tracks that defy and deny the hegemonic sounds of pop-produced records. The record is presumably about Jay-Z’s infidelity, but with strong, resonating tones of black power that we saw in the single Formation, released in March this year. It is not polite and I am in no position to speculate on these rumours, rather let’s turn our ears to Beyoncé talking about this affair. (If you haven't listened to it yet, it is available on the BBC 1 Radio listening party: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0784yjc)

 

The highlight track: Don’t Hurt Yourself. Jesus. F. Christ this is lit. This is the song I have been waiting for. Picture Janis Joplin and Beyoncé riding a see-saw and both of their genius balancing each other in perfect harmony. Punk rock in it’s rawest form meets black womyn power. The lyrics ooze Sylvia Plath like imagery; “I am the dragon breathing fire/ Beautiful man I’m a lion” along with the powerful scratching singing from Bey and White that screams power, entitlement and courage. Beyonce demands Hov to watch her fat ass twist and kiss it, because his stuff definitely ended up in a box to the left.

 

The weakest track: Daddy Lessons. In my humble opinion the country-esque vibe of this track does not hit it in the midst of it’s masterfully mixed counterparts. The lyrics are good though; “My daddy warned me about men like you.” This record shows Beyoncé’s mastery at its peak. She is powerful enough to amalgamate the sounds of rock and soul, pop and trap, all into one record. It is in no way a smooth transition, but who said it has to be? Beyoncé makes her own rules.

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