Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lemonade: Beyoncé's Lyrical Memoir

No matter how much you may hate Beyoncé, you've got to put some #respeck on her name for #Lemonade and appreciate the artistry. It's more than just a visual album; it's a lyrical memoir that highlights the pain of infidelity and showcases a scorned Black woman's journey to forgiveness. In the hour-long short film, which debuted on HBO last night at 9PM, Beyoncé is questioning and dissecting the meaning of commitment while struggling to comprehend her partner's transgressions. 

"I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at your feet... I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the Holy book, but still inside me coiled deep was the need to know: Are you cheating on me?" Expressing her suspicions via a mixture of Spoken Word poetry penned by Warsan Shire and a wide range of genres, from story-telling Country to raw and ratchet Hip-Hop to soulful R&B ballads, Beyoncé reveals the depth of Jay-Z's often-speculated betrayal, casually referencing an unnamed mistress, mostly assumed to be Rachel Roy:

"Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks..." 

"If it's what you truly want, I can wear her skin over mine, her hair over mine, her hands as gloves, her teeth as confetti, her scalp, a cap..."

Although the world has crowned her as Queen Bey, crooning through multiple rounds of heartache in verse, Beyoncé also informs us, "I'm not too perfect to ever feel this worthless." Finally confronting her daddy issues, she offers a slight understanding of how she recovered from the embarrassment caused by a father whom she once admired, yet ended up suffering the same fate as her mother. Commemorative lyrics from her first solo album, Dangerously In Love, come to mind, "I want my unborn son to be like my daddy... I want my husband to be like my daddy... There is no one else like my daddy." It is well known that Mathew Knowles crushed his daughter's image of the ideal man. There have always been gaps in watching Bey's life unfold, but now, she's inviting us in to witness all that she has endured and overcome. Redemption is the goal. Her father surprisingly makes appearances in intertwined home videos shot with her and Blue Ivy, respectively. 

Digging deeper into the root of unfaithfulness set off by the notion of generational curses, Beyoncé indirectly addresses marital conflicts, threatening to leave with an "I ain't sorry" goodbye anthem, then, deciding to stay because her grandmother told her that nothing real can be threatened. In the middle of the indecisiveness are support group cameos from Black women in Hollywood, including but not limited to: Serena Williams, Zendaya, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Amandla Stenberg.

"True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturer became my remedy. So we're gonna heal, we're gonna start again. You've brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers. You're the magician. Pull me back together again the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk, knot after knot after knot..."

This album, collectively, is an ode to a lineage of strong women; a dedication to descendants; a blueprint for adolescent girls searching for their identities; an elongated metaphor depicting the act of turning lemons into a popular, Southern drink. 

"Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked the deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother?"

Mothers of slain Black male teens, Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, never forgetting that their sons' futures were stolen, present in the film, holding framed pictures as a necessary reminder that #BlackLivesMatter, then front and center listening to Bey sing about Freedom. 

"The nail technician pushes my cuticles back, turns my hand over, stretches the skin on my palm and says I see your daughters, and their daughters."

Despite record-breaking album sales or the unsolicited power that she possesses over her Beyhive, Blue Ivy is clearly Beyoncé's greatest achievement. Candid memories of her innocence are shared, perhaps to signify that she will never know the grief of being the product of a single-parent home, because Mommy and Daddy believe in the vow of 'till death do us part'; forever is the only option.

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind, found healing where it did not live, discovered the antidote in your own kitchen, broke the curse with your own two hands."

Appreciation of ancestry echoes loudly here, proving that women have the authority to transform weakness into might. And with potent poetry, such as: "Dear Moon, we blame you for floods", how much deeper can it get? But it does. Lemonade overflows with candor, displaying the sweetness of beautiful moments, as well as the bitterness that derives from a spouse's mistakes. However, all is forgiven, as if the inciting incident that sparked the film's array of vivid, pictorial, and thematic imagery never occurred. 

"Baptize me, now that reconciliation is possible."

Queen Bey concludes the secrets within her musical diary by singing: I found the truth beneath your lies / and true love never has to hide / I'll trade your broken wings for mine / I've seen your scars and kissed your cries...

After dispelling rumors of a pending divorce (wedding day and permanent tattoo marking flashbacks) and a staged pregnancy (a close-up of her protruding belly with the camera panning to her actual face), the film ends with Beyoncé dancing in a backyard, joined by her husband and daughter, holding and releasing their hands in a circle, smiling at them, owning her happiness, letting us know that she's still drunk in love and unapologetically blaming it on lemonade, a concoction that likely helped birth the essence of family; a symbol of togetherness; an original liquid that can be created from scratch upon request. None of us may use the same measure of ingredients, but we all have what it takes to make the taste unique, the ability to quench our thirst with no need for an explanation, as the pardon of any offense is understood and the flavor remains intact... like hearts do, even after they are broken. 

*Lemonade was released via Tidal immediately after the HBO special; however, some sites are reporting that the album will be available via iTunes on Sunday before midnight.