5 Reasons Lemonade Is the Best Beyoncé Album to Date
As April comes to a close, the world has been blessed with a beautiful gift. Beyoncé released her new, meaningful album, Lemonade, which is jam-packed with empowering, badass lyrics, plenty of tiny, profound details, and a veritable gold mine of artistic references. Lemonade isn't just another Beyoncé album, though, in my opinion. This project has soul, integrity, and power. I couldn't help but close out my own Saturday night viewing of the HBO special with a certain sense of awe. To me, it seemed complete, whole, fully formed. Even though it's been just a few days, I'm starting to suspect it's my favorite Beyoncé project yet.
Beyoncé Changed the Music World Again, in a Mind-Blowing Way
When Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album out of nowhere in 2013, it was unprecedented. No promotion, no singles, no warning. Instead of picking out singles for months after the release, she put out every music video with the songs. It was one gargantuan move, and it inspired a sort of awakening in the music industry. In an era ruled by singles, Beyoncé released an album you could only initially buy in full. Other artists tried to mimic the "surprise drop" model, with less success.
This time around, I wasn't sure Bey could outdo herself, but she managed to blow her last release out of the water. Here was this album, beautiful and raw and fully formed, and we were experiencing it all at once, sight first. It's a visual album in the purest sense. By forcing us to watch it first, Beyoncé created a permanent bond between the images and the music. It's electric.
It's the Most Personal Album to Date
Every single Beyoncé album seems to dig just a bit deeper than the last. The earliest installments — Dangerously in Love, B'Day, and I Am . . . Sasha Fierce — are important moments in Bey's career, to be sure. But they're commercially appealing. They're packed with pop that's sure to get radio play, sure to shake the walls of clubs across the States. 4 was a step toward a more cohesive, complete piece, but it wasn't until Beyoncé that Bey really hit her stride.
The videos — and the content of the songs — gave us actual glimpses inside the pop star's life. We saw Blue; we saw deep insecurities in songs like Pretty Hurts and Jealous. Essentially, we could see the cracks in Bey's perfect public image, and that's part of what made the album so strong.
I would argue that Lemonade doesn't just cause more cracks. It shatters the whole damn thing. You can swear up and down that it's not about Jay Z, and in one sense you'd be right. You could argue Beyoncé is inhabiting a character, but it's impossible not to see the real-life connections. We see a defeated and broken Beyoncé. We see a woman that struggles. We see pain. And in my opinion, that's more powerful.
The Songs Are Incredible, Moving, and Driven by Narrative
Here's how I usually listen to a new album from one of my favorite artists: I listen to it all the way through, one time. I pick my favorite songs. Then, I listen to those songs over and over and over, leaving the others behind. I felt so moved by Bey's presentation, though; it's like the whole album is one big song. Each time I listen to Lemonade, I listen all the way through without skipping songs. I feel renewed by the movement through grief. I feel struck by the fluctuating roller coaster of emotions. I really, genuinely like every song. I can acknowledge that some, to me, are a little weaker. I will admit I favor some songs over others. But I still listen to every song, every time.
It's a Fully Formed Artistic Concept
Every single component of Lemonade weaves together into a staggering masterpiece. The grieving process — which Beyoncé altered to fit her situation — threads through the songs, the narrative, the film. Each cinematic sequence stands out as a beautiful, impactful vignette in its own right, but they still collectively stitch together as isolated parts of the same universe. They make sense. One portion of the story leads to the next leads to the next. Multiple viewings lead to an awareness of even smaller details. The poetry is like a jolt, striking in between the songs, intermixing with the song verses that drop like rain. It's a perfect storm.
There's an Empowering Message Buried in the Piece
You can skim the surface and say this is all about Beyoncé, Jay Z's potential infidelity, and the decision to forgive and move on. You can go a bit deeper and say it's a triumphant stance for black Americans, specifically black women, say it's a celebration of black culture. On all counts, you'd be right. But the layer underneath that means so much more. It cuts through skin color, flesh, heartbreak, and it lands on a basic human plight. We've heard the adage a million times, and it's the heart of Bey's album: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Beyoncé does place this wisdom in the hands of black women, who are often handed more lemons than most. Make no mistake: this album is for black women. But the fact that her message can scrape the bottom of any human soul and inspire strength is a beautiful, visceral thing.