VYNE-L Beyonce Lemonade Album Review - Liam Smith

I had my ups and downs, but I always found the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” These were the words of Hattie White, Jay Z’s grandmother, spoken to a crowd at her 90th birthday party. Beyoncé seems to have assimilated this philosophy into her sixth studio, and second visual effort, 'Lemonade', a self-proclaimed journey of “self-knowledge and healing.”

Despite being one of the most influential artists of all time, very little is known about Beyoncé. She is renowned for her efforts of maintaining personal privacy: since joining Twitter in 2009, she has tweeted a grand total of nine times, her last face-to-face interview was several years ago, and her previous musical efforts have offered very little insight into her identity or ideologies. Her discography is one of sonically ambitious pop, but one that rarely demonstrates genuine vulnerability or emotion. 'Lemonade', however, is an anomaly. It is a benevolent, cathartic and authentic manifesto that invites listeners into the personal reality of a woman scorned.

You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath” she serenades on opening track, ‘Pray You Catch Me’, as she hopelessly questions the fidelity of her partner. A notably minimalist affair, it establishes the emotional intimacy that will act as the driving force for the rest of the album. ‘Hold Up’ is a salacious dancehall jam, in which Beyoncé pleads with her partner to acknowledge the love they share. Such pleads turn to rage on ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’, a trashing, unapologetic anthem featuring Jack White (The White Stripes). “You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy” she asserts before infamously providing her lover with his 'final warning', “if you try this shit again, you gon’ lose your wife.”Sorry’ trails, a defiant dismissal of her lover’s attempts to reconcile their relationship.

Following these emotional indulgences comes a deep introspection that defines the second half of the album. Beyoncé juxtaposes the sultry R&B of ‘6 Inch’ with the Texas twang of ‘Daddy Lessons', as she examines how her workaholic mentality and the childhood lessons from her father may have impacted her relationships. Love Drought’ is an airy plea to reinvigorate a relationship strained with insecurity, whilst ‘Sandcastles’, an arresting ballad offering one of Beyoncé’s most raw and accomplished vocal performances to date, explores the complexities of marriage and its breakdown. ‘Forward’ sees her advancing onwards with her partner, and ‘All Night’, a mid-tempo, reggae-tinged affair, closes the album’s emotional journey with reconciliation, "how I missed you, my love". The remaining tracks, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Formation’ are soulful power anthems which find Beyoncé acknowledging and celebrating black culture.  

Throughout 'Lemonade', Beyoncé glides effortlessly through an array of musical and emotional stratospheres, encompassing the various mentalities experienced during betrayal. The voyage we are taken on, both lyrically and sonically, is never less than captivating. An empowering exploration of love, womanhood, and race, Beyoncé has turned the most personal aspects of her life into something universally accessible and relatable, whilst simultaneously delivering her most cohesive, authentic and introspective effort to date.