Perhaps Lemonade is the superstar equivalent of marriage counselling.
Jay Z being the exceptional yet no-good man he apparently is, hurt Beyoncé but is secure enough in himself and their relationship to not only give her the space to air her warts-and-all frustration artistically, but also appears in the Sandcastles visual, cuddling up to Bey as she laments what they once were. Maybe this is their way of keeping the public distracted on their own terms, while they build themselves back up into something newer. After Sandcastles, the album takes a noticeable turn toward optimism. Formation turned out to be a surprise conclusion, the last track on the album, a summary of everything covered on Lemonade; everything Beyoncé has and is.
Beyoncé wants you to know she hurts, cuts, bruises and bleeds just like anyone – but she’s not just anyone, either. Which is why her pain is profitable, for better or worse. Sung by anyone else, this could be a typical break-up album. Sung by Beyoncé, this is an admission that being everything she is, is sometimes just not enough. For Beyoncé herself, that truth would be harrowing. When you’re more than enough for strangers to spend millions worshipping your existence, how devastating would it be to realise that the one person you might not be enough for is the person you married? Twitter collectively asked the same question last night – how does anyone cheat on Beyoncé? How does Beyoncé herself go about finding the answer to that question?
Lemonade echoes twisted sister album ANTi in that it presents a millionaire superstar as a depressed, previously broken individual turning her nose up at the chance to once again dominate radio, instead preferring to publicly lick wounds both Rihanna and Beyonce’s untouchable images had most believing they were incapable of procuring.
Time will tell if the public ever looks at Jay Z the same way again, though. Beyoncé certainly doesn’t.
@James: Love Drought
“Love Drought” is an automatic standout on Lemonade. With twinkling keyboards and kinetic drums, this airy, dream-like cut finds Bey in a vulnerable place as she attempts to breathe new life into her corrupt relationship. Produced by Kanye’s longtime collaborator, Mike Dean, “Love Drought” is for those that like Bey a little more sensual-sounding. Interestingly enough, the odd mix of lyrics about insecurities paired with the hazy vibes compliment each other almost too well.
@Jordan: 6 Inch
Angry Beyonce is my favorite. Her collaboration with The Weeknd on "6 Inch" was fine-tuned to (should I say it?) slay on the radio. 808 drums accompany Yonce's chilling auto-tuned vocals while she sings about a boss bitch collecting the coin seven days a week. Autobiographical? Most likely, considering Lemonade is a haunting reflection from her and her mother's heartbreaking past. Abel's dreamy contribution uplifts the song for a moment before Beyonce kindly reminds you that she murdered everybody and... Jay Z was her witness.
@Tommy: Daddy Lessons
“Daddy Lessons” immediately sets itself apart from the other tracks on Lemonade in more ways than one. Aside from being the first country-tinged song of the native Texan’s career, the standout cut also shifts the focus away from Beyoncé’s marriage and onto her parents while still retaining the narrative theme of infidelity. Her bluesy vocals fit perfectly on this twangy number. Over plucky guitars and horns, Beyoncé recounts advice her father gave her about unfaithful men like himself, crooning, “He told me when he's gone, here's what you do/when trouble comes to town, and men like me come around/oh, my daddy said shoot.” While not traditional country music, “Daddy Lessons” would sound right at home amid the catalogs of Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.
@Aaron: "Don't Hurt Yourself"
"Don't Hurt Yourself" begins as an angry side-eye that builds into earth-shattering rage. It's as if all the fury we saw in Solange's Hell In A Cell elevator bout with Jay Z has finally been exorcised through Beyonce's song-craft and this is the audible version of what we saw on that security cam. This is the moment disbelief turns into outrage. This is when Left-Eye started with lighting Andre Rison's shoes on fire but wound up burning down the whole damn house.
Jack White's Dead Weather-y take on Led Zeppelin's epic "When The Levee Breaks" drumming is crucial to that dreadful mood. Every now and then ghostly wails cry out over the organs from the dark corners of the song. If Hot Sauce was the name of her bat in "Hold Up," it might as well be carved in Lizzy Borden's ax for this song.
Lemonade stands out as a bold specific statement with one major overarching theme, divided up by chapters loosely interpreted through the five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is Anger with a capital A and Beyonce leaves no doubt that she deserves that capital G as well.
The album sequencing guides her story fluidly and lucidly; the progression from song to song feels natural and that is a testament to how easy Beyonce makes these transitions look and feel. Stacked in between the bouncy heartbreak of "Hold Up" and the kiss-off "Sorry," "Don't Hurt Yourself" serves as a turning point from being the one hurt to the one ready to do some hurting of her own. She takes the higher road reminding herself, "We just gotta let it be," and instead of a public meltdown and sloppy divorce we get a beautiful work of art from an artist who grows more and more unique with every project's content and release.
Bey's right, "When you play me you play yourself." We could not have asked for a more timely reminder.