Beyoncé’s secret project has dropped. It’s an hour long film tackling love, politics and religion. Long live Queen B.
In all honesty, I was never really fussed about Beyoncé. I didn’t turn off “Crazy In Love” for six months when it was released, I’ll scream “YAAASSS” anywhere if “Single Ladies” gets played but I also went on rants about the problematic naming of “The Mrs. Carter Tour” and I couldn’t name all of her albums if my life depended on it. Until “Formation” appeared, I never understood why people idolised Bey.
“Formation” marked a moment for me, Beyoncé had never been so powerful, so important and so inspiring. I’m sure some people will disagree, but I’m talking about outside of the pop-diva realm, in the real world, where no-one cares how high your heels are or how fake your hair is. In the world where innocent people are being killed but no-one seems to have anything to say anything about it, Beyoncé stood up and told us what’s happening and what needs to be done.
Turns out that “Formation” is just a twelfth of the story. Lemonade, Beyoncé’s latest album, dropped today after a video teaser was posted earlier this month. But it isn’t just an album, it’s an album with an accompanying feature film, punctuated by spoken word pieces written by Warsan Shire. There’s collaborations with Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd and James Blake, and keep both eyes open to see the likes of Winnie Harlow, Zendaya Coleman, Blue Ivy, Jay Z and Serena Williams.
So that’s the features of the record and film covered, but what’s Bey really talking about? It’s a tale of infidelity, one that seems particularly close to home. We begin with B switching between a space on centre-stage and clambering through tall grass fields to the sound of “Pray You Catch Me”. The opening track breaks for the first of the spoken word pieces: “In the tradition of men in my blood, you come home at 3am and lie to me. What are you hiding? The past and the future merge to meet us here.” Next she asks, “I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book but still coiled deep the need to know, are you cheating on me?” Can’t get much more straightforward than that.
The story unfolds into “Hold Up” where B shows us that however crazy a partner has ever made you feel, she’s felt it too, and commences obliterating a car, singing “they don’t love you like I love you.” She clambers into a monster truck and demolishes the street before she warns, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, the collab with Jack White where she announces a God complex and reminds *someone* “you ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.”
Serena Williams swings by for an appearance in “Sorry” and as the album unfolds, we join B on a road through anger into reconciliation. Jay, who it appears the album is mostly about, joins his wife and child in loving scenes for “All Night”, which suggest all is forgiven. We’re sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of it, but for now the door’s closed.
Between the high-stakes personal drama, there’s a more general message. The music dials down for snippets of Malcolm X saying, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person is America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Visuals are saturated with gangs of women throughout, there’s an overall sense of empowerment, or need for it, and sisterhood. The scenery flickers between swamps, plantation houses and city streets, reminiscent of southern America. The mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown both hold portraits of their sons, killed by the police. B’s underlying socio-political message is there, not so subtly and not afraid to remind the masses.
In an age where everyone’s ready to blame our generation as celeb-driven and image-obsessed, Beyoncé has stepped up to be the kind of role model we’re missing, starting a conversation via the routes we understand.
It’s bad day to be Jay Z but it’s the year of Yoncé.