Beyoncé was served lemons, but did she manage to make lemonade? Charlie Maudsley looks back on Beyoncé’s latest, one year on
You must have been living under a very large rock if you haven’t heard someone talking about Lemonade in the past 12 months. As always, Beyoncé’s sixth and arguably most discussed album to date has garnered her critical and commercial success, so what makes Lemonade any different from her previous musical projects?
Lemonade’s rollout kickstarted in February last year with the infamous performance of her lead single ‘Formation’ at the 50th Super Bowl halftime show. Beyoncé, supported by her dancers dressed in military Black Panther outfits, was chastised by numerous police forces and news outlets across America, who pioneered the ‘Boycott Beyoncé’ slogan. With lyrics celebrating her African-American heritage and black pride, it’s impossible to deny the lead single’s political edge, especially in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement. Thanks to Queen Bey, the American fast-food chain Red Lobster saw a 33% boost in sales after its reference in ‘Formation,’ reflecting the undeniable influence of both Lemonade and Beyoncé.
Of course, the album’s political message did not conclude with ‘Formation.’ With help from Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé conjured the thunderous anthem ‘Freedom,’ which now acts as the soundtrack for the new Apple Watch advert. After its debut performance at the BET Awards in June last year, it was unmistakeable that Beyoncé had fully immersed herself into America’s political commentary. Accompanied by a voiceover from Martin Luther King Jr. and sporting braids typically associated with African-Americans, Beyoncé ignited a conversation which forced the issues of mistreatment and prejudice against minorities as well as black pride into the public eye.
When discussing Lemonade’s impact, it’s easy to overlook the musicality and production of the album in its entirety. The album’s 12-song track list features a variety of genres including her core sounds of R&B and pop with an urban twist. Nevertheless, by integrating genres of rock and country into the album, Lemonade has sparked a debate amongst music lovers regarding the roots of these sounds, as both stem from the jazz and blues genres typically associated with African-Americans.
It may be surprising to learn that the album’s impact does not only transcend into politics, but also more specifically into education as well. More and more universities across the world are offering courses relating to womanhood, race and politics through the lens of the Lemonade album. The University of Texas recently offered the opportunity for Beyoncé-obsessed students to study the intricacies of black feminism through the medium of her latest album.
It’s no secret that Beyoncé has always left her mark on pop culture after each of her six album releases. The iconic catchphrase “I woke up like this” (2013) joins the likes of “Who run the world? Girls” (2011) and “To the left” (2006) in the long list of iconic Beyoncé references. Of course, Lemonade really is no different. After the visual album’s premiere on HBO, it seemed like everyone was asking the same question; who is Becky with the good hair? Towards the end of ‘Sorry,’ Beyoncé orders her unfaithful lover to “call Becky with the good hair.” This line instantly became an empowering lyric for those who could relate to the emotions surrounding infidelity.
Not only did the album spawn various iconic lyrics and dances, it also provided social media with enough material to use for the remaining year. The likes of James Franco, Ellen DeGeneres and James Corden enjoyed a glass of lemonade after parodying the renowned ‘Hold Up’ music video, which sees Beyoncé flaunting a yellow dress whilst fiercely smashing car windows with a baseball bat.
The impact of Beyoncé’s extraordinary album Lemonade over the past year is undeniable. By delivering a politically controversial message accompanied by great music and dazzling visuals, the megastar created a buzz throughout the world. After all, she’s called Queen Bey for a reason.