As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade — and Beyoncé has done just that. Airing on HBO on April 23, Lemonade, an hour-long “visual album” took viewers on an emotional rollercoster: from strife and pain, to anger and reconciliation, to happiness and love. But many are wondering if this album is an act of creative expression or a testament to her own personal story.
On February 6, 2016, Beyoncé released her single ‘Formation’, a teaser for her highly-anticipated 6th album. But ‘Formation’ didn’t represent the album released on the 23rd, in fact, it didn’t even make the playlist of the extended video. Music enthusiasts are mixed when it comes to Beyoncé’s latest release, many saying you have to “watch” the album to truly experience it. With the changing platform of the music industry, and the ubiquitous nature of social media, Beyoncé may have created a whole new genre of music with her latest masterpiece. Heralded as a visually stunning, emotional, and intimate, the debut “visual album” has taken the music industry, media outlets, and social platforms by storm. So what is all the hype and what does this aesthetically pleasing, yet controversial, story really mean?
It’s not uncommon for famous artists to use their medium to express and share their life stories, but many are wondering if this latest album is a real representation of struggle or a strategic PR move. One thing is clear, artists like Beyoncé know the power of influence and anything published under their name represents their “personal” story. So what is Beyoncé trying to tell us?
Storytelling is part of every song, and as listeners, we do not know the full details about the content nor the intent. Often, we pick up on key words and create meaning based on our own experiences. Beyoncé changed the face of music by not only telling a story, but also producing the visual images associated with each and every word through her “visual album”.
While many are speculating that this album in fact reflects Knowles’ own marital struggles, others are reporting that the album represents “a conceptual project based on every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing.”
Rachel or Rachael?
After the release of ‘Lemonade’, many people were confused about the different references being made to “Becky with the good hair”. Seen as a nod to rumors of her husband Jay Z’s infidelity, zealous fans took to social media to uncover the ‘other woman’. Rachel Roy was the immediate target of fan’s outrage. Roy is a fashion designer and the the ex-wife of Damon Dash, Jay Z’s former business partner. A now-deleted Instagram post on the designer’s page referencing “good hair” fueled suspicions, with fans blasting the designers page with lemon and bee emojis (calls to the new album title and the “Behive” — Beyoncé’s most enthusiastic supporters). The attention become so intense, chef and talk show host Rachael Ray was thrown into the fray by confused fans.
So how did these two respond to the volatile rhetoric and social media buzz? As one could expect, Rachael, the chef, was blindsided by the hype. Even though she hasn’t acknowledged the the situation personally, her twitter account posted a humorous photo making light of the controversy.
Rachel Roy on the other hand didn’t take a subtle route when addressing the conflict, and instead taking to twitter saying, “I respect love, marriages, families and strength. What shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, no matter what, is bullying, of any kind.” While she didn’t actually admit to being involved, many still speculate that she is “Becky with good hair”. Roy continues to deny the rumors.
Beyoncé’s foray into visual media has given the music industry a new benchmark for artistic expression. The passion behind her words has hit people on an emotional level unseen in music today, so much so that fans are taking action on those alleged to have done her wrong. Lemonade existence as fact or fiction is of no importance- it resonates with listeners regardless. By laying her emotions and her art on the table, Beyoncé has left a mark on pop music and the public.