Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beyonce - Lemonade Review

As opener 'Pray You Catch Me' winds down its balladry Beyonce Knowles-Carter whispers puzzlingly "what are you doing my love?" Unbeknownst to only a few, it's clear she's speaking towards Jay-Z, her husband, that she accuses of infidelity. And so, one of the greatest concept albums centered around a failing relationship begins. Taylor Swift's nauseating melodrama can't hold a candle to the thematic magnificence of Lemonade, an album that seeks to not only expose a cheating man with savage grace but forgive him as a means to maturity. The evidence lies in Lemonade's progression, with its conceptual conclusion, 'All Night,' finishing with the apt "how I missed you, my love." She's relieved, both in his return and her acceptance. While her declarative opus Beyonce sought to define the greatness of monogamy and its sexual benefits through bombastic post-2010's elastic Trap, Lemonade, unwillingly, forces Bey to explain the caustic inner pitfalls. Both accompanied by vivid imagery in the form of an album-long music video, Beyonce benefited from instant gratification with its shocking unannounced drop, content ripe for the fodder; Lemonade succeeds off its sheer greatness.

Since 2011's 4, Beyonce has transcended superstardom by being one of the few in the current era of Pop to be pumping out high-quality releases. She's been able to maintain this commitment to the craft whilst also adhering to the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, with social media taking longer works and condensing them into bite-sized snippets. Beyonce's persona, much like her albums, has been a meticulously crafted one. Every interview given, courtside attire, associated business venture seeks to showcase her as a flawless but socially aware seamstress. It wasn't until Solange Knowles, her sister and singer, attacked Jay-Z in a fit of rage in an elevator in 2014 that the pristine portrait began to crack. Turmoil bubbled, but rather than let it slowly spill through TMZ and other outlets she's fully exposed it here on Lemonade. There's juicy gossip littering the LP, but it's not seen as a grab for publicity any more than the seething truth. Most revealing is seen on 'Sorry' when Bey boasts boldly, "he better call Becky with the good hair," leaving the track silent as it concludes. In the same song she taunts Jay with his own hypocrisies, "suck on my balls, pause, I had enough" she retorts in defiant backlash.

Elsewhere, like on the Jack White-assisted 'Don't Hurt Yourself,' Beyonce yelps with piercing not-so-hints, screaming "who the fuck do you think I is!" She's got a devilish snarl with Southern slang that's matched by White's backing guitars unleashing fury. But Lemonade, unlike her previous LP, showcases variety through the different stages of grief she ensues. This culminates in 'Daddy Lessons,' Lemonade's worst but most ambitious song. She goes full on Country not in an attempt at showing crossover appeal, but strictly exemplifying her talents as a whole. End of the day the song's decisively not Bey and that causes a mid-album stutter, one that's slowly, but assuredly recouped as Beyonce comes to grips with her marriage complexities. It isn't until 'Freedom' that Bey comes back decisively, bringing the black pride lurking under many of these songs to the forefront. 'Formation,' the closing credits sendoff here, and lead single, aims to stifle listeners with her pro-black, pro-woman message, 'Freedom's' really the only other track that makes that the primary focus, the production loud and in charge, beaming with cinematic rumbling's that would've fit on the Django Unchained soundtrack swimmingly.

As far as the production goes Lemonade is chock full of A-list producers. The aforementioned 'Freedom,' which should be added features a surprisingly disappointing verse from Kendrick Lamar, is co-produced by Hip-Hop legend Just Blaze. Hit-Boy handles 'Sorry' while Mike Will Made It showcases his continued hit-making with 'Formation.' Most staggering though is 'Hold On' and 'All Night,' Lemonade's two best songs, both produced by Diplo. Neither are Dubstep associated mind you, with the former pivoting on angles with small percussion and an excellent interpolation of Yeah Yeah Yeah's 'Maps,' while the latter samples those climatic horns from 'SpottieOttieDopalicious,' Outkast's ode to the late night. Few of these, if any, are clear bangers, with the closest account, '6 Inch,' still focusing more on artistic merits and conceptual integration than something bred distinctly for the radios, as was the case with 2014's 'Drunk In Love.' It's 'All Night' though that ends up taking the cake of best track, with its perfect summation of everything that preceded it. With stingy, almost Indie Rock guitars guiding it, Bey demonstrates her unrivaled range, swooning as often as she swaggers with poise.

Lemonade's an album only someone as brash as Beyonce could make. There are certain low points, ones nonexistent on Beyonce, but they're only due to the unequivocal risks on display here. They're also essential, for where songs like 'Daddy Lessons' and 'Love Drought' drag, it's due to Bey herself facing the fears without retaliating, resulting in a quieter experience of retrospection that erupts when she prides her own greatness. Lemonade, with every moving piece in her cognitive wheel, seeks to find the positive side in adverse conditions, both for the black community and women in general. For when a guy cheats, even in such extreme cases as the Bey and Jay marriage, you can unleash all your fury you want but what's done is done. She looks to the future while proving, through sheer confidence, that she can get by without him. And when society constantly puts down people of color, forcing some black youths to rethink their skin color in terms of societies image of it, Beyonce is here to accept her blackness in all its glory. Lemonade harbors both of these proclamations through a cinematic concept unknown to popular music in today's age. If one artist could accomplish that it's R&B's best, and smartest, shape-shifter. 

1 comment:

  1. QueenB is out of this world. I simply just love her family, lifestyle and fashion . She should work in hollywood movies now.