Photo by: Anna Koch

For the past five years, Beyoncé has been dominating the charts with songs such as “Run the World (Girls),” “Love on Top,” “Drunk in Love,”“Flawless” and finally “Formation.” Most recently, she has become the recipient of the CDFA fashion icon award, an Emmy nominee, and a mother. Needless to say, this generation has been blessed with an artist who is continuously working to better herself.\

If you recall Prince’s Purple Rain (1984) and Kanye West’s Runaway (2010), two other iconic visual albums, you will note that LEMONADE (2016) is very different from them. Released on April 23, 2016, two years after the release of her first visual album titled Beyoncé (2013), Beyoncé integrated poetry and art, making the album an assorted mixed media project that allowed the public to take a glimpse into the lives of one of the world’s most powerful couples. It allowed us to finally come to the understanding that all relationships, no matter how powerful or rich, are not perfect and that problems will arise along the way.

LEMONADE brought together iconic acts such as Jack Photo by Anna Koch White and James Blake, which allowed her to show off her musical versatility, particularly her Deep South heritage. Beyoncé’s track “Daddy Lessons” received criticism for its use of country music that stemmed from the fact that she embraced her Blackness and her country upbringing. If you frequent social media spaces like Twitter and Facebook, you would have noticed the trend of journalists and celebrities like Piers Morgan and M.I.A. condemning Beyoncé for being “too Black” in her music and for bringing her “newfound Blackness” to the forefront of her music. She openly proclaims her support for groups like Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers, a group originally established in the late 1960s wanting to end gentrification and systemic racism. However, according to Piers Morgan, the new Beyoncé “wanted to be seen as a Black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second.” In addition, unlike the old Beyoncé, the new Beyoncé was more “agitated” and more “inflammatory” towards her non-Black fans and her country song fueled the flame. Long story short, the “new Beyoncé,” as Morgan claimed her to be,
was unlikeable and no longer relatable.

LEMONADE was, first and foremost, created by a Black woman for other Black women. Thus, Piers Morgan’s choice of words are not only stereotypical and harmful; they are deep rooted in a type of racism that refuses to be acknowledged due to its regular use in our society. Unlike Black men, Black women are rarely ever called “niggers” or “thugs,” but are targeted with words such as “ratchet,” “ghetto,” “loud” and “from being aroundthe-way.” These words are used to commonly describe unappealing or “extra” things, places and people, particularly Black women and girls who do not adhere to the “norm,” who are not fair skinned, who do not have pinstraight hair, who are not talented and finally, who are comfortable with their bodies in a sexual and non-sexual manner. Then again, even when a Black woman fits these very specific characteristics created by society, they are still subjected to verbal abuse.

Serena Williams, who appears in Beyoncé’s track “Sorry,” is no stranger to this. After her 22nd Grand Slam win, journalists and Internet trolls alike did not hesitate to call her an “ape” or a “man” because of her muscular physique, ignoring the fact that she is one of the greatest athletes in the world. Beyoncé addresses the hatred of the Black female form and colourism in the African-American community in her latest album by inserting quotes from Malcolm X’s famous speech “Who Taught you to Hate Yourself” right at the end of “Sorry,” when she mentions “Becky with the good hair.” In comparison to the Black woman who is the “most unprotected and neglected person in the world,” Becky (or a Becky) is a non-Black woman who is praised by society because of her light skin and good looks. Moreover, Becky appropriates and steals styles from other cultures, further dismissing and ignoring the Black, Latino and Brown girls who grew up being made fun of for having large lips, dark and bushy eyebrows and for sporting a “red dot” on their foreheads. Beyoncé tells her man to “call Becky with the good hair” because she, like many of her fans, are tired of being regarded as second best when they are just as good as their lighter skinned counterparts. Darker skinned women have it harder than fairer skinned women in all aspects of life, even in a first world country.

Despite this, LEMONADE succeeds because it is an album that all women can enjoy. Like Runaway was for Kanye West and Purple Rain was for Prince, LEMONADE will become what one will think of when they mention Beyoncé as an artist because of its cinematography, its storyline and most importantly, the impact it had in the music and film industries.

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