Beyonce brought world premiere events back into style with her hour-long HBO presentation Lemonade on Saturday (April 23). The visual album was a series of deep cuts that not only dominated the conversation on timelines but also offered an inside look into the mind — and heart — of the mysterious Mrs. Carter.
The emotional ride began with a field of tall plants, a grey stone building and Beyonce, clad in a black hoodie zipped over her head, singing, “You can taste the dishonesty/It’s all over your breath.” Gasps ensued. “I prayed I’d catch you whispering/I pray you catch me listening.” Was the opener a public reprimanding of her husband, Jay Z? (Rumors of his alleged infidelity ran rampant surrounding Elevator-gate.)
Before viewers could jump to further conclusions, Beyonce captivated with both her visuals and lyrics. For “Denial,” she walks over to a building ledge barefoot and jumps off the side of a building before plunging into a bedroom that is underwater. Then comes a bombshell: She asks, “Are you cheating on me?”
Lemonade is loaded with surprising mini-moments: Beyonce in a soaking-wet sunflower yellow dress grabbing a bat and smashing car windows, belting lines like “Don’t wanna lose my pride/But I’ma fuck me up a bitch” and “What’s worse — looking jealous or crazy?” There is also a Soulja Boy reference here as she repeats the viral line, “I look in the mirror, say wassup?” At one point during the film, tennis MVP Serena Williams also makes a cameo, twerking for Queen Bey.
For a chapter titled “Freedom,” she recruits actress-singer Zendaya, actress Amandla Stenberg, French-Cuban soul duo Ibeyi, and supermodel Winnie Harlow. It’s one of the peak emotional moments of the film, saluting generations of strong black women. The mothers of police brutality victims like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin later appear with photos of their sons. In both visual and musical form, Lemonade repeatedly salutes those who share her skin color and ancestral struggles. The voice of Malcolm X also makes the cut, saying, “The most neglected person is the black woman.”
Beyonce owns her power here — for herself, her daughter, her imperfect marriage, her imperfect father, her mother, all mothers, all black women, all black people. Sure, she throws cold, hard shade at sidechicks (See the line, “Becky with the good hair”) and possibly airs out Hov’s dirty laundry, but the overall tale is one of resilient women.
In the final “Redemption,” personal wedding footage of her and Jay Z (who also appears earlier in an intimate clip, where Beyonce sings beside a keyboard) is followed by scenes of the couple with Blue; as her mother, Tina Knowles and her significant other; and other images of loving couples and families. Sunlight breaks through over the once drab field that opened the film.
Like every endeavor Beyonce’s name is attached to, her every move is calculated, making it no surprise that Lemonade the album dropped as a Tidal exclusive following the special. She also controls the narrative on her personal life, offering almost diary-style anecdotes in each track. On Lemonade, Beyonce appears just the way we like her — unapologetically herself.