Beyonce stopped the world for (at least) a second time when she dropped her sixth studio album, and the year's most soul-baring effort, with her visual album Lemonade. The stunning musical and cinematic work debuted as an hour-long film in April on HBO, capturing the essence of being a strong Black woman in America. Unfolding in chapters with titles such as Denial, Apathy, Accountability and Forgiveness, and accompanied by poetry from poignant scribe Warsan Shire, Lemonade flipped the scorned woman-narrative into a tale of triumph — even while dropping in the midst of infidelity rumors between Bey and husband Jay Z.
The first inkling of Lemonade came a day before Yonce’s Super Bowl performance with “Formation,” a black fist-pump in the air that pissed off FOX News and the Miami police but inspired many. The full Lemonade expanded on its riotous introductory blast with the resilient Just Blaze-produced anthem “Freedom," the viral deuces-up jam “Sorry,” and the no-shame call-out “Hold Up" — while chilling opener “Pray You Catch Me” and make-up ballad “Sandcastles" served as emotional highs and lows. But Beyonce doesn’t commit to one genre or vision on the album, which marked her sixth million-seller: She also flaunts her Houston roots in the twangy, country-infused “Daddy Lessons,” and even earned a Best Rock Performance Grammy nod for the Jack White-blessed, Led Zeppelin-sampling “Don’t Hurt Yourself.”
Many who lived on the Internet in 2016 will remember The Queen's latest masterwork for a combination of the one-liner “Becky with the good hair,” a twerking Serena Williams and a profound new use for the lemon emoji. But Lemonade's enduring message is found through its closing footage -- of Hattie White, Jay Z’s grandmother, turning 90 years old, and delivering a succinct message about the album’s truest theme: perseverance. “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up,” she testifies. “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” — A.P.