When Beyonce first announced that she would premiere a project called “Lemonade” on HBO, nobody really knew what it would be.
Once it began, it was clear it was another visual album similar to her last. This time she takes us on a journey of the emotions and stages of a turbulent love affair: Intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, loss, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption.
Here are the details that made our jaws drop.
1 – Warsan Shire: the talented British-Somali poet’s work was featured throughout. At the end it becomes evident that it’s her poetry that helps to string the entire project together. She is credited for film adaptation and poetry.
2 – The Clothes: Particularly, in “Hold Up,” Beyonce’s Roberto Cavalli mustard chiffon dress is pretty much everything. She sashays and flaunts it as she swings a baseball bat at whatever crosses her path in a random neighborhood street. It was the perfect “Waiting To Exhale” moment.
3 – The words of Malcolm X: In, “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” the song breaks and shows a montage of black women posing in the street and one at the gas station. They smile and look into the camera as one of Malcolm X’s famous speeches plays:
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.”
It’s a truth that is both sad and empowering.
4 – Serena Williams: The tennis phenom emerges from a staircase in what looks like a New Orleans home. She shimmies, twerks, and basically slays her appearance in the visuals for the track titled, “Sorry.” “I ain’t sorry, Nigga nah,” Beyonce sings. “He want me when I’m not there. He better call Becky with the good hair.”
5 – Black women: We are celebrated in the best way possible throughout. From the street shots of everyday women showing off their hair styles and melanin glory, Beyonce’s fly ass dancers, and the celebrities we love to love, including Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya, ballerina Michaela DePrince, and model Winne Harlow, the the entire project feels like the ultimate #BeyondClassicallyBeautiful moment.
6 – “Daddy Lessons”: It’s a song to her father and it’s pretty dope. In this folksy/country tune, Beyonce describes how her father made her a soldier, he warned her to stay away from certain kinds of guys, and he told her to “shoot” them when they come around. It feels like the turning point in the project since we don’t know if the inspiration for it came from her parents’ failed relationship or problems within her own marriage…or maybe both.
7 – Mothers of fallen sons: Beyonce features the mothers of Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown holding up photos of their black sons killed by people who proclaim to protect the law. When Lesley McSpadden, mother of Mike Brown, sheds a tear, we are reminded of their pain. We are reminded of the pain we feel because of their pain.
8 – “Freedom” song: When Beyonce sang “Freedom” to a crowd of beautiful black women sitting in what looks like a swampy New Orleans backyard it was like a call to black women to own our power at a time when we’re fighting most for it.
BONUS – The poem about grandmothers: At the close of the project, the woman (or Beyonce) finally finds redemption. She conveys this through her song, “All Night,” which features visuals of couples in love, including her and Jay Z. But what makes this shine is the poem about grandmothers that comes before the song. It touches on how through their strength, their daughters and their daughter’s daughters learn how to survive anything.
Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half a lemon. Pour the water from one jug then into the other several times. Strain through a clean napkin.
Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said “Nothing real can be threatened.” True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again. You’ve brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.
You’re the magician. Pull me back together again, the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk. Knot after knot after knot. The audience applauds… but we can’t hear them.