To most, Beyoncé needs no introduction, or last name. The American singer, songwriter, producer and actress from Houston, Texas, rose to fame as the lead singer of popular R&B girl group Destiny’s Child in the 1990s. From the start Beyonce stood out from the rest of the group, with her sassy dancing, incredible vocals and country roots which she professes on latest single “Formation“, “they’ll never take the country out me”. A solo career was always on the cards.
She released her debut solo album Dangerously in Love in 2003 and has since earned five Grammy awards as a solo artist. Destiny’s Child split in 2005, leaving Beyonce to pursue her dreams of a solo career guilt-free. She has since released a further five solo albums. Yes five, including 2013’s critically acclaimed self-titled album Beyoncé.
If you weren’t aware that Beyonce dropped her much anticipated sixth solo album, Lemonade, a few days ago on April 23, you wouldn’t be alone. Like her self-titled last album in 2013, Lemonade was released without any promotional fanfare, following an HBO special. The album was available only on Jay Z’s Tidal which aims to give artists a fairer cut of profits from music sold, but their exclusivity ran out late on April 24, so it should be available for fans of iTunes and other retailers.
Like her last album, Lemonade is a departure from the soulful R&B that made Beyoncé famous. She is now firmly a Pop star who feels comfortable with experimenting and pushing the envelope of pop music. The modern sound she puts forth on this record, which was released as a visual album, is studded with 11 passages of poetry by 27-year old Somali British poet Warsan Shire, a former Young Poet Laureate.
Beyonce’s lyrics are at times heavily political, for example quoting the likes of Malcolm X on “Don’t Hurt Yourself“, and she makes a stand against police brutality and institutional racism by featuring cameos from the mothers of victims of these crimes, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
This strong political stand and activism on the album, continues on from her performance of the single “Formation” at the Superbowl earlier this year, which was condemned and respected in equal parts, for paying homage to the Black Power movement, lending the star a new angle of controversy not before seen.
The music is also deeply personal, with lyrics touching on the alleged infidelity of her famous husband, Jay Z. On “Hold Up“, she sings, “what a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you…”, “going through your call list, I don’t wanna lose my pride…” and “I don’t like being walked all over lately”.
She collaborates with some new faces on this new record, including Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd and James Blake, and the visual album features cameos from the likes of Serena Williams, Winnie Harlow and Zendaya. The family is not left out, with husband Jay Z, and daughter Blue Ivy appearing in home video footage, along with Jay Z’s grandmother, Hattie and Beyonce’s mother Tina. Hattie states “I was given lemons, and I made lemonade”, the cliched saying, inspiring the title of the album.
Beyonce’s soaring vocals are incapable of making a bad album. She experiments with a range of different sounds, from the reggae-light “Hold Up”, to the beautifully melodic “Pray You Catch Me” which is interspersed with poetry. There are more Rock’n’Roll inspired tracks, such as “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” featuring Jack White, which still manages to stay true to Beyonce’s style with soulful references to Malcolm X.
She takes it back to her R&B roots with her collaboration with The Weeknd, “6 Inch”, and opens the bluesy “Daddy Lessons” with a great sax solo. There are the inevitable space-filler tracks, such as the stripped back “Love Drought“, but she makes up for this with the beautiful ballad “Sandcastles“, which showcases the vocals we all know she is ca-pable of. One of the highlights of the album is certainly lead single and album closer “Formation”, a twerktastic pop tune with a solid bass line featuring the unforgettable line “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag“.
Overall, this is yet another great pop album from arguably the world’s greatest female solo artist of today. She continues to push the boundaries and take her sound in new directions. All hail the Queen of Pop, Beyoncé! Lemonade is out now via Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records, stream it on Tidal here, and purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Deshani Shan