Let me start by saying that these are my thoughts, and they are based on a largely general and literal interpretation of Lemonade, as in, the version where we all think Jay-Z, her husband, has cheated on her. (But this is not an essay on cheating, and I don’t think Lemonade is either.)
#1 She does what she wants…
Beyoncé is a black woman – in case you weren’t paying attention Piers Morgan – but for me, Lemonade is a call for any and every woman to live her life without considering that what others think/feel/say should effect how they feel or act. The mere fact that she released Lemonade knowing that the world would jump on her every word didn’t stop her from producing what she no doubt sees as a piece of art.
What if we all thought that way? Would you start your business/lose the weight/gain the weight/write your book of poetry/cut your hair/get the tattoo/stop eating meat/travel around the world solo, adopting children along the way?
#2 …But shitty things happen to her too.
Yes, she’s the mistress of keeping her composure – she can keep dancing while those around her tumble, and she can create an impression of calm while her sister sets up to bust her man in his mouth – but, if Lemonade is to be consumed wholly, she also goes through shit that might not leave her feeling so calm and in control. When she takes up that baseball bat in the video for Hold Up, there is real pleasure and release in the way she slams the bat into various cars – who hasn’t wanted to do that, for whatever reason? In the Denial section she lists the countless efforts she has made to make things right and to stop herself from questioning her husband’s loyalty:
‘…closed my mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake. Fasted for 60 days. Wore white. Abstained from sex… I whipped my own back…I bathed in bleach.’
So you can see, some days, it sucks to be Beyoncé. As she says herself in Hold Up: ‘I’m not too perfect, to ever feel this worthless.’
#3 Because, feelings.
I think I’ve seen Lemonade maybe eight times now. The first five times were filled with frequent pausing and rewinding. I wanted to understand what she was saying. I wanted to take in all of Warsan Shire’s (more on her below) borrowed words. But more than this, I wanted to relive moments, absorb the various energies. Like the heart-rousing hope in All Night or the video for Sorry, where she’s sat on a bus dancing with her female companions, faces painted and just smiling. When she’s sat on a throne while tennis queen Serena Williams drops it like it’s hot in nothing but a body (and please don’t try to make that scene a light skin/dark skin argument. Just don’t.) They are having fun, unapologetically, and if you don’t like it: *shrugs*
#4 She shows how she learned forgiveness.
All I can say is, Bey is a better woman than me. If she can go through so much doubt and betrayal and then still steer herself towards redemption and reconnecting, that has to take some serious strength, real, un-quavering self belief and faith.
‘So we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again…Pour me back together again, the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt, disappear.’
#5 She makes issues that the white world hoped/believed had disappeared, reappear.
She hasn’t forgotten Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner or Michael Brown. She is reminding the rest of the world (as in, the world outside of a black person’s window) that this is not right or okay and it is still going on. When Michael Brown’s mother breaks her composure in the Forward video and a single tear slides down her face, it is heart-breaking, each and every time. As she has said, she will never forgive the police officer who shot her son – and Beyoncé is reminding us that we shouldn’t either.
#6 The styling is seriously on point.
I’m not talking about the brands – Roberto Cavalli in Hold Up, Yeezy for Don’t Hurt Yourself and Gucci for Formation, to name a few – I’m talking about the looks. New York based stylist, Marni Senofonte (@marnixmarni), says her vision was an ‘antebellum-slash-Victorian-slash-modern-day’ kind of feel, and it’s clear that she met that vision. There are lashings of lace, petticoats galore, corsets and laced-up boots, all intertwined with African prints and hints at Southern heritage. Along with a team of 36 that includes industry greats such as my fave Shiona Turini (@shionat) and B. Akerlund (@bcompleted), Marni has created a vision that will no doubt influence fashion the world over.
#7 The hair. The makeup.
With 14 stylists creating countless hairdos, from braids down to her butt to faux wavy bobs and tribal-influenced ponytails, Bey shows hair as a material that can be shaped any which way, with a strong nod to her black heritage. Beyonce’s makeup artist Sir John (SO worth a follow, @sjblife) created her tribal painted makeup for Sorry, and, so far, it’s been the most talked and tweeted about look.
#8 She brought Warsan Shire’s words to a much wider audience.
No-one writes more beautifully – whether about sex, immigration or violence – than this Somali-British poet. I for one am so glad that Warsan’s words will sooth and excite many more minds, and probably be talked about long after Lemonade’s fizz has died down.
#9 She’s reminding you that you have the power.
If you’ve lost it, you can reclaim it; if you feel that you’ve never held it in your own hands, you can take it.
I have purposely not read anyone else’s blogs/interpretations of the film, but the minute I finish this I will definitely be reading Roxane Gay’s piece for The Guardian. One thing is certain, there is so much more to say.
What do you think of Lemonade? Or are you planning to make sure that you never, ever watch it? Tell me why in the comments below!