For those that do not know, Da Thrilla is a huge Beyoncé fan. I’ve been reviewing her albums since “4” and a fan since Destiny Child. I love her, her music, her looks, her left pinky toe and just about everything else about her. I think she is a phenomenal artist and entertainer. But also as a fan, I am not afraid to be critical of the pop icon. I have questioned her work in the past for its lack of direction and continuity. Days after her visual album, “Lemonade”, hit the masses, fans are calling this her best album ever. After listening to it about 15-20 times (S/N: Did I mention I was a fan), I can see where some would believe that this is Bey’s greatest work. However, well short of a classic, “Lemonade” is the Beyoncé we may not have wanted to hear rather it is the Beyoncé we needed to hear.
The theme of the album is when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. In an attempt at transparency, Beyoncé decided to make an album using her own personal struggles as an example as to how uplift oneself and overcome adversity. The first thing that hits you about “Lemonade” is the passive aggressive tone of a woman who is smiling in your face with a knife behind her back on the tracks, “Pray You Can Catch Me” and “Hold Up”. Things get more hostile with the rock-themed, standout, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”; a track with so much adrenaline that it would have been considered a risk on her previous work, but fits perfectly with the flow of “Lemonade”. “Sorry” is where she makes her now trending line “Becky with the good hair” followed by the gem “6 inch” which uses a sample of the classic Isaac Hayes, “Walk On By”. (My favorite song on the album.) Second half of albums are usually where Beyoncé albums started to fade. There is a slight, but necessary, mode change with the ballad “Sandcastles”. “Freedom” is a socially conscious banger with guest star Kendrick Lamar. Bey taps into her southern roots with the folk track “Daddy’s Lessons”. She closes the album out with “Formation”.
Beyoncé always had an unparalleled magnetism that no matter what the subject, she made you listen. Whether she was telling all the single ladies to get married after eating watermelons, Mrs. Carter spoke and everybody listened. What she has shied away from in the past was her personal life. Her relationship with her parents and the rumored extra-marital affairs of husband Jay-Z are both addressed in some way on this album. Plain and simple, she sings and we listen. We’ve seen slightly aggressive Beyoncé before but we always assumed it was metaphorical. Remember when she kicked her man to the left after he didn’t put a ring on it because he couldn’t accept her flaws and all? What sets Beyoncé apart from other entertainers like Rihanna is not subject matter but delivery. She does not present her turmoil in a shameful, “why me” portrayal as a victim of circumstance. Neither is she going in to strip clubs shooting side chicks in the face while they are twerking. For the first time, Beyoncé is using her personal trials and tribulations as a blueprint for all to follow.
We live in a time where instant success is valued over longevity. Beyoncé has lasted this long not just on talent because eventually that fades. But rather she has the ability to give the people more. She knows what her fans want because she too was a fan of Whitney, Mariah and Janet. Every album since “Sasha Fierce” has gotten better. Which is impressive because I thought she could not top her last two albums. Michael Jackson was great but “Thriller” made him a legend. Prince was solid until “Purple Rain” made him immortal. “Lemonade” could be the album that transitions Beyoncé’s from superstar to icon.
My Beyonce discography rankings: (Please don’t come for me BeyHive)
Dangerously In Love
I Am Sasha Fierce