Music is my second passion after movies that is. And while I’ve done music posts in the pasts, I’ve never actually reviewed an album before. With the surprise release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade the other week and the Internet going into overdrive about it, I though it would be a good time to do a review of it, especially considering the fact that the album comes with a one hour film that cuts together music videos for each song on a journey like format. I don’t know how this review will turn out because I’ve never done a music review before, so here goes nothing.
It is no secret that I’m a big fan of Beyoncé; having seen her in concert and followed her career since I can remember. But nothing could have prepared me for Lemonade, which is in my book her best album to date. A personal, deeply felt odyssey of marital disharmony(that everyone is having a field day about because it’s been alleged that Jay-Z has been unfaithful in the past to his wife) and the gradual rebirth of a woman rekindling her love after a difficult time, Lemonade explodes with unbridled emotions and power. We may never know if there is any truth that the album is about her own relationship with her husband, but if the results are anything like this, I think tongues will always be wagging. But to merely speculate about it is to do discredit to the album, as it explores other territories like gender and race and is her most experimental album to date. And with the visuals to add to it, Lemonade becomes an all round knockout experience.
From the opening notes of ‘Pray You Catch Me’, you can tell that Beyoncé is crafting something memorable. The pain reflected in her voice is palpable and almost a whisper in the beginning, as layered vocals swirl around an ominously soulful backdrop and we feel her suspicion that something is wrong in her marital union. Following up is ‘Hold Up’, whose bouncy reggae flavoured beat belies an anger and resentment towards the hurt she is feeling. The juxtaposition of seemingly breezy fare and embittered vocals makes for an intriguing pastiche as we now know that Beyoncé is not a woman to be trifled. If ‘Hold Up’ was a warm up for how angry she is, ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’, a collaboration with Jack White that edges into slashing rock territory, more or less confirms it. Beyoncé uses her voice with a raw and gritty intent here, growling over a drum heavy backdrop with the ferocity of a lion. This song is probably one of my favourites from the album because of the experimental tone and the way it shows her in a totally different light from what many of us are used to seeing.
Apathy and a desire to have a good time set in during ‘Sorry’, that explores feminine power and assertion with an attitude and swagger, very becoming of Beyoncé who now wants to rid herself of pain and have a good time. This then applies to the darker sounding tale of ladies making money for a living in ‘6 Inch’, a collaboration with The Weekend. Over a moody bass line, Beyoncé makes a stand for hard-working ladies that will resonate with every woman out there.
Beyoncé is now fully adept at throwing curve balls and this album more or less confirms that she isn’t going to be saddled to just one genre, but is more than willing to branch outside her comfort zone for artistic expression. ‘Daddy’s Lessons'( a very good example of the curve ball) took me by surprise with its country vibe and southern horn section. It works very well which is something I didn’t expect, but Beyoncé’s unparalleled urgency, soul and talent add another genre twist to her growing list of ventures on this album.
With ‘Love Drought’, we hear her now becoming more open to the idea of forgiveness, despite being hurt as her soaring voice exclaims that ‘Ten times out of nine I know you’re lying/ But nine times out of ten I know you’re trying’. She now seems a bit more content now after the ferocious nature of the opening of Lemonade, and the emotional ‘Sandcastles’, which shows of her stunning vocals and emotional delivery, heralds the slow but growing return to being strong once more after all the hurt and the pain she has endured. ‘Forward’ provides a stunning interlude between this and the Kendrick Lamar featuring anthem ‘Freedom’, which is filled with gospel harmonies and a strong message about overcoming adversity that Beyoncé belts with fierce conviction. The almost heavenly sounding ‘All Night’ marks the re connection with one’s beloved in beautiful lyrics and sensual passion. Rounding off Lemonade is ‘Formation’, which bravely delves into subjects of race and pride. Beyoncé displays how she isn’t afraid to be confrontational and aggressive with her music and this shines through, especially on this track.
And I have to discuss the visuals of Lemonade as it is a visual album after all. The editing gives the whole package a real cohesion that brings to life all the themes Beyoncé explores. Going from sometimes frightening imagery, whispered poetic narration, to Southern Gothic framing and proud depictions of female empowerment, it’s a swirling cauldron of ideas brought to life with a vivid and purposeful cinematic quality. Split into chapters that go from anger to ultimate redemption and retribution, it grabs hold of you with its style and soulful underbelly.
All I have left to say is that Beyoncé has conjured up a surprisingly raw, unapologetic and highly cathartic record that speaks from the heart and the soul, and is for my money one of the best albums I’ve heard in a while and an undisputed masterpiece from an artist who is always setting the bar high.
What did you make of this music review? Do you think music reviews could be successful on my site?