Jesse Slade ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Beyoncé’s long-awaited follow-up to her self-titled album was released in typical Beyoncé fashion. Following the premiere of her HBO special, which featured songs and visuals from the album, Lemonade was released exclusively on TIDAL. Lemonade is the second visual album Beyoncé has blessed us with, and the film provides stunning visuals and discusses a variety of topics. The main topic, however, was clearly Jay Z’s infidelity, and throughout the movie she drags him for it time and time again in an incredibly enjoyable way. Beyoncé opens up about her life and relationship more than ever on Lemonade.
Spectacle aside, is the album actually good? Does it live up to its three-time Grammy-winning predecessor? Yes it does. Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. Pray You Catch Me
Written by Beyoncé, and singer/songwriters Kevin Garrett and James Blake (who is also featured on the album), “Pray You Catch Me” provides a similar beginning to Beyoncé’s self-titled album. It’s a soft start to the album, but it’s beautiful and honest. Jay Z and Beyoncé have had cheating rumors circulating since the beginning of their marriage, and “Pray You Catch Me” touches on the realities of those rumors. Beyoncé sings “You can taste the dishonesty/It’s all over your breath as you pass it so cavalier.” After this song premiered on HBO many people thought this was leading to a divorce announcement, but it seems as if Beyoncé is just opening up about marital issues rather than saying the marriage is ending. This is the perfect start to Lemonade because throughout the album Beyoncé is open and honest which is exactly what “Pray You Catch Me” provides.
2. Hold Up
Continuing the detailing of one of the most powerful couples in the world, “Hold Up” tackles the topic with a lighter sound. Producers Ezra Koenig and Diplo help create a taste of summer with airy production and soft Beyoncé vocals. Ezra Koenig, frontman of Vampire Weekend, also contributed to writing the chorus of “Hold Up”. The hook is catchy and simple, “Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you.” It’s an enjoyable song that could easily be Beyoncé’s hit for the summer.
3. Don’t Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)
Beyoncé and Jack White? Definitely an unconventional pairing, but a successful one nonetheless. Featuring heavy drums and guitar, Beyoncé draws on Jack White’s sound in “Don’t Hurt Yourself” rather than her own. Beyoncé uses White’s heavily affected screaming vocals to her advantage in this battle cry of a song. This song basically says don’t mess with the queen because it’s only going to come back and hit you harder, which we all already knew.
This is not an apology song, though throughout the track “I ain’t sorry” rings in the background to remind everyone that Beyoncé doesn’t have anything to apologize for. This is a f*** you song to any man that has wronged their partner, “tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up.” “Sorry” is unapologetically simple without much of a build, but very catchy and effective. Beyoncé ends the song singing,“he better call Becky with the good hair,” referring to the woman he cheated on her with.
5. 6 Inch (feat. The Weeknd)
It was only a matter of time before Beyoncé and The Weeknd worked together given their successes, and bless the fact that they did. This song is a standout on the album. “6 Inch” is hard hitting and sultry. Lemonade has few tracks that could be considered turn-up anthems, but this is definitely one of them. Featuring a dangerous guitar and an array of other instruments and beats, “6 Inch” is sleak and intriguing.
6. Daddy Lessons
“Daddy Lessons” is the Beyoncé country song we didn’t know we wanted. Beyoncé goes back to her southern roots singing about her father accompanied by an acoustic guitar and horn section. “Daddy Lessons” is an entirely new sound for Beyoncé, and it works effortlessly. “With his gun, with his head held high/He told me not to cry/Oh, my daddy said shoot.” Beyoncé discusses some of the issues she experienced with her dad, while also addressing Jay Z’s infidelity once again.
7. Love Drought
In “Love Drought”, Beyoncé takes a calmer approach to the continuing topic of cheating that is featured on almost every song on Lemonade. “Ten times out of nine I know you’re lying/But nine times out of ten I know you’re trying.” Lemonade is an emotional journey, and this is one of the softer moments on that journey. It reflects on the strength of Beyoncé’s relationship with Jay Z, while also discussing her insecurities in the relationship. Beyoncé flat-out asks what she did to deserve these feelings,“tell me what did I do wrong?” This song is very simple, there isn’t a build or a calm because the whole song itself is somewhat dull. It’s a pretty song, but one of the more forgettable tracks on the album.
“Sandcastles” is not a song that will be a single, it probably won’t receive any radio play, but it’s one of Beyoncé’s best ballads to date. It’s a beautiful song that is honest and raw thanks to a combination of Beyoncé’s vocals and the simple production behind it. The only sounds on this song are Beyoncé’s voice and a piano, and for this song that’s all that was needed. “We build sandcastles that washed away/I made you cry when I walked away.” “Sandcastles” is reflective of the pain one goes through after being cheated on, and the difficult decision of whether or not to leave the relationship.
9. Forward (feat. James Blake)
“Forward” is an incredibly disappointing listen. James Blake and Beyoncé are a great pairing and to make a song that isn’t even a minute and a half is just plain wrong. The minute and twenty second song is delicate and alluring, and it could’ve made for a great full length song had they not chosen to use it as more of an interlude.
10. Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Following the release of “Formation”, many thought Lemonade would largely follow the subject of race. However, “Freedom” is the main track that explicitly discusses race aside from “Formation.” In “Freedom,” Beyoncé and Kendrick tackle systemic racism, and they don’t hold back. Using visuals and lyrics that reference racism’s history dating back to slavery, “Freedom” demands an end to racist actions. The video featured women of color wearing all white sitting on and around trees in a plantation-like setting. Some of the women are holding pictures of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, who were both victims of police brutality and racial profiling.
11. All Night
“All Night” is the perfect mix of catchy and relaxing. This song is about cheating and fixing the hole that cheating creates in a relationship. Beyoncé opens up about her relationship on this track, as she does on the rest Lemonade, the difference with “All Night” being that the song is an easy, seductive listen. Beyoncé talks about all women who hit on Jay Z, “So many people that I know, they’re just tryna touch ya/Kiss up and rub up and feel up.” By the end of the song Beyoncé decides that their love means more to her than the hurt that she felt as a result of Jay Z’s cheating. “True love breathes salvation into me.”
If you haven’t heard “Formation” by now, you must not watch the Super Bowl or have a Facebook account. When Beyoncé released the “Formation” video she received many mixed reviews, this being one of the first videos and songs where she took a strong stance against systemic racism. The video features Beyoncé sitting on a sinking cop car, which many felt was disrespectful towards police. Others acknowledged that it was a stand against police brutality rather than Beyoncé saying she hates police. Regardless, “Formation” is a fun way to end Lemonade and still manages to address important issues. “Formation” has a sound similar to “7/11” with a message similar to that of “Freedom.”
Lemonade is one of Beyoncé’s best albums to date. No one can release a surprise album containing an endless list of hits, and yet somehow Beyoncé does it time and time again.