Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade, has America in awe as the themes she sings about have much deeper meanings than ever before. As a whole, the album promotes the importance and culture of black womanhood. Beyonce does this by offering her audience R&B music culture to understand the visual journey even more. As seen in Beyonce’s most recent Grammy performance, the themes of birth with motherhood and water and fire prove to be very important. These themes proved to be very evident to the meanings of the songs in the album. Birth and motherhood appear in many of the songs in the album Lemonade. For example, "All Night" by Beyonce alludes to the importance of love and family, while "Forward" contains references to famous mothers and their losses. In six of the songs in Lemonade, fire and water play a significant role in the meanings of the videos. It was found that that fire and water can both represent freedom in Lemonade. Beyonce and the other people in the videos seem to experience moments of awareness while being surrounding by either fire or water. For example, Beyonce and the other dancers spend most of their time throughout "Love Drought" and "6 Inch" in water or around fire.
Lemonade and the Goddess making lemonade according to Beyonce's recipe! From left to right: Maddy Ryan, Jordan Bernier, Sophie Reed, Caroline Sugar, Ruby Merritt, Martine Lavelle, Paige Carter, Charlotte Dockery, Emma Wynne, and Ms. Carew-Miller
The album is named after her grandmother and Jay-Z’s grandmothers references to Lemonade. We see a clip of Ms. Hattie (Jay-Z’s grandmother) at her 90th birthday saying “I was served lemons and I made lemonade.” We also hear a lemonade recipe from Beyonce’s grandmother as a voice over.
A note on the chapters...
The visual album Lemonade is divided into twelve chapters. They each correspond with one song with two exceptions... Warsan Shire's spoken word poetry before the song "6 Inch" encompasses most of the chapter Emptiness. The next chapter heading, Loss, flashes on screen very briefly as "6 Inch" begins. "Formation," the first song from the album to be released, does not belong to a chapter and appears only after the credits roll. "Formation" is not necessarily part of the narrative created throughout the other eleven songs, but it continues the messages of empowerment and sounds out a call to action: "Okay ladies now let's get in formation."
"Pray You Catch Me" Language and Sound - The spoken word poetry has an overall theme of sadness. It speaks about the tradition of men cheating on woman. The word magician stands out because it stands as a symbol of diversion and mystery. Just as a magician keeps its secrets and has an element of mystery so do the men who commit adultery. She speaks about having to hide because the man is her life is hiding things from her. Beyonce's lyrics introduce the feelings of suspicion, pain and sadness. The song is about cheating and dealing with the lies. Words that are emphasized are: dishonesty, whispering, hurt and memory. There is also a repetition of “I pray you catch me.” The background music is very quiet to emphasize her desperate voice. Visuals - There are several different settings in this video including an abandoned building, a field filled with dead foliage, her kneeling on a stage and finally her jumping from a rooftop into a pool. She stands alone in this video, wearing very simple clothing such as a black hoodie. The symbols in this video include images of chains and an empty stage. There is an allusion to the goddess Oshun, deity of femininity, sexuality, fertility and the lover/wife of Shango who she has a deep love for but has a strained relationship with because he has other wives.
In the spoken word poetry of "Hold Up," Beyonce is underwater and she talks about being held back. She then goes into religion and says, "I crossed myself and thought I saw the devil." As she speaks, there is soft electronic music in the background that sounds like dripping water. When the music starts all of the water flows out of a house and she begins to show her anger by destroying cars. By going from feeling trapped in the water to running around smashing cars in the streets, Beyonce show her transition from being sad to being in disbelief. Throughout the water scenes, Beyonce appears as the water goddess, Oshun. Oshun is the goddess of female love, fertility, sensuality. The line “what a wicked way to treat the woman who loves you” shows how doing something like cheating is hard to believe especially when you love each other. In this video it goes back and forth between water and fire, both of these elements are used for destruction which goes along with her message of cheated because that destroys a person.
In “Don't Hurt Yourself” Beyonce reiterates the anger she has towards Jay-Z after he cheated on her. Symbols that refer to her anger are the necklace she is wearing, which is a symbol of womanhood. Beyonce also sings “if you try this shit again you gon lose your wife” as she throws her wedding ring. During this time Beyonce felt pain and loss, despite these feelings, she felt empowered. As she wears a tight nude two piece from the Yeezy collection and amazing big fur coat, She sings “You ain't married to no average bitch boy” telling Jay-Z you simply can’t get any better than this.
Early in the song, Beyonce sings the line, "motivate your ass/call me Malcolm X," and pauses the music to sample from a Malcolm X speech. As his voice cries, "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman./The most unprotected person in America is the black woman./The most neglected person in American is the black woman," closeup images of many different black women, standing alone on sunlit streets, flash across the screen. The song resumes, but with a new, deeper reasoning behind Beyonce's rage.
Language and Sound - Before the audio and music video of "Sorry" begins, Beyonce used spoken-word poetry to explain the themes of the song to the viewers. Throughout the album, Warsan Shire’s poetry shows the importance of Beyonce’s messages. Also, the word-spoken poetry asks her what her cheating spouse would say at her funeral after killing her by causing her to have a broken heart.In Sorry, Beyonce shows the theme of betrayal and empowerment. Although her song is titled "Sorry," she addresses how she actually isn’t sorry. We can tell this by looking closely at the lyrics that are repeated throughout the song. She uses these lyrics to tell the story of what seems to be her prior relationship with Jay Z and how it ended. She says, “Sorry, I ain’t sorry” and “I ain’t thinking ‘bout you.” It is evident that these feelings shown through these lyrics show themes of confidence, independence, and revival.
Visuals - The setting of a music video tells a lot about the importance of the meaning of the song. Throughout Beyonce’s album Lemonade she uses a lot of colors to portray symbols, although in "Sorry," the entire video is black and white. The video alternates between a scene of a group of woman in a line on a crowded school bus. The woman each have their own unique face paint which shows a connection to African culture. This African culture alludes to the Yoruba tradition which has been spreading throughout the world. This is a cultural tradition that connects women from all over the world to see the elegance of these African ideas. Beyonce begins the song by saying "so now that you've killed me," implying that she and the women accompanying her are dead - the school bus, then, represents a journey, in the Yoroba tradition, that these women are taking to the underworld. The other scene shows Beyonce in a queen-like chair in an elegant outfit dancing with confidence. Serena Williams dances next to her in these scenes, supporting her message. Here, she alludes to how in the scene she wants to show Jay-Z that she can live which happily without him. The other woman in the scene are wearing less elegant outfits, which give Beyonce power.
Painter Laolu Senbanjo performs the "scared art of the Ori" on the dancers while preparing for Beyonce’s Sorrymusic video.
"6 inch" tells the story of women who work hard for their success. The song starts with Beyonce surrounded by fire, her dress resembling Shango. Shango is the Yoroba God of fire. Fire is used throughout the video as is the color red. It may be that the red lighting is a symbol for the red light district. “She grinds day and night/ She grinds from Monday to Friday, Works from Friday to Sunday”, these lyrics could be explaining a woman's work schedule which could mean she is involved in prostitution. Ultimately this song talks about women and their work.
The title "Loss" flashes only very briefly one the screen, mid-song. "6 Inch" is the only song on the entire album to span two different chapters. While much of the video shows Beyonce riding through red-lit streets in the back of her car, the end of the song brings the destruction alluded to by the title. A hallway, shown in darkness at the beginning of Emptiness, bursts into flames. As the fire crawls up the walls, illuminating a door with a small pink rectangle in the center, Beyonce is shown walking calmly away from the flames and towards the camera. The earlier invocation of the god Shengo implies that this fire poses no threat to her, and that she may even have initiated this destruction as an act of passion.
Above: Beyonce performs "Daddy Lessons" at the 2016 CMA Awards with the Dixie Chicks.
"Daddy Lessons" is a song where Beyoncé tells the people of the world about her father, and about his lesson that if “a man like me comes around, shoot.” Even though he is a cheating man, he does not want his daughter to experience the same thing that her mother did. The song and music video is taking place in Texas, representing her childhood with her family. In the spoken word poetry that accompanies the song, she talks about how the women are slaves to the back of their husbands head, that they get on their knees every day. She goes on to ask if she is talking about your husband or father.
Accountability plays a part in this because her father was her responsibility and now having a child and two on the way she is now responsible for not only herself but a child. Her father is represented in the chair with a cowboy hat next to a table and lamp signifying a family room. The funeral of all the people dancing around and on top of the casket is signifying the end of the marriage of her parents and how it is a celebration because of the way her father treated her mother.
Daddy Lessons includes many home videos from Beyonce's childhood, showing her and her dad having fun together.
Many of Bey’s visual aspect of her visual album are inspired by Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. The story of Igbo Landing is central to Daughters of the Dust and how the story of Igbo Landing- an act of mass resistance against slavery-also shows up in a really pronounced manner in the “Love Drought” video. The story of the Igbo Landing was that many slaves took over the ship they were on. They grounded it on an island, and rather than submit to slavery, proceeded to march into the water while singing in Igbo, drowning themselves in turn. They all chose death over slavery. It was an act of mass resistance against the horrors of slavery and became a legend, particularly among the Gullah people living near the site of Igbo Landing. The beginning of love drought, the poetry, is spoken when she is lying on a football stadium (the New Orleans Superdome) wearing all white and crying. Most of the poetry can be interpreted in many different ways but we assume she is talking about Jay-Z and the idea that they are beginning to build their relationship back up. The overall lyrics of the song focus on how Jay-Z has lied to Beyonce but she is trying to forgive him and trying to figure out ways to help their relationship. The music is soft but also electronic. There is also a lot of irony in the visual aspect of the album because most of the video is shot in water or near water. The idea of her also in the football stadium is ironic because this was the stadium a lot of people went to for shelter during hurricane Katrina.
This song was originally written by Houston rapper Ingrid Burley while Beyonce and Mike Dean helped Co-Write it. Recently Ingrid sat down with Genius, a lyric website site and told the actual meaning behind the song and said it was a “metaphor about music.” Ingrid wrote this song as a diss at Beyonce’s own label, Parkwood Entertainment. She explains some people at the label had told her that Beyonce was not looking at any new music. Shortly after Ingrid was going to a music writing camp for Beyonce and started listening to music with producer Mike Dean and Ingrid was told that Beyonce had made some notes on some of the music. But Ingrid was told Beyonce was not looking at any new music. So overall she was lied to and that is how this song was made. Song-writer Ingrid Burley shares the "real meaning" of "Love Drought" with Billboard.
Sandcastles is one of only a few ballads in the entire visual album. Being only one of the few ballads signifies the personal aspect of the song. The song is mostly about the idea that even though Jay-Z was unfaithful and Beyonce was going to leave, she explains that things don’t always work out the way they planned and promises are broken. She is willing to fight for their love only if Jay-Z is willing to be more open with her than he has ever been. This video is the only one that actually features Jay-Z making it very personal. In the poetry part of the song she talks about giving birth and talks a lot about women and I believe that this is important because she is talking about how maybe many women built “sandcastles”/”Promises” or tried to gain more rights for women and more respect but that got “washed away”/ “broken.” A clear example is shown in the video of a woman activist in the Civil Rights Movement, Nina Simone. While the poetry is being spoken there is a quick glimpse of a Nina Simone’s album cover.
"Forward" is somewhat of an interlude after Sandcastles. It is only a minute long but it shows that despite the struggles, their marriage is moving along. There are appearances in this video by the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, actress Quvenzhane Wallis, model Winnie Harlow, and activist Leah Chase. Showing these well-known women, all holding photos of men they love or loved, deepens the symbolism of the song. Not only is Beyonce personally moving forward through her grief, but so can all women, particularly black women. In this video, she sends the message that it is possible to move forward, even through the worst of tragedies.
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown.
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.
"Freedom" is an anthem to black women and people. The poetry before the song begins speaks about birth and motherhood. “I see your daughters, and their daughters”. When she says this, it is understood that this is one of the underlying meanings of this visual album. In the visual aspect of this song, we see a vagina-shaped hole in the wall representing birth. When the song begins, Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mom) and Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown’s mom) are both shown again in this portion of the visual album.
Beyonce performed Freedom at the BET awards the summer of 2016. The song was portrayed differently than when it was performed on her visual album. At the awards, it was more of an anthem to all African Americans. The performance at the BET awards incorporated fire and water completely. Beyonce alluded to African mythology using fire and water throughout her visual album, though none of that appeared in her video. It was very prominent in the BET awards which represented something more than just the power that was produced in result of the fire and water.
"All Night", the last song featured in Lemonade’s visual album, “emphasizes the light at the end of the tunnel” as it is the last song. "All Night" represents redemption because it shows Beyonce being saved from all of her previous experiences that she shows in her other songs. Beyonce portrays her feelings in the spoken word poetry in the beginning of the song. She talks about how her grandmother shaped her mother into who she was and how her mother shaped her into who she is. Beyonce mentions a family line of women which is extremely important to most songs in the album. Beyonce also mentions love in the spoken word poetry which is then reflected back onto the lyrics in the song All Night. Beyonce is the only singer featured in All Night, but there are other people speaking in the background at times. The song has some reggae to it and unique instrumentals. From the video, it looked like the song was produced somewhere southern due to the crops in the background. I would assume it was Louisiana because Beyonce mentions Louisiana in many of her other songs. There are a few celebrities featured in "All Night." These celebrities are Zendaya, Blue Ivy, Serena Williams, and Jay-Z. Beyonce’s relationship with her family was alluded to throughout the music video.
"Formation" shows a variety of scenes from the streets of New Orleans. The video opens with Beyonce herself on top of a partially submerged police car which, by the end of the video, is completely underwater. Many pieces of footage directly reference the Black Lives Matter movement, including a scene of a little boy dancing in front of a line of armed police. She also includes a panning shot of graffiti that reads, "Stop shooting us."
In the Super Bowl L performance, Beyonce and her dancers wore berets and black leather jackets, the traditional uniform of the Black Panther Party.