Originally published on Heart of Trends at: heartoftrends.com/2016/04/27/beyonces-lemonade-proves-celebrity-cultures-made-it-difficult-to-appreciate-music/
If you have been cocooned in your bed for the last few days (in which case, I’m very jealous), you may have missed Beyoncé surprise-dropping her album ‘Lemonade’ in true Beyoncé style. It’s safe to say the world freaked out. Rightly so, as Beyoncé isn’t playing it safe, with references to police brutality, rioting and Malcolm X. It’s also a deeply personal album, with the theme of martial infidelity running throughout the record. However, instead of the music taking centre stage, the lyrics have simply been used to feed tabloid gossip stories.
The reference to ‘He better call Becky with the good hair’ on the song ‘Sorry’ has led to both the media and Beyhive fans scouring out. Targeting, the mystery woman it sounds like Beyoncé was cheated on with. As fashion designer, Rachel Roy posted a photo of herself on Instagram, writing the caption ‘Good hair don’t care’, fans leapt to the assumption that she was the ‘other woman’. Talk about clutching at straws.
Though due to previous rumours of Rachel having an affair with Jay-Z, she has now become the number one target. She’s been harassed on Instagram and even had her Wikipedia changed to being addressed as ‘homewrecker’. Some have even wondered whether this is the real reason she withdrew from an event scheduled for last Monday. I’ve read several articles criticising this slut-shaming and asking why Rachel is being blamed over Jay-Z – and rightly so. It highlights our tendency to always blame the woman. But the real issue? We shouldn’t be talking about it at all.
I just managed to write a whole paragraph about the aftereffect of one Beyoncé lyric. One. Yet whilst newspapers were rejoicing at having click-bait worthy articles all about Beyoncé’s marriage, the album itself has taken a backseat. Celebrity culture and our interest in gossip stories has taken the forefront. Therefore it’s a million times easier to currently find an article analysing what ‘Lemonade’ means for Beyoncé marriage, rather than what it means politically. There are other things in ‘Lemonade’ way more important than trying to find out who ‘Becky’ is. Beyoncé discusses the strength in black womanhood, with the message of ‘Black Lives Matter’ being present throughout the entire record.
As well as being a political album, it is also a deeply personal one. This doesn’t mean it gives us simply the opportunity to dissect Beyoncé marriage, analysing how Beyoncé must feel. Music is about how it makes the listenerfeel. What we’ve been through, what we’ve witnessed, and everything in between will affect how we interpret the songs, and also how we connect to this album. If we simply focus on what it means for Beyoncé and Jay-Z, we miss out on the true beauty of music, which is about how unique it is for everyone.
This is why it’s so limiting to discuss ‘Lemonade’ simply in the context of celebrity culture. It’s structurally innovative, with the addition of the ‘Lemonade’ film making it a visual album. This is then divided into ‘Chapters’ focusing on different emotions, creating a structural arc to the whole record. In a world of EPs and singles, even just releasing an album is incredibly successful. But one with a running theme, alongside powerful imagery, and even the use of spoken one poetry? Beyoncé (and Beyhive team) deserve a standing ovation. This is Beyoncé at her best.
An album that discusses both strength and vulnerability in equal measure deserves every applause, and not just to be seen as a look into Beyoncé personal life. The clips of Jay-Z in the ‘Lemonade’ film just help make it more raw and personal from Beyoncé’s side, rather than acting as an open invitation for some investigative work. ‘Who is Becky?’ is not the most important question about this album, in fact, it’s probably the only unimportant question. What it says about the significance of black female voices, or dealing with personal struggles, or how it even focuses on empowerment, are all vital messages from this album. However, what it says to you as an individual, rather than in a gossip column, now that’s what’s most important.