Have you ever emerged from a relationship and thought, I wish it was socially acceptable to publicly express my emotions in a tangible way or if only I were suddenly world-famous and then wouldn’t they be sorry? Well, thank you, Beyoncé©. You did it. You were already famous, but you did it for all of us. What is a revenge album? Just imagine if a beautiful breakup ballad and a revenge body had a baby. Only Beyoncé© could assemble an envy-inspiring, socially conscious visual album about relationship turmoil that also ends with a happily ever after. Only this woman could weave so many topics and influences into one (now critically acclaimed) effort, so seamlessly that it will inspire as many essays as it will dance floor reunions. We can barely scratch the surface. We’ll never know what actually happened on that elevator, but for now we have the story that Beyoncé© wants us to know. If living well is the best revenge, Beyoncé© has made Lemonade to be the greatest revenge album of all time, in the most Beyoncé© way of all time.
An unhidden metaphor. In Freedom as soon as we heard the line, I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade, we knew. This album is the lemonade from the lemons that were Beyoncé©’s internal struggles and, perhaps, marital troubles with Jay Z. You can practically hear her squeezing.
In Lemonade, Beyoncé© takes up SPACE. She is country. She is R&B. She is on an island. She is in Texas. She is rocking out with Jack White. She’s walking into the club with The Weeknd. She is everywhere. That assertiveness is evident all over the album.
Timing is everything
Beyoncé© doesn’t publicly emote in real time, nor does she need to. In order for Beyoncé© to tell this story, she waited for it to all play out before deconstructing the experiences and repurposing them as art. And yet, her image is untainted. As an audience, we see Beyoncé© at her most vulnerable and just as quickly, we see her emerging from the ashes with her trophy (husband).
Gotta include the stingers. These lines are already anthems for many a scorned woman and man. These will end up emblazoned on t-shirts, iPhone cases, and merch items of the like. She snarls, I’m just too much for you and You gon’ lose your wife on Don’t Hurt Yourself where even the title screams whose problem this will be if Beyoncé©’s lover doesn’t smarten up soon. Freedom says, I break chains all on my own and a winner don’t quit on themselves which are dream team one-liners to say to yourself in the mirror, with victory or a tear-stained face. Of course, better call Becky with the good hair is both as dismissive and self-aware as it gets.
The double entendre and genius that is “Formation” as the first single
Disclaimer: It can’t be overstated that despite this article’s title, Lemonade is much more than just a revenge or breakup album. It is a body of work with empowering messages, stellar visuals and sounds that take on you on a trip of what Beyoncé© thinks 2016 should sound like, in nearly every music genre. It also just so happens to fit marvellously well with heartache at its fiercest. Case and point: if Lemonade was intended to solely discuss adultery and romantic love, Formation would not have been the first single. Looking back, the selection brings Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly to mind. That was also a nuanced album which touched on multiple societal issues, and yet the first single was the easily accessible, self-love anthem i. The Lemonade album strategy is more impressive because Beyoncé© didn’t take an obvious route and stood alone with Formation, arguably the most politically charged song on the album. Yet even with the complexity, Beyoncé© still manages to carry off straight up, Single Ladies-levels of motivation. It doesn’t matter if you were compelled to listen to the album or read this article because of Formation or because you wanted to hate your life less by reading another Rachel Roy and Rita Ora smear. You are here. Joke’s on you. The fact that this album appeals equally to both audiences is a double win.
Living well as revenge can only be shown, not told. In Lemonade, though we see Beyoncé© as forthcoming as we’ve ever seen her, we also see her winning. We hear the triumphant horns on All Night, a playful wink back to the beachy romance we saw as Beyoncé© bellowed WE BE ALL NIGHT all over her Drunk In Love music video. The final line of the entire album is, the best revenge is your paper so even when she is mowing down car windows with a baseball bat, she is winning because we are watching. This is an album that does a lot of different things for a lot of different people. But make no mistake that the chronological order of the album leads the audience to see who Beyoncé© is today: the same champion Queen B that we try to know and always love. The lemons are gone, but they will not be forgotten.