If you’re a Beyoncé fan, it’s easy to have sipped her latest musical effort Lemonade and enjoyed the sweetness and bitterness of it. The music, haunting and honest, those video images, vibrant, colorful and striking. Most listeners may have initially focused on the seemingly autobiographical lyrics that hint at marital disharmony, but there is much more there to absorb. Especially for bibliophiles and writers.
Starting with the album cover, the braided bowed head of the Formation singer is positioned so we don’t see her famous face. Her crown, earrings, fur coat and the title Lemonade are the only things that are visible. This could have easily been a book cover. We marvel about its minimalism and wonder what’s inside just like we would with an anticipated novel from our favorite author. We know Beyoncé has an interesting story to share and she tells this zesty tale in a similar fashion as she did with her last eponymous project. Visually. The only thing that’s different this time is that the videos aren’t singular, they are joined together to make a movie. We can say it’s bound together like a book, each song a chapter in the story she is unveiling for us.
We usually read our books with necks craned, curled up or reclined and alone. With Lemonade, we all watched together, as it was televised as a special on HBO. We don’t normally live tweet book reactions, but as with any Beyoncé project, we interacted in the moment about the experience. As the visual album unfolded, the initial visuals were arresting and then we hear Destiny’s Child doing spoken word. Something new that we hadn’t heard from her before. The words are from luscious poet, Warsan Shire, who in 2014 was appointed the first Young Poet Laureate of London.
So not only were we getting new music, our Houston songbird was sprinkling pop culture, social commentary and literary jewels in with the sounds and sights. Featured were snippets of a Malcolm X speech, visual odes to Hurricane Katrina, black mothers who in the past few years who have lost their children in the name of “policing;” Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown to name a few, visual celebration of the south and women of color and much more. Historical references to books, art and film, like Daughters of the Dust and The Bible make this project more than just a regular body of music. It makes me thirsty for more. I want to read the books of the poets it features, feast on the art it celebrates and learn more about the other artists that Beyoncé collaborated with.
I am not alone. Writer and educator, Candice Benbow used the outpouring of wonder and respect other women had for Lemonade who shared their thoughts on Twitter to create a comprehensive and gorgeous syllabus for the work that suggests books, songs and poetry that people can read after listening to Lemonade. It is filled with 200 resources that highlight issues and topics that are important to women of color.
I don’t know about you, but I will be feasting on this sweet Lemonade this summer and beyond.
Are you a fan of Beyoncé’s Lemonade? What was your biggest takeaway from the album?