On Saturday evening Beyonce dropped Lemonade, and it seems the world hasn’t been able to stop talking about it since.
Following on from her Super Bowl performance of Formation, the surprise visual album (she did that again) features powerful political messages, art meets music mash-ups, poignant references to her supposed marital problems and a whole lot more.
That there’s a lot going on in Beyonce’s latest creation is no overstatement, so we’ve endeavoured to round up all the major points of Lemonade conversation here in an all-in-one. Call it your one-read guide to the pop culture explosion that Lemonade has already become.
1. What exactly is Lemonade?
When HBO announced that it would be screening an exclusive viewing of Beyonce’s Lemonade on Saturday night, fans were left guessing as to what to expect. Most were hoping for a hour-long programme in the style of her 2013 Life Is But A Dream docu-movie.
What the singer actually delivered was her second surprise visual album (sixth music album in total), with tracks and accompanying videos screened back-to-back on TV, complete with voice-overs from Beyonce herself reading poetry and delivering cryptic one-liners.
The album is broken down into what we can probably call chapters, including the titles Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope and Redemption. That’s right, they’re the commonly recognised stages of grief.
Tidal, the music streaming service part-owned by Beyonce and husband Jay-Z, which is currently the only place you download the album, describes Lemonade as being about ‘every woman’s journey of self knowledge and healing’.
Along with political messages that follow on from Formation’s nod to the Black Lives Matter movement, the overriding theme of Lemonade appears to be relationships.
2. Relationship issues
Along with track titles including Sorry, Love Drought and Forward, as well as Beyonce opening with the question ‘Are you cheating on me?’ and swinging a baseball bat to the words “I’ma f*ck me up a bitch”, the whole album tells the story of a woman learning that her husband has had an affair, and then dealing with the aftermath.
Whoever or whatever inspired the storyline, the conclusion is that the couple have worked things out to move on with their lives, and in the words of Beyonce: “If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious.”
3. Black Lives Matter
Beyonce’s Formation video, which is a part of the new visual album, makes reference to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Lemonade carries that throughout several other tracks and videos too, most poignantly in Freedom which sees the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and other black men who have been shot and killed by US authorities, holding up portraits of their late sons.
The album includes a raft of moving quotes from political figures, but arguably one of the most powerful references comes in Anger, where lines from Malcolm X’s 1962 speech are used to highlight the complicated relationship between race, feminism and politics:
“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 America is the black woman."
4. The celebrity cameos
That Serena Williams nailed her Lemonade cameo, even dancing and keeping pace with Beyonce (no easy task, we imagine), is undisputed. Celebrity appearances also came from singer Zendaya, model and self-proclaimed vitiligo spokesperson Winnie Harlow, upcoming actress Quvenzhané Wallis, and of course, Beyonce’s husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy.
5. How to get Lemonade
So how can you listen to/watch Beyonce’s Lemonade? While HBO had the world premiere, the album is now exclusively on Tidal, where you can stream or buy it as a download. Of course, you’ll have to subscribe to Tidal before you can do that, wherein lies Beyonce’s marketing prowess.
There’s been no word on whether the album will become available on other services such as Spotify and iTunes as yet, but it is likely. Kanye West’s recent album The Life of Pablo, which he declared would only ever be available via Tidal, flooded most alternative streaming services just over a month later, while Rihanna has done the same with her latest release.