Explain to me: Why are people talking about Beyoncé's album Lemonade?


Beyoncé’s Lemonade is more than just an album, it’s a visual masterpiece and a powerful political statement on feminism and race.

Its narrative is at once intensely personal and universal. Beyoncé is the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen her but at the same time manages to be stronger than ever before.

It’s complex, undeniably brilliant and at just over an hour long, will likely leave your head spinning with unanswered questions. What does it all mean? 

Well, let’s start by answering the most obvious question first.

Why is is called Lemonade?

We all know the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, and in essence that’s the theme of the album.

It is about taking hardship, owning it and turning it into something better.

There is a spoken word segment where Bey weaves the metaphor into an anecdote about her grandmother, Agnéz Deréon:

“Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon. Pour the water into one, then to another several times. Strain through a clean napkin. Grandmother. The alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You past these instructions down to your daughter, who then passed them down to her daughter.”

Beyonce's grandmother. Source: Instagram

She also includes a clip of Hattie White, Jay-Z's grandmother, at her 90th birthday: "I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up," she said. "I was served lemons, but I made lemonade."

Wait, but isn't it about Jay-Z cheating?

On it's surface Lemonade is an album about a woman scorned by her partner.

It begins with a reference to "whispers" of infidelity, but by the second song, the question is asked outright, "Are you cheating on me?"


From title track Intuition to Redemption it's a well-trodden journey through a relationship in strife.

"I tried to change. Closed my mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less awake," she says on Denial.

"Who the f*ck do you think I am? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy, You can watch my fat ass twist, boy, as I bounce to the next d*ck boy," she declares on Anger.

Don't f*ck with Queen Bey. Source: Tidal/Beyonce.


It's fairly safe to assume that album is based, at least in part, on her own relationship with husband Jay-Z (and maybe someone called "Becky").

Rumours of Jay-Z cheating have dogged the couple since he was first accused of hooking up with Rihanna in 2005, and his now-infamous elevator argument with Beyoncé's sister Solange in 2014 only added fuel to the fire -- not to mention hints dropped in several of her previous songs.

Lemonade leaves little doubt that something has gone down.

Who is "Becky with the good hair"?

One woman Jay-Z has been linked with in the past is fashion designer Rachel Roy.

Just hours after Lemonade premièred on HBO on Saturday night, she posted a photo on her Instagram account captioned, "Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always… Live in the light #nodramaqueens."

Beyoncé fans were quick to hone in on this apparent admission of guilt and began shredding her on social media, rightly or not.

"Becky" is also a generic term used for white women.

But, why is Lemonade a powerful political statement?

Many people will relate to the narrative of overcoming infidelity, of moving on; but this album is about far more than cheating.

While Beyoncé is clearly a woman hurt by her husband's indiscretions, she is also a black woman hurt by a lifetime of systemic marginalisation.

At one point in the video Malcolm X's voice breaks through: "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman."


Lemonade is a powerful statement on race in America. Source: Tidal/Beyoncé

Beyoncé's recent appearance at the Superbowl, not to mention the already-released film clip for Formation, both powerfully invoke imagery from the Black power movement.

Lemonade is packed full of allusions to both the historic and current struggles of black Americans.


It features cameos from the mothers of sons killed as the result of race-fuelled police brutality, it is an unequivocal statement about race in America.

Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton. Source: Tidal/Beyoncé

It is also a powerful statement on feminism.

Lyrics like, " I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized ... you and your perfect girl," could reflect sentiments of many women struggling to feel as though they are enough.


Who else is in it?

As one commentator points out, Lemonade is film "made by a black woman, starring black women, and for black women."

Serena Williams,  model Winnie Harlow, singers Zendaya and Chloe and Halle Bailey and  activist Amandla Stenberg all make appearances.


Serena Williams makes a cameo. Source: Tidal/Lemonade

It features some of the most powerful black women in America.

Why did it premiere on Tidal?

Reactions to news of the new Beyoncé release tended to fall along similar lines, the initial excitement was quickly stymied by the inevitable, wait a minute, what the hell is Tidal?

Tidal is Jay-Z's music streaming app. I know what you're thinking, won't Jay-Z be the one raking it in for an album that's ostensibly about what a crap dude he is?

Well, yes, but also, not exactly. Tidal differs from other streaming apps in that a larger percentage of profits go directly to the artist than for example, something like Spotify.

Beyoncé also owns shares in Tidal, which yesterday became the most downloaded app in the world.

Regardless, you can now get the whole thing on iTunes.

How is Jay-Z taking it?

We don't know how Jay-Z is taking having his dirty laundry aired so publicly, but given he appears in the video, we have a feeling he had more than a little forewarning.

It's fun to speculate though.

I don't want to sound cynical, but is there any chance this is all an elaborate ploy to make money?

There is no denying Beyoncé is an incredible business woman who will profit enormously from this project -- as will Jay-Z, most likely.

We'll never know how much is real and how much is fantasy, but that does not detract from the fact it is an incredibly powerful piece of art.