Album review: Beyoncé - Lemonade

Album review: Beyoncé - Lemonade | Random J Pop

Beyoncé's sixth studio album came with somewhat more warning that her fifth. But none the less, it still surprised. But the real surprise was the story that fleshed out across each of its tracks. Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé. And it doesn't take long for this to be uncovered. The album opens with Beyoncé declaring that she knows Shawn is out in those streets cheating with Becky with the good hair. And by the fourth track is clear that Beyoncé is officially Jay-Z's 100th problem.

But amidst all of the drama, the tea and the revelations from what we thought was a perfect marriage, Lemonade is one of Beyoncé's most visceral albums. It marks the first time since we saw her whipping her weave on a stoop talking 'bout 'No, no, no' that we actually see and hear Beyoncé Giselle Knowles. No Sasha Fierce. No alter ego. No picture of whatever pop star her father wanted her to be. Just Beyoncé.

Lemonade feels completely different to the self-titled album which came before, but still feels wholly connected to it. Both albums represent an awakening and also a catharsis. Beyoncé is about the liberation of womanhood in a world that tries to box it. Lemonade is about the liberation of not having to uphold an image of perfection. Two things that Beyoncé went at great lengths to protect our image of. Across both of these albums we get Beyoncé talking about getting wiped down in the back of a car, how her pussy tastes like skittles and telling her man that he done fucked up and that he's trash. We've gotten songs that have pointed in the direction of both of these accounts before, but never with this level of frankness. Beyoncé embraced earnestness with her self-titled album, but she pushes it even further here. Quite a feat given the number of writers involved and that not all of the material was specifically written with her in mind.

Musically Lemonade feels like a melting pot of all that Beyoncé has done over the course of her career, somewhat refined. The themes of love from Dangerously in love. The brashness and directness of B'Day. The sensibilities of I am...Sasha Fierce. The rawness of 4. The energy of Beyoncé. It's all packed into this album (glass?) of Lemonade.

An issue I'd always had with Beyoncé's albums was that they never felt refined to me. On one hand Beyoncé knew her sound and what worked for her, but always struggled to really hone in on that. The closest she came to that was B'Day, which oddly enough, Lemonade shares a lot in common with. Specifically its themes of under-appreciation and infidelity. I am... Sasha Fierce felt like a cop out, because Beyoncé couldn't decide on a sound and thereby split it across 2 discs. 4 was more of the same, but packed onto one album. Only with her self-titled album did she manage to find that balance and she strikes it again with Lemonade.

Album review: Beyoncé - Lemonade | Random J Pop

Spectrumyoncé shows her many colours on this album. There are no 2 songs which sound alike and each one has her tap into a part of herself which feels new, but still familiar and true to who she is and her brand.

Reggaeyoncé comes through on the Diplo produced "Hold up". Despite being the second track on the album, this is the true album opener. "Hold up" see's Reggaeyoncé go full on Glenn Close / Fatal attraction on a dude. It's a great take on a tale of infidelity, with the dark subject of the song contrasting the sunny disposition of the music. It's no wonder this became an insta fave amongst fans and casual listeners alike. And that's not even factoring in the video. Reggaeyoncé returns to close out the album with "All night", which is also produced by Diplo. The song is a declaration of unity in love, with things having come full circle since a chick was smashing her boo's car windows out with a baseball bat.

Jack White makes a guest appearance on "Don't hurt yourself", where Rockyoncé comes through, channelling the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Prince. She croons throughout the song with her voice filtered to the point that it sounds like her vocals are playing through a cassette tape which is being recorded under water and then played through a dictaphone. Rockyoncé drops F-bombs, tells her man he can watch her fat ass leave, and lets us know she gon' hop onto another man's dick because Jay-Z couldn't keep his in his pants. The song is just a glorious moment in general which is sweetened by its music video where Done-with-yo'-shit-yoncé throws her wedding ring at the camera as she speaks the line 'Try that shit again and you gon' lose your wife'.

"Sorry", "6 inch" and "Formation" are the Hoodyoncé bops. "Sorry" is a complete kiss off anthem that will get those elbows thrown and the middle fingers up, just as Beyoncé demands on the song. "6 inch" is a song about a girl who turns in tricks to fund her life in a bid to better herself for herself, 'cos *Air clutches* she don't need no man - featuring a verse from The Weeknd which feels completely unnecessary, but on-brand for him as it sounds like a Weeknd song. "6 inch" legit sounds like a song that you would hear in a strip club. It's almost as though Beyoncé said: 'Lets give these girls a new joint to strip too. "Partition" is mad old now'. It's not much of a stand out song and Beyoncé somehow manages to get lost in it, which is something that never usually happens to her. But the production on this song is fire; there's so much to it. As for "Formation", we all know this song. However, what is surprising to me is how this song still holds and sounds fresh to me. There are so many textures and layers to the production, that every time I listen to it I hear something new. It does however feel out of place on this album. It's tacked onto the end after "All night", when "All night" sounds like, and is for all intents and purposes, the true album closer. Beyoncé would have been better off pulling a "Grown woman" and leaving "Formation" off of the album completley. The song was released for free, and chances are that members of the Beyhive have it song already, so they would not have felt hard done by at the lack of inclusion on the album. It doesn't slot into the story of Lemonade, although visually it provides the overarching narrative for Lemonade as a whole.

Yeehawyoncé rides through with her horses in the back on the full blown country bop "Daddy lessons", written by the songwriting dark horse that is Diana 'Wynter' Gordon. You may not know who Diana Gordon is, but you've definitely heard songs that she's written. Dua Lipa's "Electricity"? Yep. She wrote it. "Daddy lessons" punctuates the album in the best possible way, because it's the one moment where Beyoncé truly offers something that she's never offered before. With her being from Texas and her mother and father being from Louisiana and Alabama respectively, this song feels very fitting. It's an album standout for sure.

Slowyoncé glides through with the album opener "Pray you catch me" and the albums slow jam "Love drought". "Pray you catch me" is written by James Blake and you can hear it immediately. It sounds like a track lifted straight from Overgrown. "Love drought" feels like a perfect distillation of Beyoncé. It's smooth, it's R&B, it's sensual, it's ethereal. It's a beautiful song and is firmly in my list of favourite Beyoncé songs. "Sandcastles" is the albums slowest point, which see's Balladyoncé croon with her voice cracking over a piano. Adele could work this type of song, but Beyoncé just isn't able to. Not because she doesn't have the voice, but because she doesn't have that innate pain and feeling in her voice that somebody like Adele has. "Sandcastles" sounds like Beyoncé is putting on emotion, where-as with Adele it feels far more natural and innate. It's the worst song on the album for me. I always skip it. The rawness in Beyoncé's voice just doesn't feel genuine to me. This would have been a much better song if Beyoncé didn't growl through it.

Issues that I've always had with Beyoncé's albums has been the sequencing. Dangerously in love felt too sprawling. B'Day? What sequencing!? I am... Sasha Fierce was unnecessarily made 2 discs. 4. Okay then. Beyoncé was a step in the right direction. But Lemonade is the first album of Beyoncé's where the sequencing feels right. Every song flows. The only misstep was to end the whole thing with "Formation" instead of "All night". The sequencing makes this album very easy to just play all the way through .

Album review: Beyoncé - Lemonade | Random J Pop

Beyoncé can fucking sing. We all know this. And her voice has really evolved over the years from the days of Destiny's Child, right up until her album 4, where she began to tap into other facets of it. Beyoncé's vocal dexterity lends itself well to a range of musical styles and Lemonade showcases that in a way none of her other albums really have. What works with Beyoncé's vocals here is that for the most part she isn't really doing much. Whilst B'Day had her screaming through every song, and 4 had her growling for two thirds of the album, Lemonade sees Beyoncé take a much more laid back approach to singing, almost narrating each song. Beyoncé can belt, gives us operatic moments, runs for days and stack her vocals like bills in a bank. But we don't need to hear that all of the time, and thankfully on Lemonade, she gets that. A bitch probably can't be bothered to give us those types of extra vocals all of the time anyway, and that's fine. Beyoncé's has a nice voice no matter how she sings. Well...except on "Sandcastles". Beyoncé really has nothing to prove in regards to her signing ability, which is probably why she doesn't feel any way about not giving it to us on every track here.

There has always been a wall up with Beyoncé, ever since Destiny's Child. It's wild that it took 16 years for her to open up, but it's the best thing that she could have done creatively and artistically. Beyoncé has always been so hell-bent on showing perfection, but perfection isn't life and perfection is not relate-able. By breaking down those walls and showing us that she has insecurities, that she gets mad at her husband, gets jealous of other women, and that she's not exempt from being cheated on, Beyoncé became wholly relate-able in a way that she wasn't before. The same even goes for how she approaches the songs vocally. There are few moments on this album where Beyoncé sings in a way that's hard to mimic or forces your low-ass voice to go at it in a different key. Beyoncé finally seems to have reached a place musically where she wants to bring people along for a ride instead of keeping them at a distance.

Beyoncé has always championed assertiveness and power in women and Lemonade is no different. Not only does it offer an experience which feels tangible, but it shows that Beyoncé is still a human. She hurts and gets upset like the rest of us. But for all of the soul bearing, Beyoncé still manages to give us good songs, which feature all manner of quotes and moments that have already become memes, popular Instagram captions and pop references. Lemonade is some real good shit. It's not perfect. But that's kinda what makes it. It's not supposed to be, because life itself isn't.

RATING: 7 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Pray you catch me
■ Don't hurt yourself
■ Sorry
■ Daddy lessons
■ Love drought ★ J's fave
■ All night