My good pals Fran Perbohner and Sophia Fraser told me that I had to watch the visual album, Lemonade by Beyoncé. Sophia is a big time Beyoncé fangirl and they told me to watch it weeks ago. However I never got round to it. I liked and respected Beyoncé a lot (who doesn’t?) but I wasn’t a hardcore fan.
However, yesterday Fran insisted that I watch it and so I did and I told her I would write a blog post expressing my feelings about the album, whether I liked it or not. So here we are. My feelings about Lemonade!
I think I didn’t want to watch it because I had heard that it was about Jay Z cheating on Beyoncé. With them having a little child and it being Beyoncé (the thought that any man could cheat on her is depressing to me), I found that to be off-putting. Which is naughty of me really because I should know, well, I do know that a lot of art, if not all art on a fundamental level, comes from the artist’s experience, their life. But I think in this case it was somehow just too close to home because I already know the characters involved.
You could say Adele does the exact same thing, she writes songs about her own personal heartbreak. And that is raw and wonderful and relatable. However I’m not actually familiar with the guy that dumped Adele, prompting her to write 21. I didn’t really know anything about Adele before that so there were quite a few degrees of separation that made the work safer. Much safer than watching work about a family I already know, admire and support in my own way.
So yeah. I also think it doesn’t help that the initial introduction to Lemonade was in that very tabloid ‘Jay Z cheated’ way – this is how I first heard of it online. Because now I’ve seen the work I would say that the cheating is just one part of it, a catalyst to a much more epic communication that spans history, culture and music.
And that’s the thing that startled me the most when I watched and listened to this album. That from one woman’s personal experience could come an exploration of the entirety of womanhood, the entirety of race, the entirety of a nation. And more!
I have a newfound reverence (not even respect, reverence!) for Beyoncé after this, for a lot of different reasons. She risked something. Possibly almost everything. Her career, her family, a lot of stuff. And she did it anyway. I feel like she knew it would work and I feel like many people thought that it wouldn’t.
But she forged on anyway. She could have gone down in flames, and the unbelievable pressure that it must have put on her family… How do you have that conversation? Husband, I know you cheated on me but I want to make a huge visual album about it. And please can you be in it with me? It’ll be brill, promise!
That’s the thing isn’t it? What I learnt from this album artistically is that it isn’t about the idea. It is about the execution. This is a breath-taking example of someone coming up with an idea and then battling the living daylights out of it. We can all come up with ideas right? …I’m going to make a film about a racing car driver who lives large and dies on the track… I’m going to make a music video featuring girls dressed as tortoises… God, ideas are ten a penny, good, bad, ugly, whatever. But the execution is the thing. Given the time and expertise and passion both those ideas could turn out to be amazing. They could also turn out to be abysmal.
And that’s what Beyoncé embodies. From the original idea of – I’m going to make an album about this pain I feel about my husband cheating, it has grown and grown and grown and grown some more! I knew we weren’t only going to be finding out about Beyoncé’s troubles when imagery of some kind of colonial plantation house came up and we get these unbelievably beautiful images of black women… And that’s just the start. It becomes about more ideas, more music, more references than I can possibly keep up with.
On a personal level it spoke to me in a way that genuinely made me change, like actually change, the way I think of my own life. I wasn’t excited to watch it because it wasn’t a palatable subject matter to me. And I think this is what happens in life. And I think it explains some things that have happened in my own life.
When I went through a difficult time when I had my first son I found that it was hard to have the same ‘appeal’ to other people that I normally had. I felt like there were parts of my life that were no longer interesting to others, in fact they were down right ‘off-putting’ – just as I had described my idea of what this album would be like right?
I wasn’t as easy to be around, as enjoyable to talk to, and I found my circumstances difficult to admit to. I saw that it visibly confused some people to see me not the same as I usually was. This is not a damnation of others, it’s what happens, I’ve done the same myself… But watching that album made me realise that it is ok to have times in your life where things go wrong, where the screen goes blank and the unthinkable happens.
It’s ok because life is this adventure and if I avoid life then maybe, yes I won’t have to experience these things. And maybe if Beyoncé had not become an international singer and married Jay Z and had a beautiful child, then she would not have had to go through the pain of world famous adultery. But I don’t think that she would have it any other way, and that inspires me to think the same about my own life. So thank you Beyoncé, for that. And thank you to my pals Sophia and Fran for making sure I saw it!
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