LEMONADE: A TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW

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All images taken from tumblr.com



Ranging from heartfelt love ballads to inspiring power anthems, Lemonade is Beyoncé’s most personal album to date. In this article, our writers Jay and Joy will break down and review all 12 songs.


1. Intuition: Pray You Catch Me


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I tried to make a home out of you.
But doors lead to trap doors.
A stairway leads to nothing.
Unknown women wander the hallways at night.
Where do you go when you go quiet?


Jay: Lemonade opens up with this track that jumps right into Beyoncé’s suspicions about Jay-Z’s infidelity. The song begins with her kneeling in front of a drawn, red curtain with her hands clasped in her lap. The lyrics discuss something unsaid; they tell the tale of a time that used to be. “Prayin' to catch you whispering / I'm prayin' you catch me listening.” Beyoncé wants her husband to notice her pain and suffering before she falls out of love. This song begs the question: is there anything that cannot be forgiven if there is love? “Nothing else ever seems to hurt / Like the smile on your face / When it's only in my memory / It don't hit me quite the same.” In this verse, Bey is going over her memories to try and see if there were any signs that Jay was, in fact, cheating on her. Were his smiles concealing his betrayal? The use of the orchestra in the background towards the end only furthers feelings of suspense as Beyoncé takes us further into Lemonade. This first track is just the calm before the storm as she closes with the this line: “what are you doing my love?” At the end, she’s standing on the top of a building before she jumps off, leading us into the next song.


2. Denial: Hold Up


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I tried to change
Closed my mouth more
Tried to be soft, prettier
Less... awake
But still inside me coiled deep was the need to know
Are you cheating?
Are you cheating on me?


Jay: A personal favorite of mine, Hold Up is assertive in every sense of the word. From the rageful lyrics to the reggae beat, it leads us all to wonder how anyone could consider cheating on her. Even though she loves him, she mentions that she will go as far as losing her sanity to find out what’s going on in her marriage. “Can't you see there's no other man above you? / What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.” The light-hearted beat contradicts the angry and resentful lyrics as she tells her lover that because she puts no one else above Jay, there’s no reason for him to be treating her the way he is. In the second verse, she describes an alternate world where he isn’t famous. Would his people still ride with him if he didn’t have money? Bey doesn’t believe so. “What's worse, lookin' jealous or crazy? / jealous or crazy? / or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately / I'd rather be crazy.” She’d rather be consumed by the anger she feels towards Jay-Z rather than continue to be taken advantage of. Bey ends the song by reinstating how powerful she is, also serving as a forerunner to the next theme shown in Don’t Hurt Yourself.


3. Anger: Don’t Hurt Yourself


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If it's what you truly want ... 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.
Why can't you see me?
Why can't you see me? (Why can't you)
Why can't you see me? Everyone else can.


Jay: This next track is as fierce and empowering as it sounds. Out of all the songs on this album, this is where her anger is at her peak. In verse one, Beyoncé opens with “who the f*ck do you think I am?” Beyoncé’s message is driven by rage, compared to songs on the second half of her album. She wants Jay to know that she can only tolerate so much before she snaps completely. “Bad motherf*cker, God complex / Motivate your *ss call me Malcolm X.” Before the release of Lemonade, Beyoncé formed an ‘X’ on the field during her Super Bowl performance, paying homage to him while simultaneously taking on his methods of overcoming oppression. Collaborating with Jack White on the track, he backs her up by saying that whenever Jay-Z hurts and mistreats her, he inflicts the same kind of pain upon himself. “Blindly in love, I f*cks with you / 'Til I realize, I'm just too much for you / I'm just too much for you.” Until now, Beyoncé has been able to overlook all the pain Jay has caused her. Marriage is a team effort and at this point, it seems as if Bey is tired of putting in all the work. In the song, she sings of how Jay isn’t loving her or trying enough. “Uh, this is your final warning / You know I give you life / If you try this sh*t again / You gon lose your wife.” In the end, Beyoncé is tired of putting up with Jay’s cheating.


4. Apathy: Sorry


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So what are you gonna say at my funeral, now that you've killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children, both living and dead. Rest in peace, my true love, who I took for granted. Most bomb p*ssy who, because of me, sleep evaded. Her god listening. Her heaven will be a love without betrayal. Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.


Jay: Sorry is probably one of the most iconic breakup songs to date. It’s all about encouraging women to be strong in the midst of a heart-wrenching experience. The beginning chorus really takes on the “sorry, not sorry” attitude, proving to be completely apathetic to her lover’s feelings on this situation. “Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye / Tell him, boy, bye, boy, bye, middle fingers up / I ain't thinking 'bout you.” When she tells us girls to put our middle fingers up, she is completely unapologetic. Beyoncé takes the time in this song to flip gender roles. She takes the “girl, bye” meme and transforms it into “boy, bye.” At this point, Beyoncé holds all the power in their relationship because she’s no longer thinking about Jay in the way he’s hoping she will. She just doesn't care. Usually, women are the ones who call their men to apologize, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. We’re perceived as “weak” or “too emotional” when we do. In this track, Jay-Z is the one calling her. “I'm far away / But I ain't f*cking with nobody.” Even though she’s out partying with her girls, she wants Jay to know that she’s still remaining faithful, even though he did the opposite. She closes by telling him to call “Becky with the good hair,” a stereotypical name the Black community has branded Caucasian women with.


5. Emptiness: 6 Inch


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She sleeps all day. Dreams of you in both worlds. Tills the blood, in and out of uterus. Wakes up smelling of zinc, grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief. God was in the room when the man said to the woman, "I love you so much. Wrap your legs around me. Pull me in, pull me in, pull me in." Sometimes when he'd have her nipple in his mouth, she'd whisper, "Oh, my God." That, too, is a form of worship.


Jay: This song begins the transition from Jay-Z’s cheating to shine light on feminism. This track was written to incite women to stay on their grind, to work hard and keep making money. Beyoncé uses “six inch heels” as a symbol for empowerment—she’s worked hard for everything she has in life, including her wealth and power. “She already made enough but she'll never leave.” Partnering with The Weeknd on this track, they both discuss women getting to work regardless of the fact that she’s made enough money to be able to live comfortably. “Six inch heels, she walked in the club like nobody's business / Goddamn, she murdered everybody and I was her witness.” As we delve deeper into the lyrics, Beyoncé also discusses how strippers work hard just like everyone else, and they deserve every penny they earn while they search for validation within a career that is based on how sexually attractive others find you. This song is all about telling women to work hard for their money, and not stop until their dreams and goals have been reached or met. “Stars in her eyes / She fights for the power, keeping time / She grinds day and night / She grinds from Monday to Friday / Works from Friday to Sunday.” Beyoncé uses third person to describe her own experiences with her non-stop work ethic. In the outro, Beyoncé is vulnerable with nothing but her cracked voice and a beat to back her up as sings of how her man will always come back to her.


6. Accountability: Daddy Lessons


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...You go to the bathroom to apply your mother's lipstick. Somewhere no one can find you.

You must wear it like she wears disappointment on her face. Your mother is a woman and women like her cannot be contained. Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth. Teach me how to make him beg. Let me make up for the years he made you wait. Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head?

Am I talking about your husband or your father?


Jay: Daddy Lessons is a song that discusses the lessons that her father taught her and her childhood during the time she lived in Texas. It takes on a country feel as she discusses the similarities between her father and her husband. Her father, Matthew Knowles, helped her career get off the ground, starting as far back as the creation of Destiny’s Child. “Daddy made me fight / It wasn't always right / But he said girl it's your second amendment.” He molded her into a soldier; he taught her how to be strong in a world that seemed like it belonged to men. She had to be taught, even if she didn’t want to at such a young age. “And he told me when he's gone / Here's what you do / When trouble comes to town / And men like me come around / Oh, my daddy said shoot.” “When men like me come around” can be interpreted as her father warning her that Jay-Z could be a cheater like he was. Throughout the song, she sings of all the lessons her father gave her on how to stay strong in the midst of trouble. It’s ironic that her father warns her to stay away from men like him, a man who cheated on her mother, Tina Knowles, but he wasn’t able to stop her from being with a man that ultimately committed infidelity against her like he did her mother. “My daddy warned me about men like you / He said baby girl he's playing you / He's playing you.” The lessons in this song are both from her father, but can be used against him as well.


7. Reformation: Love Drought


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He bathes me until I forget their names and faces. I ask him to look me in the eye when I come home. Why do you deny yourself heaven? Why do you consider yourself undeserving? Why are you afraid of love? You think it's not possible for someone like you. But you are the love of my life. You are the love of my life. You are the love of my life.
Joy: Written two years prior to its release, Love Drought is a plea to try and fix a relationship full of mistrust and insecurity. Beyoncé steps back and takes a look at what has become of her marriage, and starts to question if it was all her fault, if somehow her status or maybe even her personality caused Jay Z’s infidelity. “I’ll always be committed, I been focused / I always pay attention, been devoted / Tell me, what did i do wrong?” She is asking Jay to help her fix this. She’s saying that together they can repair what has become of their marriage, for the better. This track is silently powerful because it shows that she still has faith in their relationship, and even after being hurt, she’s willing to try and make it work. It shows that she believes in the two of them. “Cause you, you, you, you and me could move a mountain / You, you, you, you and me could calm a war down / You, you, you, you and me could make it rain now / You, you, you, you and me could stop this love drought.
8. Forgiveness: Sandcastles


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Baptize me ... now that reconciliation is possible. If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken.


Joy: With a haunting melody and emotional lyrics, Sandcastles is easily one of the more personal and intimate songs in the album. It is also one of my personal favorites. Beyoncé’s vocals are raw and wounded. Her voice cracks and you can hear the pain in her voice. This track is one of the few that truly embodies Beyoncé’s vulnerability. All of her hurt is out in the open. Sandcastles are temporary objects, waves can wash them away even if they aren't that close to the shore. The vows that Beyoncé and Jayz’s relationship were built on turn out to be just as fragile.  “Dishes smashed on the counter from our last encounter / pictures snatched out of the frame / B*tch I scratched out your name and your face / What is it about you that I can’t erase, baby?” These lyrics are talking about how she wanted to get rid of the evidence of him, forget him and move on, however emotionally she was having a hard time detaching herself from him. This might have something to do with Blue Ivy and the bond that connects the three of them. It may be for her sake that Bey is willing to forgive and resolve their issues. In the chorus that is repeated like a mantra throughout the entire song, Bey talks about broken promises. Her pledge to leave Jay if he cheats is paralleled by Jay’s promise to fidelity that comes with marriage vows. “And although I promised that I couldn’t stay, baby / Every promise don’t work out that way.


9. Resurrection: Forward


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Something is missing. So many young women, they tell you, "I want me a hu — see, all them make me feel better than you." So how we supposed to lead our children to the future? What do we do? How do we lead them? Love. L-O-V-E, love. Mm-mmm-mmm. Hallelujah. Thank you, Jesus. I just love the Lord, I'm sorry, brother. I love the Lord. That's all I got.
When your back gets against the wall and your wall against your back, who you call? Hey! Who you call? Who you call? You gotta call Him. You gotta call Jesus. You gotta call Him. You gotta call Him 'cause you ain't got another hope.
You are terrifying ... and strange and beautiful.
Magic.


Joy: Forward is the shortest song in the album, as well as a turning point. Bey is moving on from what happened in the relationship. She is willing to rebuild her love from the ground up, and while her whole album was angry and defiant, claiming that she would never forgive him, she was better off without him, this song is softer, giving in. Restarting. James Blake sings the lyrics with Beyoncé softly, and the track seems almost like a lullaby. “Best foot first just in case / When we made it our way until now / It’s time to listen it’s time to fight.” She is putting aside problems and is going to be calm, but determinedly fight to salvage her marriage.


10. Hope: Freedom


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The nail technician pushed my cuticles back ... turns my hand over, stretches the skin on my palm and says, "I see your daughters and their daughters." That night in a dream, the first girl emerges from a slit in my stomach. The scar heals into a smile. The man I love pulls the stitches out with his fingernails. We leave black sutures curling on the side of the bath.
I wake as the second girl crawls headfirst up my throat, a flower blossoming out of the hole in my face.
Joy: Freedom featuring Kendrick Lamar is an unapologetic tribute to black women everywhere. In this song, Beyoncé addresses her struggle with infidelity as a black woman, while Kendrick touches on concepts that center around race like institutionalized racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. In the visual, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner hold photos of their sons who were murdered due to unnecessary gun violence. In Kendrick’s verse, he employs a style of writing that counts down from 10 to 5, before switching to a syllable count to further the countdown. This gives the impression that he his leading up to something significant. He’s counting down to freedom from oppression. In this song Bey says “I’ma walk, I’ma march on the regular / painting white flags blue.” It is common among naval shops that white flags mean surrender, so she is going to turn white flags blue, and fight instead of surrendering to racism. She is inspiring people to change their opinions from apathy to activism. The passionate lyrics empower the protesters who march to protect America’s black youth from police brutality.   


11. Redemption: All Night


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Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half a lemon. Pour the water from one jug then into the other 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 kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said "Nothing real can be threatened." True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we're gonna heal. We're gonna start again. You've brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.
You're the magician. Pull me back together again, the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk. Knot after knot after knot. The audience applauds ... but we can't hear them.


Joy: This groovy, endearing ballad illustrates an old love, one that has seen disappointment and heartbreak, and is stronger and wiser because of it. All Night is a close to Beyoncé’s emotional journey. “Our love was stronger than your pride / Beyond your darkness I’m your light.” These lyrics show that love is the greatest weapon and can truly overcome anything. They may also reference Jay’s absence of his father when he was 11, which in turn caused his struggle with opening up to women. It was Jay’s reconciliation with his dad that allowed him to put aside his pride and enabled more trust and communication in their marriage. In this track, Bey implies that their love was always destined to succeed, and her light helped him out of that distrustful mindset. Pain has brought a new experience to love for Beyoncé. Even though it will take some time to regain her trust, she couldn't see herself with anyone else. After all of the mistrust and hurt, it’s time to start anew.


12. Power: Formation


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Joy: In Lemonade’s final track, Bey is calling all powerful, beautiful, black ladies to unite and slay. The unnerving synth and bold lyrics highlight features that Beyoncé is unabashedly proud of, and things that other black women shouldn't shy away from, either; like her baby hairs and Afros or her negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils. Formation isn't just a bop, it’s also an important part of the Black Lives Matter movement. The song was released one day after what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday, and Sandra Bland’s 29th birthday.


It was also performed at the Super Bowl with exclusively black back-up dancers donning Black Panther-esque outfits. The track is a dedication to Beyoncé’s past and history. Throughout the song she talks about how despite her incredible success she still celebrates her humble beginnings and the place where she grew up. “My daddy Alabama / Momma Louisiana / You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama!” This song shows her confident approach to feminism as well as her personal homage and is a great way to end the album.


Final Thoughts


In the end, Beyoncé’s Lemonade album combines heart-wrenching and inspiring lyrics with hip-swinging and slow beats to give us the album of the century. Besides describing the troubles in her marriage, she acknowledges hardships that Black women have faced and grew in spite of. As Black women, we are told that we must remain strong in the face of everything. In Beyoncé’s film and album, we see a range of emotions from anger and indifference to forgiveness and hope. Though the majority of this album surrounds the complications in her and Jay-Z’s relationship, it is so much more than just that. “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman,” Malcolm X once said. As Black women, we face loss and heartbreak just like everyone else; so why are our feelings invalidated? In Lemonade, Beyoncé teaches us how to embrace our feelings wholeheartedly. Thank you, Beyoncé, for teaching us Black women that we are enough. With this album, we will begin a new age of transformation and growth.

Article by Joy & Jay

1 comment:

  1. i love this track-by-track breakdown. it's honestly so eyeopening and makes me appreciate Bey's talents as an artists even more

    ReplyDelete