Beyonce’s “Lemonade” is sweet and sour

Courtesy of Parkwood
Courtesy of Parkwood

Does this even need an intro? Queen B just released another album, titled “Lemonade.” While there is much to be said about such an ambitious project, I will only review the album. This album is a strong departure from any of Beyonce’s albums, not only in the sense that it is multimedia-based, but that none of the music here sounds like typical Beyonce: The first few songs on the album have really spare instrumentals, and her singing is in a higher register than usual. “Lemonade” is Beyonce’s fiercest and most political work to date, serving as a testament to the struggles of black women in America.

On “Sandcastles” and “All Night Long” her vocals are accompanied by pared-down instrumentals providing simple melodies. These songs are a little weaker, because these tracks are not only incredibly simple, but also the lyrics tend to be a little melodramatic. For example, on “Sandcastles” she sings, “We built sandcastles that washed away / I made you cry when I walked away …” Come on Queen B, you can do better.

On the other hand, “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” featuring Jack White are some of the more memorable songs on the album. “Freedom” has the soundscape of a postmodern soul track, with an organ and a call-and-response rhythm layered under buzzsaw synth beats. Kendrick’s verse on this track is incredible, and the entire song is a paean to female empowerment. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is the perfect Jack White and Beyonce collaboration: deep basslines and heavy boom-bap drums, coupled with Beyonce’s energy, is just a phenomenal combination. Her vocals are wilder, looser and more reminiscent of garage rock than her usual pop.

“Lemonade” was produced by Jon Brion, the genius behind Portishead and Kanye West’s “Late Registration”, and has features from such diverse musicians as Lamar and White.

However, the album does not have a consistent sound, alternating between more downtempo ballads and heavier synth-based tracks, such as “Formation” and “Freedom.” This album, while not entirely perfect, is Beyonce’s most ambitious project to date. This visual album is a testament to her ability to not only stay relevant, but consistently be innovative.

Rating: 4/5

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