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When life gives you lemons, Beyoncé drops ‘Lemonade’

For those who have no idea why there are lemon and bee emoji’s all over your social media timelines and why the hashtags #LEMONADE, #RACHELROY and #JAY-Z have been trending on all social media since Sunday morning, Beyoncé released her highly – no, panically-anticipated sixth album, Lemonade, on Saturday night.

The 12-track “album” if you can call this uniquely Beyoncé form of music delivery that – with 12 videos or short films for each song – launched on the United States pay TV channel HBO and immediately sent the internet into a yellow-stained frenzy.

Although the songs and music videos are of exceptional visual and musical quality, the controversy that led to the digital pandemonium that ensued in the aftermath of the album’s release was because of the song lyrics, which allude to a cheating scandal that implicates her hip-hop mogul husband Jay-Z and a woman only known as “Becky with the good hair’’, according to the saucy lyrics.

The album begins with Beyoncé reading the poetry of 28-year-old Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, who has a history of viral popularity on Tumblr because of her brilliant and highly circulated poetry about love, unrequited love and betrayal.

Emotional turbulence
Throughout the songs, which begin with titles such as Intuition, Denial, Anger, Forgiveness, Hope and Resurrection among others, Beyoncé reveals the emotional turbulence intimate betrayal can conjure.

In the song Sorry, in which a leotard wearing Serena Williams twerks her life away next to a singing Beyoncé, she sings: Looking at the time you should have been home/ Today I regret the night I put that ring on/ You always got them fucking excuses/ I pray the Lord reveal what his truth is.

In Don’t Hurt Yourself, she screams into the camera: Who the fuck 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 dick, boy/ This is your final warning/ You know I give you life/ If you try this shit again/ You gon’ lose your wife.

Some fans concluded that Lemonade speaks to the infamous “elevator incident’’ of 2014 in which Beyoncé’s sister, Solange Knowles, delivered punches and kicks at Jay-Z in an elevator during the Met Gala. Although the family issued a brief, one-paragraph statement on the matter, fans speculate that the fight was about Jay-Z’s allegedly overly close “friendship” with fashion designer Rachel Roy, the ex-wife of his former business partner, Damon “Dame” Dash.

Raven-haired Roy fuelled the fires of suspicion following the TV debut of the incident by posting a picture of herself on Instagram with the caption: “Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths always, live in the light #nodramaqueens.”

It wasn’t long before she deleted the post and made her Instagram page private after Beyoncé’s fans put two and two together and started flooding her page with lemon and bee emoji’s asking questions such as “You Becky?”, and unfortunately also going after Roy’s teenage daughter. Roy later tweeted: “I respect love, marriages, families and strength. What shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, no matter what, is bullying, of any kind.”

True love and forgiveness
Fortunately for their fans, it seems Beyoncé and Jay-Z worked out their marital problems, judging by the lyrics in some of the later songs on the album, which speak of true love and forgiveness, and in one of which Jay-Z and his wife are seen in a number of intimate embraces.

All that said, the album is about much more than infidelity between this celebrity couple, it’s a rallying cry to a newer, more matured, fully dressed Beyoncé, who also pays homage to movements such as Black Lives Matter by the mere presence of the mothers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in the songs.

There are musical cameos by the likes of James Blake, Jack White, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, snippets of Malcolm X speeches and an original verse by Nina Simone.

Her band of fierce women who paint the screen with Afros and faces painted by Laolu Senbanjo, and white 19th-century Southern-style dresses include singers Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz of Ibeyi, actresses Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya and Quvenzhané Wallis.

Lemonade is available on Tidal.

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Milisuthando Bongela
Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardians arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project.

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