Lemonade isn’t the feminist work we hoped for

Peter Kolb – Opinions Editor

At 12:00 A.M, April 24th Beyoncé dropped her newest album Lemonade (or Lemonadé as it should have been titled) exclusively on Tidal. This was fantastic news for anyone who was still riding their free Tidal trial from T.L.O.P, ANTI, Prince’s music, or maybe even one of you weirdos got it for that Jhené Aiko-Big Sean collab. Anyways, what made Lemonade so special in my opinion is that it came with an hour-long short film, the songs acting as the soundtrack. While this isn’t revolutionary (Kanye did it with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, Captain Murphy and Pusha T did it last year with Duality and Darkest Before Dawn respectively, and I’m sure there are plenty others I’m not aware of), I was very surprised to see it brought in so successfully to the mainstream. The film is absolutely gorgeous and adds a whole new layer to the music. After four or five listens I can confidently say Beyoncé is giving Kanye a run for his money at my personal favorite album of the year so far. However, I think Lemonade’s artistic merits are being overshadowed by a larger wave of praise coming its way.

The Hollywood Reporter claimed that Lemonade is a “revolutionary work of black feminism.” Women around the world are shouting cries of support to Beyoncé for giving women a voice in society. Because, while sure Beyoncé has been a strong independent artist her whole career, never has she come at “men” like she does in Lemonade. The whole album is Queen Bey putting her foot down on her King. Here, let me sum it up for you in one sentence: “How dare you cheat on me, I don’t deserve that, I don’t need you, but I will not let you make me part of this horrid cycle that’s run rampant in my family tree so we are going to work this out and move on together.” Obviously, leaving out some stuff and simplifying it but nonetheless, you get the gist. Anyways, finally, a woman standing up and taking control on behalf of women everywhere. A win for feminism in pop culture.

I just don’t see that, for two reasons. The first being that what I imagine true feminism is when women don’t have to define themselves based off of the opposite sex. Female artists are more than their personal relationship with males. Singer Azealia Banks tweeted an array of critiques at the album including: “This heartbroken black female narrative you keep trying to push is the Antithesis of what feminism is”, and “You keep crying over a man and perpetuating that sad black female sufferance and it’s Not good for what we’re trying to accomplish here.” I agree. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in making an album detailing your personal relationship with a significant other, I just think it’s odd that women are pinpointing that type of art as a “work of feminism.”

The second reason: Beyoncé simply isn’t walking the walk. If this is the feminist piece so many claim it to be, where are the women? Lemonade features a whopping zero female producers, and even the writing credits are dominated by males. What’s worse, Beyoncé is yet to feature a single female artist on any of her albums since 2003! Is there not female talent out there that you could have used Beyoncé? Why not replace The Weeknd on “6 INCH” with FKA TWIGS? What about Rapsody or Erykah Badu instead of Kendrick Lamar on “FREEDOM”? Once again, I didn’t look at this album and say “wow why are men working on a Beyoncé album, that’s so wrong”, but I do think it’s a stretch to call an album that Beyoncé recruited almost zero women for a “revolutionary work of black feminism.” Just because Beyoncé is sharing her personal story doesn’t mean she’s speaking for half the people on Earth.

P.S: Guys, relax. Beyoncé and Jay-Z are fine. 1. The end of the album is focused on reconciliation, 2. Jay-Z is in the movie so obviously, they are on decent terms, 3. I would guess the narrative is largely exaggerated in order to apply more to the overall theme of the album which is America’s relationship with blacks and 4. Beyoncé released it exclusively on Jay-Z’s streaming service. If she really wanted to stick it to him, giving him millions of Tidal subscriptions is an odd way to do it.

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