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A Genuine Compliment for Beyonce’s Lemonade

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Some followers of my blog (and some friends) have accused me of being a Beyoncé hater because I am not willing to stop everything whenever she does something or sign over my firstborn for her to sacrifice to have continued staying power. (I really feel as if some of her stans would do that.)

I do not hate Beyoncé. There was a moment when I wasn’t really feeling her, but upon reflection that was more directed at her father Matthew Knowles and his management of her more than her as Beyoncé.

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(The thing is: I saw Destiny’s Child when “No, No, No” hit the charts. They were in a Gospel play that someone made in Baltimore and somehow the writer/director booked Destiny’s Child [likely before “No, No, No” hit big, so their rate wasn’t so high or they owed the director a favor] and they were the singing group featured in the club scene. I saw Beyonce, the lead singer, bouncing all over the stage, awkward at times, learning. The other three girls were squarely in the background like backup singers when they were a GROUP. I didn’t like that when TLC and the Spice Girls had lead singers but they all shared the stage equally. Even then I peeped that her father was grooming her for her own thing, and having seen that with Berry Gordy and The Supremes, I just didn’t like that. Thus, I wasn’t really here for her but kind of broke out of that during B’Day. I was a huge Bey hater during Dangerously In Love but snapped out of it and applied that energy properly elsewhere. Are we clear now? Alrighty then.)

Beyoncé released her sixth album, Lemonade, on Saturday after her HBO special of the same name. The special was an hour-long visual representation of the album and it was excellent. I only had a few minor things that made me go, “Uhhh…?” but they were very, very minor. I loved it. I already bought the album and feel it’s her best since 4, and I thought BEYONCE was her best since 4, but now Lemonade is it!

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Swag.

Why do I feel this way? Well, Beyoncé is finally, finally, not robotic. She’s still tightly controlled and presents her image in the way she wants, but it was refreshing to see some real, raw emotion. I saw glimpses of it in BEYONCE but it’s nice to see her and not Sascha Fierce (may she never return) or Yonce. This felt like it was Beyonce Giselle and not whatever was “safe” for her to sell records before. (It was also a relief to not have to see the 171st version of Crazy In Love dancing in this movie.)

The theme of the album is making lemonade out of life handing you lemons and appears to be telling of her struggles with Jay Z’s infidelities. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, but it made for a compelling story.

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I feel sorry for her if this is indeed a true story. We always blame our grandmothers and mothers for staying in abusive or philandering situations but Beyoncé fans are giving her a huge pass for being in the same predicament, saying that forgiveness is suddenly good and required now, but Mamaw should have left Pawpaw and his wayward penis 30 years ago. I’m not comfortable giving a stranger a pass just because she’s in the 1% and not the woman who either raised or babysat you and actually knows, cares about, and loves you. I get that she found her self-worth and holds onto it, but chile…

This is all probably just smart marketing.

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Beyoncé recited poems all through the program and had nice visuals using notable people, including mothers of police brutality victims, and even showcased her new piano skills as she sang a song while playing chords. She even has a country song thrown in there and it’s pretty good. (I hate the noise about no other black woman willing to try country in music today when K. Michelle has been documented complaining that her label won’t let her record country because it’s too big of a risk. I bet you she gets to now while Beyoncé gets credit for doing it first which isn’t exactly fair.)

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I think Adele and Justin Bieber might lose Album of the Year (unless money is truly behind the winners as was alleged this year by a Twitter account that accurately predicted the winners two weeks before the awards aired) to Beyoncé. I’m still not a stan (but I’ll continue to be a fan) and respect and recognize what she’s done. One thing you did inspire me to get back into, Beyoncé, is piano. It’s been a while. I need lessons again. Like Grandma Hattie, I can make lemonade out of this too, except I normally take mine with crushed cucumber and Bombay East or Hendrick’s these days. This was an excellent effort by Beyoncé. Brava, Bey!

Edited to add:  If there indeed was an affair, I’m sure it happened years ago and she wrote about it then but brought the songs to today. The movie was telling this experience against the backdrop of black expression and experience.

I think that the deeper meaning (at least in the movie based on the imagery of goddesses and tribal women and endless black women) is an attack against media and a power structure that celebrates and holds European standards of beauty as the best and how you have to be mixed with some white to be labeled exotic. Black beauty isn’t good enough. It’s always called ugly or fetishized if it gets celebrated at all. You HAVE to be light like Beyoncé or Rihanna to be called beautiful. Lupita is called beautiful because she’s so dark and skinny and they dress her up like a doll.

Beyoncé said, “Everyone else sees me, why can’t you?” And the poem about changing herself (while drowning) to fit in and be more likable all while losing herself goes beyond what might have happened with Jay Z. It’s deeper than an affair.

As far as Becky with the good hair, yeah that could mean white woman or it could mean white standard of beauty. Beyoncé is saying, “I’m black, damnit, and my beauty as Beyoncé (and hers as Shaniqua) and worth is just as good as Becky’s and I’m not changing. You don’t like it, go see her.”

Finally, Beyoncé created a movie that showed a universal theme of being cheated on and the complexity involved in choosing to stay. However what she also showed was the pain and power of being a black woman while doing it. It was a movie celebrating black womanhood which doesn’t get celebrated enough or the story told correctly with black women front and center, telling their own stories in ways that matter and have meaning. She made it okay to be a black woman for an hour – hurt, angry, vindictive, healing, self-reflective, loving, forgiving, fighting, successful, hopeful – in ways we typically don’t see portrayed in media. Now I have personal experience with it because I’m black and was raised around complex human black women but a lot of mainstream media only sees black women in one way – a sex-crazed man-hating bitch.

Beyoncé took all that, broke it down, and said, “Here’s how it actually looks through the lens of love. And while I’m at it, f*** white supremacy. I’m gonna be me, black, beautiful, complex, loving, and super bad all day long.”

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