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VOICES

Beyoncé's new album is about much more than her marriage. We should all be listening

For all the attention it has garnered as an apparent document of marital infidelity, Lemonade is a decidedly political statement, writes Lorraine Courtney.

IF YOU’VE GONE online at some point over the past few days, you’ll probably have encountered the outpouring of Beyoncé-themed content that sprung up around the release of her visual album Lemonade on HBO on Saturday night.

The album represents a landmark on more than a few levels: its release method, its racial politics, and its apparent confession to problems in her relationship with Jay Z.

There was hardly a media outlet that didn’t churn out an instant reaction to the piece and that’s without taking into account the myriad of affirmations from women of colour, as Lemonade’s core message chimed particularly loudly for them.

The songs themselves tell a narrative about a personal struggle mastered through inner strength, forgiveness, and talking things over with your husband.

Jay Z’s past indiscretions are alluded to when Beyoncé asks “Are you cheating on me?” in an interlude before the second song.

The sixth, Daddy Lessons, spins a fable about a father who raised his daughter to be tough—and told her to eschew men like him.

Beyoncé says during one of the video album’s spoken-word segments: “Sometimes when he’d have her nipple in his mouth, she’d whisper, ‘Oh my God’. That, too, is a form of worship.” Ouch.

Her Sandcastles song has a video in which she snuggles Jay Z. And finally after waiting “some time to prove that I can trust you again”, she promises, “I’m gonna kiss up and rub up and feel up / Kiss up and rub up and feel up on you”.

For all the attention the album has garnered as an apparent document of marital infidelity, Lemonade is a decidedly and overtly political statement. These two very different subject matters aren’t competing with each other, though, but rather they’re inextricably woven together.

The album’s film, more explicitly than the album itself, has Malcolm X talking about the disrespect paid to black women, mothers show photos of sons wrongfully shot by police, and Beyoncé asserts that “the curse will be broken”.

Criticism

Rocketing to the top of the trending topics worldwide on Twitter for being insufferable about it all is Piers Morgan, who hammered the singer’s highlighting of racial and political issues in a column for the Daily Mail.

“Beyoncé [five years ago] was unrecognisable from the militant activist we see now,” he wrote.

“Then, she was at pains to be seen as an entertainer and musician and not as a black woman who sings. Now, it seems to be the complete opposite.

“The new Beyoncé wants to be seen as a black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second. I still think she’s a wonderful singer and performer, and some of the music on Lemonade is fantastic.

“But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé.”

Amazingly his main problem is that Beyoncé is being too political for his taste. I say hurray she’s using her platform to talk about important things.

Now Lemonade isn’t for me but I am all for it. I will never be a pop music fan. I will never experience what black women experience and I won’t ever know what it’s like to be marginalised because of your gender and your skin colour. I will never understand Beyoncé fully.

But I will support her right to express her pain and I will enthusiastically cheer her on from the sidelines. I will do my best to learn from whatever she chooses to put into the world. I will listen. We all should.

Lorraine Courtney is a journalist and writer. Follow her on Twitter here.

Read: Beyoncé just dropped her new album and the internet is freaking out

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