Reviews of Beyoncé’s new album, "Lemonade," have focused on her relationship with her husband, Jay-Z. But that’s missing the point, writes Seattle Times freelancer Jake Uitti. Beyoncé performs in Seattle on Wednesday.
Of the many heart-wrenching moments on Beyoncé’s new visual album, “Lemonade,” perhaps the one that resonates most comes on the 10th track, “Freedom.” In this song, the musical giant — who plays CenturyLink Field on Wednesday (May 18) — sings, “Freedom, freedom I can’t move. Freedom cut me loose!”
It’s a fervent chant attempting to sonically break social barriers, bonds of silence and with the words “cut me loose” brings to mind images of Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit.” The chorus emphasizes the point that Beyoncé, perhaps the most celebrated, successful — and, yes, criticized — singer in popular culture, needs room to breathe.
The idea that Beyoncé needs freedom may come as a surprise to her fans. Forbes says she is worth over $450 million and her latest album debuted at No. 1 (her sixth in a row to do so). But when you consider the longstanding plight of black women, it makes a great deal of sense. As Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo wrote in The Guardian, black women “are the women left behind … expected to never air our grievances in public … to stay loyal to our men by staying silent through abuse and infidelity.”
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, CenturyLink Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S, Seattle; $45-$280 (800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com).
Many writers who’ve picked apart “Lemonade” reduce the album to an airing of dirty laundry — to Beyoncé dragging her husband, rap mogul Jay Z, through the mud, after longstanding rumors of infidelity. But “Lemonade” is far more than an open diary entry. Its references to Jay Z are often metaphorical, representing Beyoncé’s relationship to American culture at large.
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“Lemonade” is a masterpiece depicting the supreme strength of Beyoncé and, by extension, black women as a whole. This is evident in each of the meticulously produced tracks (as well as their poetic interludes from author Warsan Shire). On “Hold Up,” Beyoncé presumably declares her love for her husband, singing, “Can’t you see there’s no other man above you. What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.” On “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she sings, “You diss me, you diss yourself.”
The album also balances its life lessons with musical diversity, as on the sultry club hit “6 Inch” and the twangy “Daddy Lessons.” But perhaps the most poignant moment happens on “All Night,” where, on the visual album, Beyoncé shows home videos of tender moments with Jay Z and their daughter, Blue Ivy. Queen Bey sings, “Trade your broken wings for mine.”
That line is an entreaty to her family, as well as her extended family of fans. We are all invited to trade our broken wings for what she can offer freely.