Beyoncé fans the world over lost their collective shit this weekend when the iconic artist dropped her sixth album, “Lemonade,” along with a stunning special long-form music video of the same name.
Ms. Knowles lit the keg about a week ago (April 17) when HBO released the “Lemonade” trailer in advance of its Saturday night (April 23) premiere on the same channel. Tidal, the controversial streaming service acquired in 2015 by Bey’s husband Jay-Z, made both the audio and visual album available for download and user streaming during the Saturday night premiere. As of this morning, both are also available via iTunes, with no immediate plans for release on other streaming services.
The full video imagines “Lemonade’s” twelve songs as a sprawling multi-movement concept piece. As Bustle catalogues, the work follows the twelve stages associated with a woman uncovering, handling and fighting her way back from revelations of her partner’s infidelity. The songs—intercut with spoken-word bits that partially quote Somali-British writer Warsan Shire—score stunning visuals that include Beyoncé smashing cars in what looks like Havana with a baseball bat, footage from her wedding to Jay-Z and Black women in estates that invoke the antebellum South. Credited directors include the acclaimed Khalil Joseph, Jonas Akerlund and Melina Matsoukas.
Many fans and publications, from the Los Angeles Times to NBC News, suggested that the album addresses Jay-Z’s own infidelity (including with a woman referred to on “Sorry” as “Becky with the good hair” who is widely rumored to be fashion designer Rachel Roy). Jay-Z also appears in the video with Bey and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter. His is but one of a number of superstar cameos including tennis champion Serena Williams (who dances during the sultry trap-influenced track “Sorry”). A group of young Black women also appear, including Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya and Quvenzhané Wallis also appear alongside Bey:
— Amandla (@amandlastenberg) April 24, 2016
The album also poignantly addresses systematic oppression of Black women. Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr and Lezley McSpadden appear in the video holding pictures of their sons—Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown, respectively—all killed at the hands of police officers or vigilantes. The video also includes audio of Malcolm X saying, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
“Lemonade’s” music is as stylistically varied as Beyonce’s collaborators. Canadian R&B star The Weeknd, rock singer and multi-instrumentalist Jack White, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar and British electronica and R&B singer James Blake all appear as featured artists. According to full credits published by The Fader, Beyoncé created the songs alongside the likes of EDM giant Diplo, Americana musician Father John Misty and definitive hip-hop producer Just Blaze.