Preface: Although not directly related to fashion, I wrote this article in light of the current political environment. It talks about politics from a fashion, arts, and cultural perspective, because in the time we live in, politics are inseparable from all aspects of life. It is pertinent that we all have a voice.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We have all heard this saying before, but with our country more divided than it has ever been before, it seems that we’re being hit with an abundance of lemons, but not making enough lemonade. At a time when racial, gender, and political tensions are rising, Beyonce’s album Lemonade seems more relevant now than when it was released during the pre-Trump era. Beyonce has always been hailed as “Queen B,” or the queen of pop music, but with Lemonade, she uses her title and influence to create a bridge between current events and popular culture, spreading awareness of social injustices to the younger population. Before Lemonade, music culture was strictly aligned with celebrity and pop culture, while politics was a completely separate and more serious realm of influence. Yet with Lemonade, Beyonce is able to connect these two worlds in a controversial, but well-respected and creative manner. Although the lyrics of Lemonade seem to mainly address Beyonce’s relationship with her husband, Jay-Z, and his infidelity, Beyonce uses these lyrics to symbolize a greater message and creates a powerful social statement through the album’s visual concept.
Beyoncé has always been a rather private celebrity. Unlike most other celebrities, her private information is rarely aired out publicly as front page tabloid news. With Lemonade, Beyoncé revealed to the public a private, raw side of her. She talks about her husband’s disloyalty, revealing the heartache and pain she has experienced as a result. Instead of leaving her husband, however, Beyoncé reveals that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily entail weakness. Through Beyoncé’s mellifluous voice, she gives women the strength to speak out, yet forgive. With this, Beyoncé presents Lemonade as a feminist call. With songs like “Formation” and lyrics such as “c’mon ladies now get into formation,” Beyoncé reveals that girl power is more than a saying, but a necessity in society. Unlike most music videos or pop songs, Beyoncé isn’t submitting to or objectifying herself for men of power. Beyoncé masterfully criticizes the assumed power in a patriarchal society that automatically gives men more leeway for actions, such as infidelity, and reveals the beauty of women, not only through their build but through their beautiful, powerful minds.
The most important thing that Beyoncé succeeds in is tying her album to racial problems. Feminism is not feminism without focusing on marginalized groups as well, and Beyoncé “isn’t black” until she addresses her race, culture, and the discriminatory problems faced in modern society. In talking about her relationship with Jay-Z and creating the respect for her forgiveness, Beyonce then conveys that this forgiveness can be applicable to the black and white racial dynamic in America. Although one has wronged the other, there is power in forgiveness, as long as the problems are addressed and further progressed upon. In the music video for “Formation,” Beyoncé alludes to the tragic pattern of police brutality towards the black community in recent years. With mothers of the victims of such brutality solemnly holding up images of their slain sons, followed by a clip of the bold logo “stop shooting us” visually depicted in the music video, Beyoncé makes her message clear.
Released in April 2016, Beyoncé led the vanguard in tying popular culture with serious issues. Following her lead have been Colin Kaepernick with his NFL protests against police brutality and the #MeToo movement calling out sexual harassment. As much as we’d like to live in a perfect world where politics are just politics and pop culture is just pop culture, their overlap is inevitable. As citizens, we must be active and use our voices to progress society. Beyoncé represents many communities: the black, the female, the black female, the victims of unfaithfulness, and she uses her platform to speak out for each and every one of these marginalized groups in a male dominated world and music industry. Through Lemonade, Beyoncé inspires us to not only make lemonade from the lemons we are given, but transform the lemons into symbols of hope for the future.