Beyoncé: A Case Study For Love Through Music
Part I: Lemonade by Beyoncé
Beyoncé Knowles’ 2016 album, Lemonade, is the pinnacle of contemporary feminist music. The visual album is a cinematically stunning showcase of the maelstrom of emotions Queen Bey experienced when she realized her husband, Jay-Z, was cheating on her. She takes the viewer on a poignant odyssey that simultaneously explores not only herself but her artistry.
For the first time, Beyoncé invites her fans into her personal life that she usually keeps very private. The visual album includes intimate videos from her wedding, clips of her father, and even adorable features of her daughter, Blue Ivy. Lemonade has been named an ode to black women everywhere; the entire album brings black womanhood to the forefront and not only validates black women’s emotions but also demands a space for them to be heard and accepted. Despite many haters loudly decrying her return to Jay-Z at the conclusion of the album, any real feminist supports a woman’s right to choose. She chose to give her marriage another shot, and we’re here for it.
Part II: 4:44 by Jay-Z
Since the infamous video surfaced of Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, attacking Jay-Z in an elevator in 2014, rumors whirled about Jay-Z’s infidelity. Once it was confirmed in Lemonade, it felt like the world turned against Jay-Z overnight. 4:44 was his apologetic response to his betrayal. In it, he frankly admits wrongdoing and profoundly regrets his unfaithfulness. He reveals an openness and vulnerability he’s never before shown his fans.
Jay-Z discusses the intense shame sparked by his daughter, Blue Ivy, with lines like “I apologize for all the womanizing/ Took a child to be born to see through a woman’s eyes” and “You did what with who?/ What good is a ménage a trois when you have a soulmate?/ You risked that for Blue?” Jay-Z’s Lemonade response was an invitation into an apologetic part of his mind that we’ve never enjoyed before. It was a bold move for a rapper with a hard reputation, but the risk certainly paid off. 4:44 is widely considered his best solo album to date.
Part III: Everything is Love by Beyoncé and Jay-Z
Recently, Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped a surprise album called Everything is Love. It is the final chapter of the trilogy regarding the Carters’ marital issues and strengths. After many years of fans’ emotional investment in their love story, Everything is Love is the satisfying conclusion we’ve been impatiently awaiting.
The best song on the album is clearly “Apeshit,” where Beyoncé outperforms Jay-Z at his own rap game. This trap banger, produced by Pharrell and featuring ad-libs from Quavo and Offset, will certainly be the song of the summer. The music video was filmed in the Louvre, the apex of European colonization. Countless paintings display predominantly white bodies that are sharply juxtaposed by every shade of brown and black bodies in the form of Beyoncé’s dancers; the striking visual of beautiful blackness against all that white space is both artistic and audacious.
Jay-Z takes several shots throughout the song with lines like “I said no to the Super Bowl; you need me, I don’t need you/ Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we need stadiums too” and “Tell the Grammy’s fuck that 0 for 8 shit/ Have you ever seen the crowd goin’ apeshit?” Jay-Z also condemns both President Trump and the broken political system that ushered him into the White House.
Another memorable song off the album is “713” where Queen Bey sings her take on the chorus of “Still D.R.E.,” a song that her husband helped write: “Representin’ for my hustlers all across the world/ Still dippin’ in my lo-los girl/ I put it down for the 713/ And we still got love for the streets.” Dr. Dre is not the only renowned man that the couple salutes; they acknowledge Trayvon Martin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to name a few.
They mention these renowned black men in order to celebrate black revolutionary thinking while condemning racist practices and police brutality. The Carters’ maintain their pride in their black ancestry throughout the entirety of the album. The song “Black Effect,” with the catchy “I’m good on any MLK Boulevard” line repeated throughout, especially dives into the hardships of being black in America and comments on black resilience.
One of the most prominent themes weaved throughout Everything Is Love is black extravagance. The Carters are America’s version of a royal couple, and they’re paid like it. This album asserts their reign and minces no words about it. Beyoncé revels “My great-great-grandchildren already rich/ That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes List.” Song after song mentions the immeasurable Carter wealth and the fact that they climbed their way to the top.
With other artists, this would get old very quickly. However, the Carters commend themselves on becoming billionaires in one breath and remind themselves to never forget their community in the next. Their dedication to remaining humble and remembering where they started is certainly admirable. Rather than bragging about their affluence, they assert their gratitude for creating a familial dynasty.
Everything Is Love does not reach the experimental, emotional, or artistic heights that Beyoncé reached with Lemonade, and that’s okay. Setting out, their goal was not to inspire and uplift every woman the way that Lemonade did. Instead, they looked to the making of this album as therapy. Jay-Z told the New York Times in an interview that “we were using our art almost like a therapy session…And we started making music together.” They found peace, solace, and forgiveness in the wonder that is music. And the product of their therapy, the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy, is simply magical.
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