My very serious Beyonce fandom has been an internal struggle for me for a few years now.
As a college junior, “Love on Top” was my anthem. I owe my spring 2013 date party “Best Dancer” title to Beyonce’s 2011 MTV Music Video Awards performance, when she did a kick-ass dance number seconds before busting open her blazer and revealing her Blue Ivy baby bump. She’s got the best hair, the best voice, and quite frankly, I wish I woke up like that.
All the same, I struggled when she released her “Drunk in Love” duet with Jay Z. The explicit, graphic content bothered me. For someone with so much talent and so much beauty — and, in my opinion, so much class leading up to that point — I felt she was lowering herself by trying to take on her husband’s rapper-esque coarseness. I thought it beneath her. Nevertheless, I’ve stayed a fan.
Lemonade is art unlike any music video I’ve ever seen. It is a visual masterpiece by way of color, light, texture — a sensory marvel, I assure you. I could not believe the depth of symbolism and thought that went into every scene, every frame. It is beautiful, thought-provoking, and emotionally jarring all at once. It’s 55 minutes worth of video that seems to pass in seconds. I loved it. Truly, I loved it.
And yet, here we are again. The music is remarkable and the imagery is compelling, but the message, for lack of a better way to say it, hurts my heart. And not because I hurt for Beyonce regarding the implications she makes of Jay Z’s affair (although I deeply feel for her in that regard as well, if those implications are true), but because she took such a coarse, explicit, offensive approach to delivering it. The language she uses in more than half of the songs was, quite frankly, unnecessary. It did its job by shocking me each time the words came from her mouth, but otherwise, it wholly took away from what I believe she was trying to convey.
I’m not sure whether we should believe that Jay Z’s affair was real, and that the emotions behind Lemonade were actually Beyonce’s, or simply the masterful work of a remarkably skillful writer. It would be naive to forget that Beyonce and Jay Z have the financial means to pay for work like this — just as they undoubtedly paid for the incredible cinematography that makes this music video what it is. But regardless of whether these deeply felt emotions convey the internal dialogue of Beyonce or of someone else, Lemonade has made a comment about marriage that I am inclined to appreciate.
If you’ve not watched Lemonade, the gist is this: I am your wife, and you cheated on me. I am angry, but I love you. You have hurt me, but I love you. I feel worthless, but I love you. I want to leave you, but I love you. My family warned me, but I love you. I don’t need you, but I love you.
I forgive you, because I love you. I will stay with you, because I love you.
And as Beyonce soulfully sings about the promise of marriage, home videos of her, Jay Z, and Blue Ivy play behind it.
Do you see why it hurts my heart?
I’m both obsessed with this video and also so disappointed by it. Total emotional schizophrenia, I know.
I’m obsessed with it because I think it ultimately communicates a message that society so desperately needs to hear, and one that is so true about love, marriage, and family. But I’m also disappointed because the message was communicated by way of offensive language, explicit & graphic detail, and a mention of religion which, while wholly acknowledging God, left a bitter taste in my mouth.
There were a few acknowledgements of God in Lemonade. The only one worth mentioning was when bold, white lettering flashed across a black screen: GOD IS GOD AND I AM NOT.
Whoa. This, from a woman we’ve deemed “Queen” and elevated to an almost immortal capacity, in a video about feeling worthless and used in a broken marriage. If this doesn’t say something about the flawed way our society perceives celebrities, I’m not sure what would. In addition to the messaging about marriage, this message was consistent throughout: this “do you realize who you’re married to? I’m not your average woman” attitude, and yet: “I feel worthless; God is God and I am not.”
To tie this back to everything I’ve been saying in recent posts, we all have our stuff. Do we not all have our stuff? If this narrative is true — if Beyonce, who we’ve placed on such an unreachable pedestal, suspected that Jay Z was cheating on her and was begging God to shine a light in the shadows of their marriage (as she says in Lemonade), what more do we need to know? We all have our stuff.
I hate the abrasiveness of Lemonade. I hate the explicit, graphic language. I hate it. But I really, really think the deeper message is worth a second look — because the circumstances are real, the emotions are real, and the truth is real: that love defeats it. I’m a firm believer that as human beings, there’s good and bad in all of us. There’s definitely some bad stuff going on in Lemonade. But the resounding message is love, and there’s something to be said for that.