But as time went on, it became increasingly clear to me that others really loved this album. It seemed to help them - empower them. But I didn't really know how or why. And I was perplexed by the fact that we had such opposite reactions to the same collection of music. So I began to think these tensions were worth exploring. And especially after Adele's speech at the Grammy's, claiming that Beyonce deserved to win Album of the Year, instead of her, that seemed like too bold of a statement to ignore.
Now, after watching the Lemonade visual album, and giving it some serious thought, I find my perspective quite changed. The album features a number of interesting themes worth exploring - including the ill treatment of blacks, women, and black women, in particular. But for now, I will just stick with a discussion of how the album handles grief and healing.
The genius of the Lemonade album is that it is a visual and musical depiction of the grieving process. And I believe that's part of the reason we love it and hate it at the same time.
Beyonce has woven several narratives together throughout her work, and one of them follows the discovery of a cheating husband. She places this discovery in the midst of a historical context that runs in "her blood." She refers to it as "the curse," knowing that it is the same plight shared by women in her family and black women throughout the centuries. The album walks through her discovery of "the curse" until she finds the "remedy." Each song fits with each stage of the narrative from Intuition, to Denial, to Anger, to Apathy, to Emptiness, to Loss, to Accountability, to Reformation, to Forgiveness, to Resurrection, to Hope, and finally to Redemption. She deals with each stage musically and visually in a way that is so fitting for such a vulnerable, upsetting, and ugly topic that the whole album possess a quality that is uncomfortable yet refreshing.
I think that's why I dismissed the album so quickly at first. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't want a Beyonce who would curse or use vulgar language or gestures. I wanted a Beyonce who was there to make me feel good, who created music to give me an excuse to dance. I wanted a Beyonce who would quickly go through the stages of a struggle within a well produced 4 minute song. I wanted a quicker resolution than Lemonade gave me. And that usually what's I want in life too.
But what Beyonce has done with this album is better than what I wanted, and her path to healing is far more effective than the one I usually take. She dives headfirst into the overwhemingly uncomfortable nature of the fact that things are not as they should be. Beyonce has taken her musical brush to paint grief as ugly as it really is. And that honest assessment of reality is where the true healing begins. But the very thing that makes healing possible is the thing that most of us are so uncomfortable with.
We are ok with grief that has already turned into something beautiful, but we have trouble with grief that still looks messy. It's a pill that's usually too hard for us to swallow. We would rather try to fix a situation, making it our goal to try to snap others out of their anger, sadness, or hopelessness. So we try to calm people down, tell them to stop whining and complaining, and hope that they'll put on a happy face. And then we deceive ourselves into feeling like we've helped them somehow. Or at least, now we feel better. But we don't like messy grief.
I remember when a friend started asking me why I didn't feel free to express my emotions after the house fire I was involved in this past year happened. I felt like I had to just be ok, to suck it up, to deal with it, to move on, to be fine. But I wasn't fine. And my friend gave me permission to allow myself to be sad and to be angry and to see where those emotions went. She reassured me that facing those darker emotions is a necessary and normal part of the grieving process and that if I stopped them in their tracks, I would truncate the healing that could otherwise occur. She was right.
And going through the grieving process myself has helped me to see the sadness and the anger and the apathy of Beyonce's album with fresh eyes. As I learned to be honest in the midst of my own grief, Lemonade's honesty became refreshing to me.
I have lived life for so long thinking that I have to keep it all together and present a neatly wrapped package with a perfectly tied bow on top. But that's not life. Real life is hard and messy, and things happen to all of us that we know should never happen to anyone. And we all have to deal with that every day. So it's like a breath of fresh air to see someone use music to grapple with how sad and upsetting things really are, instead of just pretending everything is fine.
Deep down, I think we all know that real healing takes more than pretending. We have to be honest. And Lemonade has done what so few of us do by pushing right through the uncomfortable and digger deeper into the grief. Our girl B has to admit that she has died before she can resurrect - before she can start again. And I think that's the key to real healing that most of us miss.
Beyonce recognizes what feels like her own death during the intro of the the song Sorry: "What are you going to say at my funeral now that you've killed me?" The life she had before the infidelity is gone, and she has to admit it and mourn it. Though it is unbelievably painful to recognize those things about our lives that are now dead, we can't get a resurrection any other way. In some ways it feels like things just have to keep getting worse before they get better. But once you hit the lowest level - death - the resurrection is just waiting to take over the story.
The fusion of the uncomfortable messiness of grief with refreshing honesty creates the real path to healing. And Lemonade shows us, not only that this path is possible, but that it actually works. By the end of the album, after singing songs of forgiveness and hope, Bey says, "True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption. And my torturer became my remedy. So we're gonna heal. We're gonna start again." She gives us our happy ending! But that happy ending would not be possible if she hadn't gone through the rest of the grieving process.
So in the end, Lemonade is an amazing depiction of the fact that real life resurrections are possible. And we love a good resurrection. But a resurrection assumes that a death has occurred. That's why I believe this album must be uncomfortable in order to be refreshing. Embracing the sour is the only way to get to the sweet. And I think the more I grapple with that in my own life, the better off I'll be.
* Lest there be any confusion, let me set the record straight by saying that I do not promote profanity, vulgarity, or anything else that might be otherwise offensive or unhelpful to my readers and advise you to use your own discretion when deciding what is best for you to listen to or view. I merely wanted to point out the things that I found helpful about the Lemonade album, instead of getting distracted by what initially caused me to discredit it's value.