What the %$#* Is "Lemonade"? How Beyoncé Will Break the Internet This Weekend.
What is she not telling us?
Photo by Marco Torres
The BeyHive buzzed for weeks with frustrated discontent. After the release of the scintillating, unapologetic "Formation" music video and her radical performance at Super Bowl 50, fans were parched. Two months had passed with nothing but an interview in Elle promoting her new line of activewear, Ivy Park. Beyoncé remained cloaked in mysterious silence, and impatience brewed.
Some dared to doubt her.
@BelieveAcoustic as long as that means new tour after the album, we're fine— BeyoncéYouWorld (@BeyonceYou) April 14, 2016
There was chatter of betrayal.
Ima be honest...if Beyoncé doesn't drop a new album before the formation tour starts I might actually just sell my tickets.— Mrs. Sassafras Jeans (@kashmirVIII) April 14, 2016
And then — there was Lemonade.
In stark contrast to its response to "Formation," which inspired so many think pieces that they mutated into lists of think pieces, the Beyoncé critical industrial complex has remained nearly mute in the face of the Lemonade trailer. Major media outlets relied on ham-fisted humor to cash in on the frenzy of the Lemonade-thirsty BeyHive, but none of them seriously tried to parse what the whole thing meant. And how could they? The one-minute teaser trailer is a cryptic piece of arthouse horror that nobody knows what to do with.
What is Lemonade? Is it a docudrama interrogating post-Katrina New Orleans? Is it an afro-futurist piece of video art interrogating black life? Is it just a really, really disingenuous way to try to market a Beyoncé-branded vegan juice cleanse?
No one knows, but as citizens of the Internet, let's embrace our national pastime: wild speculation (with GIFs).
Lemonade is a cohesive full-length musical film, which will feature music from Beyoncé's upcoming album.
A few news outlets have parroted the anonymous USA Today report that Lemonade is supposed to be a documentary-style feature akin to the 2014 film Life Is But a Dream, but this seems wrong. The trailer's style is too cinematic; the fast cuts, epic wide shots and David Lynch-inspired Red Room creepiness all suggest something experimental and feature-length, like Pink Floyd's The Wall. HBO's scheduled hour-long run time precludes something shorter, like an album release announcement or another music video. Plus, if you look closely, you'll notice lots of connections between this trailer and "Formation" (Beyoncé's blond braids, Blue Ivy in a white dress and a very blurry natural-haired dancer in the background of the "key catching" scene). We're getting an unprecedented cross-promotional avant-garde creation here, folks.
There's going to be a whole lot of #blackgirlmagic...literally.
The fact that #blacklivesmatter will be a part of Lemonade is not up for debate. From the "stop shooting us" graffiti in "Formation" to the spectacular Super Bowl homage to the Black Panther Party, it's clear the upcoming album/film will be Beyoncé's "Mississippi Goddam" moment. While her power in "Formation" is undisputed (she is, after all, a "Black Bill Gates in the making"), Lemonade will extend this power specifically to black girls across the world through her own brand of Beyoncé voodoo. The nightmare-inducing infrared shots, the tribal painted dancers and the mysterious, gold-shouldered heavy breather are all evidence that dream hampton was right: Beyoncé does have "her own little Orisha power." Even Beyoncé swinging the bare lightbulb in the red room carries with it an aura of the supernatural, as if she's casting a spell on all of us.
Beyoncé's taking a bat (and a pipe bomb) to police brutality.
We see a diminutive Beyoncé, serenely centered in a wheat field, praying, her face obscured by a symbolic black hoodie. That's a hoodie just like the one worn by the dancing boy in "Formation," a hoodie that has become symbolic of negative, damaging stereotypes held against black men. Lemonade will take an explicit, aggressive stance against racially targeted violence, particularly violence at the hands of the police. And Beyoncé positions herself taking charge in this racial justice fight, slamming a baseball bat into a New Orleans Police Department camera. Throughout the trailer, the voice-over repeatedly refers to "the love of my life." The explosion in the spa could be an act of vengeance on behalf of this lover, or just on behalf of victimized black men in general.
There will be redemption.
"I hope I can create art that helps people heal," said Beyoncé in her recent Elle interview. For all of the painful racial scars that Beyoncé touches on in Lemonade, there are hints that the film will provide a path toward forgiveness and rebirth. The trailer shows us a storm of Zora Neale Hurston proportions, perhaps the precursor to the infamous scene in "Formation" where the weight of Beyoncé's body submerges a NOLA PD cruiser. This storm, paired with the striking black and white image of model Winnie Harlow wearing a crown of thorns, suggests that Lemonade finds a way to cleanse us of our sins, but not without a sacrifice of biblical proportions.
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