Be warned, this piece contains explicit words.
Ok, here we go: At the end of my piece „A few words to Drake’s Views“ I added a few words to „Lemonade“ by Beyoncé. Back then I was dissapointed by the record. I thought Beyoncé didn’t go far enough. She had promised so much with „Beyoncé“ and I felt with „Lemonade“ she fell back, was tamed and held back.
Now I have to take these words back.
At least half of it. Or even a bit more than half. What has changed, what has happened between now and then? I watched the film „Lemonade“. And there was everything I sought for, everything I expected, everything I wanted (and much, much more). It seems Beyoncé has found a way to express herself. It seems songs aren’t enough to hold that. Only the company of visuals to the songs can give her what she wants to achieve. It is a bit like me adding my pictures to my words. The pictures always give a different, added angle to the wordpieces. Both could stand for themselves alone, if they must – but they shouldn’t. Because together they compliment each other and create something more.
So the film made me understand, love, feel and appreciate „Lemonade“, because I could hear and see it the way it was meant to be seen and heard. And this is also my criticism on „Lemonade“ and why I only half take back my words: I feel the record shouldn’t have been released as an album. I think only the film should have been released, plus – if it must be – the 2 or 3 songs that can stand for themselves as singles.
For those of you, who heard the album, but didn’t see the film: In between the songs Beyoncé speaks. There are also a lot of visuals, strong pictures, strong stories. And what she says in between the songs is exactly what I missed on the record. She goes deep. She says beautiful and ugly things, things that make her look wise and things that make her look crazy. Things that make her vulnerable, that open her up to criticism.
For example at one point she evokes the picture of her putting on the hairs and skin of a woman her man cheated with after she stripped the woman of her skin and hairs. She dresses herself in the skin and hairs of that girl to become the girl he seems to want. The girl he seems to want more than her. The girl, who seems to be something, have something she can never be without giving up herself. Without giving up who she is. And even for love, she simply can’t do that. The young, old, neverending conflict between love and ourself. And she asks the simple, desperate question:
Why can’t you see me? Why?
Everybody else can…
One of the moments in the film I get a shiver all over my body.
In the film she touches on many subjects she doesn’t touches on in the songs: Racism, capitalism, abuse, the way women are seen, the way we have to behave. But mostly it is her private journey. Starting at a point where many women are – being in a relationship, not getting what they need. And then realising that they simply are more than what they are allowed to be. More than what they are desired to be. More than what men learned that women are. She looks at herself: Where do I come from? She looks at the world: Is there hope for us? She gets angry and pays back in „Sorry“. But then she does, what most women never do – she finds her own way out of this labyrinth, her own way to deal with it. And that is why I love Beyoncé. And why she and her music touch me and move me in a way most others never can. She has the ability to listen to herself, to her needs. To understand what she needs and then go all the way. Willing to pay the price.
The „Hold up“
I love the song „Hold up“, especially in the film. In the beginning, there is a huge door, with a big stair, made of stone. The door opens up and water rushes, flows out and floods the stairs. You see Beyoncé in a volouptous, lemonyellow dress. She is the one who opens the doors and stopped the flood from holding back.
The song perfectly shows the dilemma so many woman (and many men) have experienced on this planet, since the beginning of time: You love someone, all is good. But then something changes. You know, something is not right. You KNOW it. It simply is not as it should be. You ask your love: „What is wrong?“ And get told „Nothing, everything is alright, don’t trip.“ But you aren’t stupid or blind. And you just know. So what do you do? „What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy?“ asks Beyoncé: Do I pick up a fight, always with the nagging feeling, that maybe I am wrong, maybe what he tells me is true? Or do I go through his things, follow him to see where he goes and look like a mad person? Cheating is so much more than just the betrayal. Cheating is also stealing.
You steal trust. You steal self respect, you steal self assurance. You steal future and past. As Beyoncé says: „What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.“
In the film „Hold up“ Beyoncé destroys everything getting in her way. Literally. With a baseball bat and a monstertruck. Both things not usually associated with women. As always Beyoncé knows exactly what she wants to say. She has a vision. She destroys a car, a shop window, a security camera and in the end us, the viewers. And every single one of these things stands for something. But before she destroys the camera filming her (which is in reality us watching her), she seizes us up, looks at us. Then she takes aim, smiles and destroys us. Coldblooded. I think this is a significant scene, as a lot of her pressure must come from every move of her being hawked on by reporters. Her every move judged. The song ends with her crashing cars – mens beloved toys – with a monstertruck, while a creepy tune plays.
The red thread
There are a few things that go through the whole movie. One is the creepiness. „Lemonade“ continues on the ghost and haunted theme that was already touched on on „Beyoncé“. But a lot deeper, darker and creepier. Going way beyond the boundaries of „playing“ with that theme. Since Beyoncé broke free a few years ago, with every record she dared to show a bit more of her personality, which was – disneylike – hidden till then. She literally stretched her wings a bit more with every record. Personally I think the next record will go even further on that magic/ghost/haunted/witch theme, as this spirituality is clearly something that is moving her.
Another interesting thing is that men are almost absent in the film, while women are in every scene. When men appear, then only as one part of a relationship or as an ornament, a visual, to demonstrate something. But never as a threedimensional character. It is very clear: This is not a story of men. It is solely about women. About the curse, the fucking curse, how Beyoncé calls it, that is part of the package of being a woman. The curse that goes back generations. The curse that still holds so many human beings in their spell.
In the wonderful „Don’t hurt yourself“ and „Formation“ Beyoncé unleashes all her power. You just want to get up and dance and fuck shit up. But again – both songs only got real to me through watching the film. Which I think is really sad, because they deserve more. Since then they became two of my favs on the record. But even when she gets really clear on her man and tells him, Jay Z, that he has a god complex (which we all know) and that he can’t handle her, she stills keeps the bridge down, the door open and understands: „If you lie to me, you only lie to yourself“. Even then it is about understanding, communication, working together and not only about revenge.
The Daddy song
The Daddy song („Daddy lessons“) is a song I really have a problem with. The song also gets reality only through the video. But I still don’t like it, cause I think it is too forgiveful and too accepting. I have no forgiveness for adults who steal children their childhood. Period. And I wish she would go in this question also her own way, as she does it with other things. And would be more vocal or reflecting towards these issues.
I understand, that it is difficult. I understand the argument, that the behaviour of her parents maybe brought her where she is now and therefore it may be difficult to criticise it. BUT – you don’t know. Maybe she would have found a different way to the same spot anyway? Or maybe she would have been less successful, but more happy? We don’t know.
You could argue, that it is her right: If she choses to accept the way she was prepared for a career even as a little child, it is her own choice – but in reality it isn’t, because she voices this opinion in public. In reality she gives acceptance and credibility to parents and children acting the same way, stealing childhoods: „I know you don’t like to rehearse, sweetie, but look at Beyoncé, don’t you want to be like her? She always worked hard, even as a little girl!“
But children shouldn’t work. They should play. And laugh. And dream.
Ok, back to the „Lemonade“. The real blessing and strength of the film is something Beyoncé achieved as herself, as a human being, not as the performer or artist. All by herself. As a woman. She found out for herself, that she loved this man. That he is the love of her life. Yet he cheated on her, lied to her, played her. He hurt her. But she succeeded in evading all the traditional ways she could feel or behave. And found her own way to react.
She was hurt to the core – but she forgave. And I mean really forgave. Not in the way this is usually done today in our society: Forgiving with a small heart: People say they forgive, but what they really do is take the bill with all the wrongdoings and put it in the back of the book. So it may not be there to see, but they know, it is still there. The bill is still not settled. When it is time, it is pulled out again. This is not forgiveness.
I know how Beyoncé felt. If you really forgive, if you untie the knot your heart is in, if you take all the pain and hurt and just let it go, make your heart wide and open, you feel newborn. We are afraid to forgive, because we fear it makes us weak, dependant, small. We feel we agree to being hurt with forgiving, we absolve. We fear, if we don’t say no, we say yes. But in truth, forgiving makes you stronger. Invincible. Unbreakable. Forgiveness is a superpower.
And with forgiving, she finally found a way to break through the walls of the person she loves. In my favourite song of the whole filmrecord „All night“ Beyoncé sings „True love never has to hide“ and shortly after that comes – among other couples – the picture of a gay couple. There are a few significant pictures in the film, pictures you can feel are important, have a statement. Pictures you feel Beyoncé wanted in the movie at any cost and this is one of them.
The first part of the film is about the pain, the anger of being betrayed. It is the journey to understand: „Why does this happen to us“. Then comes the breakdown and the breakthrough „She left and it made him cry“. She left and understood, there is no other man for her. And she dares to decide FOR something. And with that decision everything broke down and reconsiliation was possible. When you forgive, you feel a power in you. It feels as if you can heal the world and nothing is impossible. This feeling is magic. And so of course when she comes to this part in the film, with the song „Love drought“ she evokes pictures of baptising: „If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious“ and „Together we can calm a war down“. But this „together“ transcends the man/woman together, it is a „we all together“. This gets clear through the film, the pictures used. But sadly – once again – not in the song without the film.
All in All
All in all it is a wonderful film, that made me dance, cry, laugh. It gave me hope, longing, vision. It is an important film for many women. There are beautiful visuals in it and I truely think Beyonce has the eye of a film director. I love one scene, where a simple, white fabric is moved in the wind – flawless beauty. I sense that she has way to many ideas and so some beautiful moments in the film were only touched upon.
As usual, this is a film for women. There are different ways to tell a story: You can hover above it, tell things from a distance or you stand in the middle of it and live it. Beyoncé can only tell her story. She lives it, breathes and bleeds it. Yes, it is a film for and about women – but with that it is a film for everybody, because we all are in this together. And anyway: It is a film about love – and we all love.
The film ends with the words „Stop shooting us“. There is nothing to add to that.
Meta-P.S. Yes, I admit it, these are more than „A few words“, but be happy you did not see the draft! And: I did here, something I usually never do: Usually, when writing about a book, record, film, I go back and look up the literal quotes to give an accurate account, make sure that I remember it right. This time I didn’t. On purpose. I give you what I heard, what I felt. So I am not actually sure, if Beyoncé really talked about the skin of that other girl fitting like a glove, but I know it is the picture I had in my mind.
Hope you don’t mind.