Lemonade is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Beyoncé's Lemonade came out four years ago today. It's one of the best pieces of art ever made.
Beyoncé could have continued along the path she was on, creating hits and plotting sold-out world tours. Instead, she made a multimedia work of art that set a new standard for what an album could be—while paying tribute to all those who came before her, and creating a way to redemption for those who come after.
Beyoncé - Pray You Catch Me (Legendado) www.youtube.com
Not much can be said about Lemonade that hasn't already been written. Lemonade was before its time and yet fundamentally of its time. Rich with history, sparkling with collaborations and features, it's a sonic and visual experience that uses poetry, music, and visuals in a completely innovative way. It was personal and political, private and immensely public, ageless and timely.
Ostensibly about Beyoncé's relationship with Jay-Z and her response to his infidelity, it also dives deeply into many layers of existence, including the experience of being a Black woman in America, the experience of being a woman, the experience of trauma and the experience of finding redemption in community and resurrection in love. "It isn't just a collection of standalone pieces produced for pop-culture consumption; the culmination of these movements spans a broader political perspective of the black female experience," writes Suzanne Churchill.
Beyoncé ft Jack White - Don't Hurt Yourself ( Official Music Video ) Pre Promo www.youtube.com
Despite its lofty themes, Lemonade was produced for pop culture consumption, as much for young girls as it was for academics. It is a pop album in a high-art frame, highbrow and lowbrow, open for the taking and sharing. It reached far more people than any piece of literary theory, yet it broke open boundaries and created new spaces out of fragments, questions, and fractured memory.
"Lemonade reflects and advances a black womanist Afrxfuturism that asserts Itutu, precision of self-expression and direction within instability. Conjuring balance in the maelstrom of antiblackness produces an Afrxfuturist aesthetic teeming with seeming paradoxes that can be best understood through the idiom of diasporic vertigo," writes Valorie D. Thomas. In its contrasts, in its flickering multimedia images and constantly shifting soundscapes, it performs the alchemy that inspired its name. Lemonade is life out of lemons, it's shoots growing out of concrete, it's hope at the end of the world.
"[Lemonade] invokes so much of the Yoruba tradition, which is grounded in African tradition," said Dr. Amy Yeboah, associate professor of Africana studies at Howard University. "But it spreads across the diaspora. So you see it in Cuba, you see it in Louisiana. It's a cultural tradition that connects women of the diaspora together."
"This Womanist fairytale — featuring American Southern, Voodoo, and Afrofuturist utopian imagery — is most of all a personal film, though co-directed by seven people, including Beyonce Knowles-Carter herself," writes Miriam Bale for Billboard.
Beyoncé - Love Drought www.youtube.com
Sonically, the album is rich in tradition—blues, rock, and folk merge with rap and pop—and with this, it achieves a sense of intimacy and familiarity, creating an ongoing dialogue with the viewer. Visually, it's just as rich. In the video, dressed in innumerably rich costumes, shrouded in natural wonders, Beyonce stands in the legacy of ancient goddesses and modern feminism, twining them together to create something that—if not whole—feels alive in its brokenness.
Its purposeful and passionate use of poems by Warsan Shire sets it apart as well. Shire's poetry is haunting, full of ghosts and gods and witches and mothers. It perfectly compliments Beyoncé's songs, adding a sense of internal life to the project, giving voice to the pain that underlies the performance. Baptize me," Beyoncé recites, "now that reconciliation is possible. If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken." The poems, with their words like sermons, thread into the visuals which braid into the songs and together it all creates a synergy that can only be described as visionary, or perhaps occult, or most of all, sacred.
All in all, Lemonade is gospel for the modern era. Lemonade is a literal and figurative story of rebirth, of baptism by fire and of birth through death. Each time it's watched, the video offers more and more gems of wisdom, more hints about how we might all be reborn.
"Lemonade shimmers: history and current events remain co-present. As Beyoncé says, 'The past, and the future merge to meet us here,'' writes Carol Vernallis. More than ever we need recipes for rebirth and healing. Luckily, Beyoncé wrote us one in 2016.
Beyoncé - All Night (Video) www.youtube.com
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.