My expectations for “Lemonade” by Beyonce were pretty low, as I don’t usually gravitate to modern R&B music. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the musical diversity of this highly acclaimed album, which is rated #32 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It appears most people associate this record with the relationship difficulties she was experiencing with her husband Jay-Z at the time, and he is notably absent from the entire record, either as a performer or producer. I’m only speculating here, but I wonder if the album title is an extension of the saying, “When life gives you lemons…”. True or not, this record has some really interesting songs that showcase her versatility and remarkable talents.
Among my favorites are the subdued but catchy melody “Hold Up”, “Sorry”, a tune where she is pretty angry and not terribly remorseful for her emotions, “Daddy Lessons”, which incorporates a mix of Dixieland Jazz with a slice of country, and “Freedom”, a powerful song with a strong performance from Kendrick Lamar. “Formation” is another intense and funky track, and I also really enjoyed “Love Drought”, which I’m really surprised wasn’t released as a single.
Another unusual song that works well is her collaboration with Jack White on “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. An odd pairing perhaps, but this song really blends them well, and I remember thinking the drums sound a lot like “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin. My instincts were proven correct when I saw the songwriting credits and saw all four members of Zeppelin credited on the songwriting, even though at most, the song mixes in the amazing drums of John Bonham on sample. As much as Led Zeppelin has “borrowed” from other artists, I think this was a pretty generous credit, but that trivia aside, this song is another unexpected highlight, as well as another side of angry Beyonce I haven’t seen before.
As I said, I don’t naturally gravitate towards Beyonce or her style of music, but I really love the way she branched out here, and I fully understand why it was so successful commercially and critically.