Lessons from Beyoncé's "Lemonade"
Whether you love Bey's latest visual album or hate it...
Whether you believe it was about Jay Z's infidelity or you think it's a marketing stunt...
Whether you think she should have remained silent or you're impressed by her transparency; there are some interesting themes Lemonade sheds light on that I think artists should at least explore within themselves and their music.
STOP WATERING YOURSELF DOWN FOR OTHER PEOPLE
"I tried to change. Closed my mouth more. Tried to be softer. Prettier. Less awake. Fasted for 60 days. Wore white. Abstained from mirrors. Abstained from sex. Slowly did not speak another word."
We all want to be liked, approved of. We fear not being accepted and start to change ourselves to become closer to what we think people want us to be. Even Beyoncé can't escape this.
You as a musician want to be acknowledged without sacrificing your integrity or your art. Unfortunately sometimes that can be hard.
Agents and managers tell you how to dress.
Other band members tell you what to sing/play.
Directors tell you you're not right for that role because you're too tall/brassy/classical sounding.
Venues reject you because you're not "mainstream enough."
Fans have opinions on which songs are better than others.
And it's hard to not take that as gospel.
Beyoncé tried to change (as far as we can tell) for her husband. We try to change for fame, recognition and adoration.
Own your story and sing it without painting over the parts you don't think others will like. You deserve to express yourself as you are.
BE RAW AND HONEST
"Let me make up for the years he made you wait. Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a God? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head? Am I talking about your husband or your father?"
There are some heavy themes in Lemonade and Bey doesn't shy away from telling it like it is.
It makes some people uncomfortable sure, but it also makes some people feel connected, heard, empowered.
Beyoncé doesn't show us a shiny picture of life in this album.
It shows love at its worst and hate at its most powerful. It shows weakness and strength and tracks the breaking of a woman and her rebirth.
Sometimes we aim to write songs with honesty and end up changing it to sound marketable. We coat pain in sugar and try to make real emotion rhyme so that the masses will enjoy it.
I know you might not want to go too dark or too heavy. You may not want to expose the parts of yourself you're ashamed of. But hell, it's powerful when you do. Lemonade is testament to that.
Some people will say it's airing dirty laundry that should be kept indoors but I like to think music is about sharing stories, creating discussion, uniting people and inviting change.
EMBRACE BEING MULTI-FACETED
"Are you aware you’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me? I always paid attention, been devoted — tell me, what did I do wrong?”
“Headed to the club, I ain’t thinking ‘bout you. Now you want to say you’re sorry. Now you want to call me crying. Now I’m the one that’s lying and I don’t feel bad about it. It’s exactly what you get.”
“Found the truth beneath your lies and true love never has to hide. I’ve seen your scars and kissed your crime.”
"I slay. I see it I want it. I dream it, I work hard, I grind till I own it. I twirl on my haters. Get what's mine, I'm a star."
Gone are the days of caricatures in the music industry (thank goodness).
Despite the fact that my inner child mourns the loss of the Spice Girls, we don't need to be confined to being the Posh one or the Sporty one anymore. We can have layers and in fact we're more interesting with multiple moving parts.
Lemonade is a journey through a whole bunch of complicated emotions, each showing us slivers of Beyoncé's personality.
Sorrow, confusion and loss percolate into anger. Anger shows up as revenge, as insults, as looking after herself. There's self reflection, journeys into the past and finally understanding and reconciliation.
Musically it does the same thing - keeps you guessing. There is dirty hip hop, throwbacks to New Orleans jazz, blues, hints of country, beautiful ballads and everything in between.
Don't feel as though you need to be musically pigeon-holed. You don't need to fit in a box with a label despite what some people in the industry might have you believe.
"Grandmother, the alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands."
Life will deal you your fair share of lemons (maybe more than your share). But it's your choice what you do with them.
I don't know about you but my best songs have come from heartbreak, sorrow and grief. I've tried writing happy songs and believe me, mine certainly aren't great.
Some of my best moments on stage have been where I sing my guts out because something awful has happened in my personal life, so I channel that into the character I'm playing.
If you're going through something difficult, use it. Make the choice to do something artistic with those lemons that shares the lessons of your story.
"Our love was stronger than your pride. Beyond your darkness I'm your light."
Sure, Lemonade talks about Beyoncé forgiving someone else, but what I want you to take away from this is self forgiveness.
Forgiving yourself when you fall is just as hard as forgiving someone else for betraying you.
You will make bad choices. You will stuff up in performances. You will miss opportunities and sabotage your own success.
But when those failures happen, dust yourself off and forgive yourself.
MUSIC IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT POLISHED SOUNDS
"You are terrifying and strange and beautiful."
The song Sandcastles has a couple of iffy notes sung by Beyonce in the second half, which she could have edited out and re-recorded but she didn't.
There's almost a strangled scream sound at about 1:37 which makes us remember about the journey that got her to this stunning ballad.
Sometimes keeping the authentic emotion in a track is more important than that slick production. You know it's okay if your audience finds out you're human.
And finally, I'm going to leave you with this line from my favourite track on the album to remind you JUST KEEP GOING.
"Freedom, freedom, cut me loose. Imma keep runnin' cause a winner don't quit on themselves."