Beyoncé latest visual album, “Lemonade,” explores some new, frank territory for the singer.
Though her husband Jay Z has long been featured on her songs, including successful collaborations “Crazy in Love” and “Drunk in Love,” he’s never quite been the central subject like he seems to be on “Lemonade.”
“Lemonade” (available on iTunes and Tidal) sounds like a classic breakup album, with Beyoncé listing her grievances about a man suspected to be Jay Z. Though, by the second half of the album, things get quite a bit more complicated.
Her rabid fans, of course, have been busy dissecting every word of “Lemonade” and trying to line it up with her and Jay Z’s personal life. It may be as much art as autobiography, but many have connected the apparent infidelity mentioned in the album and the infamous video footage of a fight breaking out between Beyoncé’s sister Solange and Jay Z in an elevator.
Here are the most revealing lyrics on “Lemonade” that seem to give a window into Beyoncé’s marriage with Jay Z.
Beyoncé comes out of the gates strong. On her album opener 'Pray You Catch Me' -- which most listeners assume is her husband Jay Z -- she says she can detect the lies on his lips. She ends the song by asking, 'What are you doing my love?'
Cowritten by Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, who once tweeted one of the lines ('Hold up, they don't love you like I love you'), 'Hold Up' rides a sunny reggae groove. But Beyoncé has harsh words for her man, telling him, 'I smell your secret, and I'm not too perfect/To ever feel this worthless.' Going through his 'call list,' she warns, 'I'ma f--- me up a b----.'
In the video for 'Hold Up' from the 'Lemonade' film, Beyoncé walks down a street causing destruction everywhere.
'What's worse, lookin' jealous or crazy?/Jealous or crazy?/Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately/I'd rather be crazy'
The refrain in 'Hold Up' gets right to the point: Beyoncé would rather appear jealous than hide her emotions and feel like she's being used. She explored similar themes in 'Jealous' from her 2013 self-titled album.
'Let's imagine for a moment that you never made a name for yourself/Or mastered wealth, they had you labelled as a king/Never made it out the cage, still out there movin' in them streets/Never had the baddest woman in the game up in your sheets/Would they be down to ride?/No, they used to hide from you, lie to you'
This is the most cutting lyric on the album, from 'Hold Up,' suggesting that Jay Z has accumulated wealth and power that have made him attractive to women. But without those things, she says, other women wouldn't pay him much mind.
But Beyoncé is still there for Jay Z: 'Y'all know we were made for each other,' she sings, 'so I find you and hold you down.'
Beyoncé doesn't let up on the aggression in 'Don't Hurt Yourself,' which features a Led Zeppelin loop and was recorded with Jack White. 'Keep your money, I got my own,' she says. The song argues that her man's mistakes will only come back at him. 'When you diss me, you diss yourself.'
'Uh, this is your final warning/You know I give you life/If you try this s--- again/You gon lose your wife'
Beyoncé delivers an ultimatum at the end of 'Don't Hurt Yourself,' saying she's ready to walk away.
The 'Lemonade' film also includes home-video footage of the couple together.
Another seemingly clear reference to Jay Z, this lyric on 'Sorry' turns his verse on Kanye West's 'So Appalled' back on himself. Beyoncé is using his own insults to let him know she should give him pause.
Beyoncé makes not-so-veiled references to possible infidelity on 'Sorry,' saying that her man always has 'excuses.'
She also makes allusions to a breakup, which leads one to wonder how autobiographical the album really is, since she and Jay Z are still publicly together. 'I left a note in the hallway/By the time you read it, I'll be far away/I'm far away,' she sings.
The lyric heard 'round the internet, about who a man suspected to be Jay Z is spending his time with, has been the most dissected on the album. Amateur sleuths have come up with theories about who 'Becky with the good hair' is.
Fans immediately picked out designer Rachel Roy, who denies she's the person referenced, though she first posted a message on Instagram that seemed to be a response to the song.
People are also speculating the 'Becky' could be singer Rita Ora, who has been linked to Jay Z. This has resulted in a lot of Beyoncé fan backlash against the women, which Roy called a form of 'cyber bullying.'
Apparently the fact that neither woman is named Becky doesn't matter to fans.
'Daddy Lessons' is the closest Beyoncé has come to making a country song, and the violent lesson in the title is directed at a man in her life. The father of the song told Beyoncé when 'men like me come around,' she should 'shoot.'
'Ten times out of nine, I know you're lying/But nine times outta ten, I know you're trying/So I'm trying to be fair'
In the latter part of the album, Beyoncé's tone softens, and she seems to want to make amends. 'Lemonade' comes off like a breakup album, one of the oldest models there is, but with a twist. 'You and me could move a mountain,' she tells a man in the chorus of 'Love Drought,' reaffirming their love.
'We built sand castles that washed away/I made you cry when I walked away/And although I promised that I couldn't stay, baby/Every promise don't work out that way, oh, babe'
Beyoncé alludes to a breakup that didn't fully happen on 'Sandcastles,' whose video features Jay Z. She says, 'What is it about you that I can't erase, baby?' Though the fighting is still fresh in her mind, she's willing to resolve it: 'Show me your scars and I won't walk away.'
Beyoncé suggests that career ambition is getting in the way of her relationship, but she's willing to put that aside if it can save the love. The song 'Forward' repeats the word like a mantra, for herself and everyone else who wants progress.
'Freedom,' Beyoncé's collaboration with rapper Kendrick Lamar, gestures to much larger ideas about black unity and the fight against oppression and racism, though you could read into it as a relationship that's holding her down.
'I had my ups and downs, but I always found the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.'
At the end of 'Freedom,' Beyoncé includes this clip of Jay Z's grandmother Hattie White giving a speech about forgiveness.
The quote could serve to heal the relationship wounds explored throughout the album.
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