Pray You Catch Me Hold Up Don’t Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White) Sorry 6 Inch (feat. The Weeknd) Daddy Lessons Love Drought Sandcastles Forward (feat. James Blake) Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar) All Night Formation Sorry (Original Demo)

Theres one moment critical to understanding the emotional and cultural heft of LemonadeBeyoncs genre-obliterating blockbuster sixth albumand it arrives at the end of Freedom, a storming empowerment anthem that samples a civil-rights-era prison song and features Kendrick Lamar. An elderly womans voice cuts in: “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up, she says. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.

The speechmade by her husband JAY-Zs grandmother Hattie White on her 90th birthday in 2015reportedly inspired the concept behind this radical project, which arrived with an accompanying film as well as words by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Both the album and its visual companion are deeply tied to Beyoncs identity and narrative (her womanhood, her blackness, her husbands infidelity) and make for Beyonc’s most outwardly revealing work to date. The details, of course, are what make it so relatable, what make each song sting. Billed upon its release as a tribute to every womans journey of self-knowledge and healing, the project is furious, defiant, anguished, vulnerable, experimental, muscular, triumphant, humorous, and bravea vivid personal statement from the most powerful woman in music, released without warning in a time of public scrutiny and private suffering. It is also astonishingly tough. Through tears, even Beyonc has to summon her inner Beyonc, roaring, Ima keep running cause a winner dont quit on themselves. This panoramic strengthlyrical, vocal, instrumental, and personalnudged her public image from mere legend to something closer to real-life superhero.

Every second of Lemonade deserves to be studied and celebrated (the self-punishment in Sorry, the politics in Formation, the creative enhancements from collaborators like James Blake, Robert Plant, and Karen O), but the song that aims the highest musically may be Dont Hurt Yourselfa Zeppelin-sampling psych-rock duet with Jack White. This is your final warning, she says in a moment of unnerving calm. If you try this s**t again/You gon’ lose your wife. In support, White offers a word to the wise: Love God herself.

 

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