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All The Best Pieces About Beyoncé's Lemonade

The stunning visual album marks a new chapter for the singer. Here are the most insightful, complex pieces about her latest offering.

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When Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, the gorgeous visual album, the world stopped. The project draws heavily on themes of betrayal, forgiveness, growth, and community. With poetry from Somali-British writer Warsan Shire, traditional Yoruba body paint by Brooklyn-based Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo, and an undeniably Southern Gothic setting, the work is an impressively rich reflection of the African diaspora.

But at its core, Lemonade is a deeply vulnerable project that speaks directly to, for, and with black women in particular. Below are some of the best pieces written by black women, joining Beyoncé in the conversation she invited us into — scarf tied, edges laid, and lemonade stirred.

1. Clover Hope, "Lemonade Is Beyoncé's Body and Blood," Jezebel

HBO / Via themuse.jezebel.com

"Topically, whether this is about Jay Z or Mathew Knowles (whose unfaithfulness to Beyoncé’s mother Tina produced a baby) or curated fiction, using cheating as a narrative thread for an album about black female solidarity is daring and damn near perfect. Lies are what links us anyway. The absence of trust. Who are we to believe in if it can’t be our fathers, partners or the country that claims we’re free? The answer is our sisters."

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2. Brittany Spanos, "How Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' Reclaims Rock's Black Female Legacy," Rolling Stone

HBO / Via rollingstone.com

"'Don't Hurt Yourself' is only the latest chapter in a rich historical narrative. Since the Fifties and Sixties, black female singers have covered white rock artists and vice versa, though the former have often seen bigger success with their versions. Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" and "Ball and Chain" are more inextricably linked to Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin, respectively. Tina Turner reversed the tide when the Ike and Tina Turner Revue's cover of the Beatles' "Come Together" — performed while opening for the Rolling Stones in 1969 — helped them achieve their breakthrough after struggling with being referred to as "too pop" by soul stations and "too R&B" by white stations. Later, their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" became the Revue's biggest hit and flipped the standard narrative of white rock artists appropriating black music."

3. Doreen St. Félix, "A Love Profane," MTV News

HBO / Via mtv.com

"But the trauma of infidelity is about much more than matters of adulterous fucking in Lemonade. Black women in America are cheated out of spiritual and material things. 'The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,' Malcolm X says, toward the middle of the film. Was he talking about structural injustice there, or about interpersonal love? Lemonade confirms they are inseparable, and it is a relief."

4. Melissa Harris-Perry, "A Call and Response With Melissa Harris-Perry: The Pain and the Power of 'Lemonade,'" Elle

HBO / Via elle.com

"Lemonade disrupted our inner ear, throwing us off balance as we confronted the breadth of all we have missed, ignored, and submerged by pushing black womanhood, even our own, to the margins. As a black feminist scholar I have been thinking, teaching, and writing about the intersections of race and gender for two decades, but the sheer force of Lemonade's visual and sonic artistry is still unfamiliar terrain."

5. Amani Bin Shikhan, "'Lemonade,' Love, and Being a Black Girl Who Becomes a Black Woman," Noisey

Adam Mignanelli / Via noisey.vice.com

"They say that black women are nurturers, but they don’t say that black daughters are too. Learning from birth to sit straight, clean the tables, come to the defense of our hotheaded brothers and stubborn fathers, our neglectful lovers. Black daughters who rush to act as their mother’s crutch, the one to make her facial muscles tense and reveal all of her teeth, her deep belly laugh a satisfaction in its own right. We run to the bathroom with our mother’s lipstick. We watch as she ties her satin scarf, or her hijab, or fingers the last ends of a braid. How do we grow and become new women, ridden of our inhibitions, of the voice in our heads that refuse to let us free? We fast, we abstain, we pray. We return to our bodies, anew."

6. Dominique Matti, "Why Lemonade Is for Black Women," Medium

HBO / Via medium.com

"With Lemonade, Beyoncé broke the first rule of being a Black woman. She did not protect the Black men who failed to protect her. She did not prioritize a Black man’s pain over her own. She said: my pain demands acknowledgement. She said: You must be held accountable. She said: I am more than enough  —  why do you deny yourself heaven? She said: I do not exist to be your collateral damage  —  fix you, and fix the damage you’ve done."

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7. Ashleigh Shackelford, "Bittersweet Like Me: When the Lemonade Ain’t Made for Fat Black Women & Femmes," Wear Your Voice

HBO / Via wearyourvoicemag.com

"Southern Blackness is inextricably linked to bigger Black femmes’ and women’s bodies. Our bodies symbolize the birthright of Black struggle while also representing the lineage to white plantation/white supremacist functionality. The rich history of the Deep South and the violence around troping, codifying and oppressing Black women and femmes is centered on mammification, sexual violence excused through hypersexual mythologies, denial of beauty, animalizing our humanity and utilizing our bodies as a literal and symbolic vessel for the continuation of slavery and subordination."

8. Ijeoma Oluo, "Beyoncé's Lemonade Is About Much More Than Infidelity and Jay Z," The Guardian

Parkwood Entertainment / Via theguardian.com

"We are the women left behind. We are the women who have cared for other women’s children while ours were taken away. We are the women who work two jobs when companies won’t hire our men. We are the women caring for grandchildren as our sons are taken by the prison industrial complex. We are the women who march in the streets and are never marched for. We are the women expected to never air our grievances in public. We are the women expected to stay loyal to our men by staying silent through abuse and infidelity. We are the women who clean the blood of our men and boys from the streets. We are the women who gather their belongings from the police station."

9. Diamond Sharp, "Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Is an Anthem for the Retribution of Black Women," Vice

HBO / Via vice.com

"The Black Future and the stars that represent it, notably Stenberg and Zendaya, have been diligent about not separating their politics from their public personas. Likewise Lemonade's narrative deliberately blurs the lines between the personal and the political. Beyoncé has been clear about her support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and it's not surprising that the mothers of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Trayvon Martin, all victims of police or policing-related violence, are featured. As Beyoncé notes in "Intuition," 'The past and the future merge to meet us here.'"

10. Amanda Parris, "Eight Black Canadian Women Dissect Beyoncé's 'Lemonade,'" CBC

HBO / Via cbc.ca

"The interweaving of [poet Warsan Shire] and Bey's prose says so much of what we as black girls and women have always known, 'that we are terrifying, strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love.' That sexism is much deeper, it doesn't matter whether you are Beyoncé or Rihanna, none of us are exempt from a racialized sexism that breaks bones and hearts. For me it felt less about the cheating, but more about the betrayal, and knowing that I share this connection forged across the diaspora, a call and response around a kind of sadness that we as black women bear." —Kim Katrin Milan

11. Judnick Mayard, "Beyoncé Brings Wonderful Witchcraft, Healing Powers in 'Lemonade,'" Billboard

HBO / Via billboard.com

"In fairytales, women often visit a witch during a time of intense grief following unexpected loss (see Disney staples Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty). The witch’s job becomes immediately alleviating that pain while warning there’s no easy fix. In Lemonade, Beyoncé insists we mourn. Haunting images permeate the visual album. The funeral processions and second line parades, the dancing on the coffin, the burning houses, ghost women painted white. (Nigerian-bred, Brooklyn-based artist Laolu Senbanjo helmed the body art, which derive from a spiritual ritual in worship of orishas, the gods in Yoruba religion.) Beyoncé resorts to these time-old symbols that black women have used to heal, stretching across West Africa, the Bayou and the Caribbean."

12. Sajae Elder, "When Life Gives You Lemons: A Thematic Breakdown of Beyoncé's Surprise Album Lemonade," Noisey

HBO / Via noisey.vice.com

"Beyoncé finally emerges from the building, water cascading down the steps behind her before leading into the Diplo-produced, reggae-tinged “Hold Up.” This is also the point where voodoo and West African-based religious imagery starts to become apparent throughout, as a handful of in-the-know viewers pointed out and offered context for. The imagery, which sees Beyoncé in a yellow dress, is reminiscent of Oshun, a badass goddess who wears yellow, governs over love and sexuality and laughs when exacting revenge."

13. Jamelia, "Piers Morgan, you don't like Beyoncé in Lemonade because her blackness isn't white enough for you any more," The Independent

Parkwood Entertainment / Via independent.co.uk

"You are a middle aged, British white man. You have no idea, I repeat: NO IDEA what it is like to be a black woman, and furthermore the sacrificial, struggle-filled, tongue-biting, mask-wearing fight it is to become a successful one.

"Let me break this down for you: Beyoncé’s album is not an attack on anyone; it is a celebration of the strength, endurance and potential within black womanhood. The fact that you are mad/uncomfortable/agitated about it is evidence enough of how blind you are to the realities of being one."

14. Nichole Perkins, "What to Read After Watching Beyoncé’s Lemonade," Fusion

HBO / Via fusion.net

"Much of the lyrics of Lemonade focus on the consequences of infidelity, and we see Beyoncé cycle through the pain of dealing with a cheating husband. We also see the grieving mothers of black boys and men killed unjustly. Because Lemonade touches on the actions of men and honors the mourning of men, it’s easy to reduce the film to the idea that everything revolves around them. On the contrary, Lemonade gives proof to Anna Julia Cooper’s words: 'Only the BLACK WOMAN can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.' Lemonade is not simply another “he done me wrong” album or video. The relationship at the heart of the lyrics is a Trojan horse, opening to the shores of black womanhood as healing and salvation."

For further reading:

* Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones

* The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart by Alice Walker

* Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime by J. California Cooper

* for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

* Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Hannah Giorgis is a Culture Writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hannah Giorgis at hannah.giorgis@buzzfeed.com.

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