Beyoncé Just Took the Visual Album to a Whole New Level With 'Lemonade'
No one knew quite what to expect when Beyoncé announced she would be taking an hour of airtime on HBO on Saturday night for a project known only as Lemonade.
Rumor had it that it was going to be a documentary special similar to Beyoncé's extraordinarily tedious and self-indulgent Life Is but a Dream.
Thank God it wasn't.
The hourlong special ran a lot more like the visual album that came accompanying Beyoncé's epic self-titled opus — the one that broke the music industry's formulaic release strategy and remade it in Bey's own image.
Over the course of the special, Queen Bey debuted new music over a series of sections titled with emotions and feelings — "Anger," "Apathy" and "Intuition" among others. Each one came with its own striking visual palette.
"Anger" showed Beyoncé walking through a street smashing cars and store windows with a baseball bat.
In "Forgiveness" Beyoncé plays a piano alone in a house, intercut with scenes of hubby Jay Z.
The beginning seemed to follow a loose metaphorical story of being cheated on and the cycles of anger and apathy that follow.
"I can wear her skin over mine if that's what you want," Bey whispers in the beginning of one of the sections.
But past the halfway point, the film's themes broadened to Beyoncé's upbringing and to the struggle of being a black woman in America. "The most neglected person in America is the black woman," a voiceover reads. The mother of Trayvon Martin appears in one scene.
It's hard to look away. Every minute is a gripping and inscrutable experience that seems to hold countless layers. The music adds some serious emotional resonance, though it gets overpowered by the intensity of the visuals at times.
Yet those craving to hear Beyoncé's strained growls in the "Forgiveness" section or the Weeknd and James Blake cameos won't have to wait at all. Fans can pour over Lemonade to their hearts' content on Tidal. May the Beyhive rejoice. The Queen has returned.
April 23, 2016, 10:19 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.