On Saturday, April 23, Beyoncé premiered Lemonade, her second visual album (following 2013's Beyoncé), on HBO.
The album explores grief, pain, joy, and forgiveness, all folded into a raw glimpse at Bey's personal life and her views on what it's like to be a black woman in America.
The entire album — 12 tracks in all — is now available on Tidal. At midnight, the album will be sold on iTunes. Its guest artists include The Weeknd, Jack White, and Kendrick Lamar. On it, Beyoncé experiments with new and different sounds, even pulling out some elements of country. But to get the true experience of the album, you had to tune into the premiere.
The visuals of Lemonade riveted. The first half of it felt like a letter telling her husband Jay Z she intended to divorce him. Bey smashed windows with baseball bats, talked about being lied to, sang about being wronged.
There's also a moment when she quotes Malcolm X. "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman," Malcom X said during one of his speeches, and that same quote plays during "Don't Hurt Yourself."
The songs incorporate strong elements of Southern Gothic and the supernatural — there are images of Beyoncé breathing underwater and levitating, talk about being thrown into a volcano, and talk about challenging religion. There's also a surprise appearance from the most dominant female tennis player in the world, Serena Williams:
At times — in the verses about cheating and being lied to — the first half of Lemonade feels as if Beyoncé is subtly addressing the great elevator fight of 2014, between her husband Jay Z and her sister Solange, as well as persistent rumors of her divorce.
As the album progresses, it zooms out and touches upon bigger ideas of pain and grief. At one point, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are seen holding pictures of their dead sons.
But in the latter third of the album, Lemonade makes a slight turn toward hopefulness. This isn't so much a hope that things will change, but, rather, a hope for resilience. Everything comes back to that Malcolm X quote — because black women were not valued or protected, they learned to endure, to persevere, to rise above. Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown's mothers are again pictured, this time among other black women, while Beyoncé sings about celebrating her freedom, their freedom:
The penultimate song on the full album, "All Night," was actually the end of the Lemonade HBO special.
It's the opposite of the album's start. After the screaming, the pain, and the rage, it comes to a peaceful place where it feels dreamy and airy. The visual album ends, fittingly, with what appears to be home video of Bey; her daughter, Blue Ivy; and her husband, Jay Z: