by Zoe Feldshon
When Beyonce’s empowering album first came out in 2016 I was captivated. Listening to the dramatic words and watching her intricate moves never ceased to amaze me. My astonishment was no less at her Formation World Tour, but what I didn’t recognize was the underlying messages of female empowerment, personal growth, and fighting for equality. My further understanding of Beyonce’s words since 2016 and through this weeks discussions have only strengthened my appreciation and love for the Texan singer.
A known fact among Beyonce enthusiasts such as myself is that her Lemonade album had many hidden themes, a few being grieving over her husband Jay-Z after cheating on her, in addition to feeling beaten down about her southern roots and race. Beyonce tackles these subjects, but in a much deeper way than a naked eye would see. The first pattern to notice is the order in which she puts the songs in the iconic album. She begins with songs such as “Pray You Catch Me” and “Hold up” clearly depicting the sorrow that she feels at the first news of being cheated on. She wants to be wrong and she tries to fix herself so that everything will go back to normal. She tries to stay in the background and stay calm as to not cause a scene. This is proven same in the movie as the colors are dark and muted. In “Hold Up” the sorrowing wife is slowly beginning to break out of her misery though, as she breaks through the victorian doors with water flowing out from around her. Our class clearly noticed an emotional change as she emerged from the doors, showing growth from the previous scenes. As she moves into “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Sorry” you can see the anger that she posses. Not only at Jay-Z but at the world. She feels that she is supposed to sit back and accept her cheating husband, the racial inequality in the world around her, and the benefits she doesn’t receive as a woman. Her confidence gains through here. As the album moves on this theme of growth and empowerment continues as well. In the movie, not only do the songs and script depict this but so do the wardrobe, color, and setting choices. Beyonce and her team begin to break down what they have been told to stay “captive” in, moving from a more victorian setting to a modern model. Adding in empowering female dances and well as a light of confidence through her words and movements. Even the subtle changes in their hair was powerful, moving to more traditional hair styles and clothing, showing more freeing clothing to express breaking out of chains. That’s just the beginning of that part though. Ending with the song “Formation” further reinforces that woman need to work together, be proud of their heritage and themselves, and that they deserve just as much as any man.
Now Beyonce’s album could be taken as a one album message, and she could never fully touch on the lessons again, but Beyonce has taken these lessons throughout a majority of her music. Through her emotional song, “Pretty Hurts” in her 2014 album, Beyonce explains the pain of trying to be perfect in todays society. How to avoid being called a whore or a slob, eating disorders ruining our nation, and overall unhappiness. She address the issues many were struggling to talk about at the time. In the same album, “Flawless” featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reinforces that all women from a young age are told how to dress, act, position themselves, and where they belong in society. She breaks down that narrative, expressing her pride in being from Houston, Texas and that she wouldn’t take anything back.
Beyonce may be a music icon in the current industry but what makes her music so important to review is the obvious messages of how difficult society is to live in currently. Whether it’s “Halo”, “Single Ladies” or “Formation” every song has an underlying message that is important to talk about. Our class has just begun to brush the surface of her work and we could spend a whole semester on it, but it opens our eyes to what other messages we could find among the music and arts industry as well.