When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

by Grace Homan
Upon research Beyonce’s Lemonade, I became overwhelmed with the realization that this masterpiece contains millions of different facts available to analyze. However, I had to start somewhere. For this reason, I looked to the most obvious pointer: The title. 

Why did Beyonce choose to name her album Lemonade? After all, the beverage does not seem to be a common theme throughout the songs. However, what I recognize now is that lyrics are not the only way that Beyonce conveys her messages; she heavily utilizes visual aspects in her music video, too. Perhaps most relevant to the title was the phenomenal imagery crafted by Beyonce and her team in “Hold Up.”

The first thing that we see is Beyonce submerged in water. Drowning, her voiceover calmly articulates “I tried to change, close my more, tried to be soft, prettier, less awake, fasted for sixty days, wore white, abstained from mirrors, abstained from sex….” This monologue represents a series of undertakings that Beyonce — physically, spiritually, and personally — did in order to cope with her lingering anxiety of wanting to know whether or not her significant other is “cheating” on her. Despite these drastic measures to change for her partner, this question fails to depart. At this point, Beyonce unzips her jacket, a key metaphor for unpeeling a lemon. 

Shortly thereafter, Beyonce appears to us standing at the top of seemingly monumental steps with water pouring away from her and towards the ground. The sheer contrast between Beyonce drowning —submerged underground — to her standing higher than everyone else with water pouring onto them immediately flips the switch: Beyonce is now in the position of power, rather than being in a position of submission.

Moreover, in this powerful depiction, Beyonce wears a beautifully bold yellow dress as cloudy water departs her perimeter. This vision effectively works as a metaphor for a yellow lemon realizing its juice, or lemonade.

All of these visuals make sense to viewers: Beyond felt submissive and trapped inside of the manipulations of her relationship, and now she has taken back the power; she takes the lemons given to her and makes lemonade. However, we cannot stop there. We must ask ourselves: “Why?” and “How?”

First, why? Why does Beyonce emerge from the depths of despair and into a parade of revenge? As we know, Beyond intuitively feels cheated on by her significant other, which has caused her to change elements of herself. However, Beyond recognizes that her image will never be good enough for her partner or for the world. As she runs through this Southern town, she smashes car windows with a baseball bat singing “What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?”

Essentially, if womxn become submissive and complacent to a man’s need in a relationship, then she looks insecure and jealous. On the other hand, if she expresses her justified anger, then she looks crazy. Beyonce recognizes that if she conforms to a lifestyle of approval, then she will never win writing that she has been “walked all over lately, walked all over lately.” Therefore, Beyonce echoes her internal longings chanting that “I’d rather be crazy,” thus fueling this conquest for revenge and empowerment.

Second, how? How does she manage to take her power back? A key repeated verse throughout the song is “Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you” implying that her partner will never find another quite like her. She even expresses sympathy for this individual describing his “shame[ful]” behavior that “let this good love go to waste.” Through the sympathy expressed for her ex in these verses, Beyonce further puts herself in a position of inferiority, reaping even more lemonade from the trauma of her relationship.

Perhaps the most key visual present in the music video is the powerful, unapologetic, and authentic smile on Beyonce’s face.

Beyonce is happy. Empowered, delighted, and at ease Queen B. takes the lemons of a cheating-ex and societal expectations and throws them in the trash. She is therefore left with nothing but the sweet taste of revenge in the form of lemonade.

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