Get In Formation: 3 Takes On Beyoncé’s Lemonade

JAM and Insha both joined Ardo in sharing their feelings regarding Beyoncé’s new visual album Lemonade. It premiered on HBO as a special event two weeks ago and you can watch it for yourself over on Tidal, iTunes, or the physical album which you can order online (I pre-ordered it myself). It was … an experience. Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire, provided the poetry that acted as a connective tissue for each song to form a narrative that included heartbreak, anger, forgiveness, contemplation, power, and the majesty of the black woman.

What were your first impressions of Lemonade?

Insha Fitzpatrick: To be honest with you, I’m not the biggest Beyoncé fan. I like her music here and there, but not really the biggest fan of hers. Don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty awesome. Destiny’s Child was a huge thing in my household when I was growing up, but I never got into Beyoncé’s music until she became super badass.

With that being said, when I first heard about Lemonade, I thought it was just a bunch of hype. Beyoncé popping out with a new thing is nothing new, but this was different. My first real impression of Lemonade was instant #blackgirlmagic. So much #blackgirlmagic. I couldn’t believe the amount. The visual storytelling is absolutely genius and beautiful at the same time. I was honestly shocked at how much of a story she really had to tell. I especially loved how she weaved her stages of grief over the issues of cheating, anger, being in love, being strong into the poems. It was really effective.

The fashion is definitely on point, and while there are some surefire hits and misses, she certainly slayed this all day. The cameos in this were supreme as well. Winnie [Harlow, Amandla [Stenberg] — and it was a surprise to see one of my favorites, Ibeyi, French-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz who sing in both English and Yoruba, in the video as well.

Beyonce's Lemonade

J.A. Micheline: Oh man. My first impression was Lemonade is everything.

I have warmed to Bey increasingly over the years–largely due to my sister’s influence. She’s a huge Beyoncé fan and I think I started paying attention to Bey more in an effort to connect with her better. And when Lemonade dropped, I heard some discussion about it–how it was about Bey’s relationship with Jay-Z and other things, but I don’t think anything anyone said could have prepared me for what it was.

I think, as I’ve spoken increasingly louder about the injustices black women face and thought more and more about how the world is crushing us, I’ve always had this space in mind, this goal. If we can get ‘here’ then it will be okay. But until Lemonade, I wasn’t actually able to envision where ‘here’ was. I was so mired in how bad things were, I literally couldn’t see a space where we were totally unfettered. And so, when I finally watched Lemonade, it felt so familiar. This was the place I wanted for myself, the place I wanted for black women. And it’s wild to be able to finally see it.

Ardo Omer: I loved it. It was an experience that I can tell my future kids about (and show them since I preordered the album!). I agree with everything JAM and Insha said. It was a celebration of black women as well as a well-oiled personal narrative where every song had its place but could also stand on its own. I also love that Warsan Shire’s poetry was used to hold it together and being Somali, it made me so happy that a fellow Somali creative is on such a massive platform. I felt SEEN watching this.

Favourite tracks from Lemonade?

Insha: There’s a couple weirdly enough. I love, love, love “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (Jack White being apart of anything makes it better), “Freedom” and “Formation.” “Daddy Lessons” really got to me because of the close relationship I have with my dad.

JAM: All? Of them? I mean, for a minute I was all about “Sorry” but now I can’t get “Hold Up” out of my head, and then “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is fire. “Formation” is the anthem. “Freedom” is at once empowering and heartbreaking.

I said all of them, right? I did say that.

Ardo: I can say with confidence that I love every single song on this album which rarely happens but the ones that pop are: “6 Inch” featuring The Weeknd, “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Formation” and “Love Drought.” “Love Drought” has become a recent favourite because it’s such an emotionally revealing song. The question of What did I do wrong? is ridiculous in that there’s nothing you could do to deserve getting hurt but wondering what our role is in our heartbreak is something we return to as a reflex. With every listen, I get new feeling from this album.

Beyonce's Lemonade

What are your thoughts on this album being about Beyoncé’s own relationship?

JAM: I mean, it’s about Bey’s relationship insofar as Fury Road is about Furiosa escaping Immortan Joe alongside four young women. It’s important but it’s also a vehicle for other themes. I don’t think it makes sense to deny that this is an album about her personal experience because that dismisses the complexity of what she was working through. It is as much an album about being a black woman as it is one about Bey’s relationship(s.) To deny Bey that is to try to take the work from her, I think.

Ardo: I recently heard this question posed on an episode of Another Round and the response was perfect. It’s real but also not. It’s definitely based on an experience that Beyoncé had and/or feelings associated with it but not every single thing in it has a real tangible thing linked to it. So I think it’s important to see what Beyoncé is trying to say beyond just her personal experience because it’s there but it’s more like fuel in service of a greater work or art/vision.

What do you think about this obsession over “Becky with the Good Hair”?

JAM: unimpressed annalise how to get away with murder gif

Insha: ^^^ THIS.

Ardo: Co-signing that gif.

Do you think this a different Beyoncé we’re getting with Lemonade and if so, do you like it? Do you want more of it?

JAM: She’s different in the way that growth changes people. She’s growing but it’s still Beyoncé. It was always Beyoncé. And I honestly cannot wait to see how she blows Lemonade out of the water with whatever she’s got going next.

Insha: I’d like more of it. Way more. This really made me think about Beyoncé in a new way, especially as a visual storyteller. Throw me more of the aesthetics. I’m with you.

Ardo: I wasn’t a huge Beyoncé fan before this. I liked a few songs when she was part of Destiny’s Child and some of her solo stuff but her self-titled album that she dropped without fanfare had me going, “Huh what’s this?” Then “Formation” happened, and I was blown away. Then came Lemonade which buried me before resurrecting me. I finally felt like Beyoncé had something to say that was able to reach me in a musical and visual package that left me breathless. Like many people, I felt like Beyoncé grew into her voice and decided to use it to comment on society while also pouring her most personal self into it. She let me in and I loved what I saw.


I hope you all check out Lemonade and please read essays by black women about it. There are great ones out there like this one: “What to read after watching Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’”.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.

One thought on “Get In Formation: 3 Takes On Beyoncé’s Lemonade

  1. Wasn’t a huge Beyonce fan (I don’t really listen to a whole lot of music in general). When Formation came out, I loved it. When Lemonade dropped…I was planning on doing some inking while watching it and, uh, that was IMPOSSIBLE because it completely blew me away from the beginning on!

    Every single thing about Lemonade is perfection. The music is the heartbeat, but everything around it works to make a stunning body of storytelling, poetry, visuals, direction, solid references, cinematography, VFX, makeup, hair, COSTUME, good lord…everything.

    I’m pretty sure if Bey and Janelle Monae did a musical film together I’d probably explode.

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