I just watched Lemonade in its entirety last night, and I was blown away.
My wife and I were watching Lemonade while eating dinner last night, and as the flames were engulfing the room Beyonce was lamenting in, I exclaimed, “Beyonce’s on the list.”
My wife asked, “she wasn’t already?”
“She is now.”
You see, I have this list of creative role models whom I look up to while toiling away and working 7 days a week. It’s not a big list.
- George Lucas
- Walt Disney
- Spike Lee
- J.K. Rowling
- Marc Hannah
- William Shakespeare
- Elon Musk
- Bill Gates
- Howard Hughes
- Steve Jobs
- Michael Jackson
- Steve Wozniak
- Pink Floyd (I know they are a group)
- Jerry Lawson
And now Beyonce is on it.
Lemonade was a visual and sonic masterpiece that at times was challenging, stunning, shocking, and joyful. It abstractly told a story and completed a full arc of thoughts and full range of feelings. Part diatribe against low down, dirty dog men, part ‘I hate you so much right now’ girl power salute, part frustration against the struggle black women face, and part celebration for the bonding and sisterhood that shared struggle can bring.
Watching Lemonade at times made me feel sad for Beyonce; want to yell, “drop that zero and get with this hero,” to the screen, and then smile and feel good about the expressions of love we all have the capability of feeling and expressing. Lemonade was just as much an audio-visual therapeutic session for Beyonce as much as a question posed to men, “why do you do this to us when we love you?”
Beyonce is not known for having thought provoking lyrics or a voice that can blow you away. There are better lyricists and bigger voices out there. With a voice that can sound like anything, Beyonce ‘has a quality that can be packaged and sold en masse’, to channel Curtis Taylor, Jr. Which shouldn’t detract from awesome she is. I am a Beyonce fan. Beyonce is the Millennial’s Janet Jackson, another great, hard working entertainer who couldn’t blow people away vocally, but constantly delivered bigger and better performances.
What really struck a chord with me was how phenomenal the work really was. Lemonade is a layer cake of backgrounds, visuals, motion, words, context, color, mood, timbre, and sound executed near flawlessly.
Lemonade has to be experienced. It appears to be a work that was meticulously planned and thought through with excruciating detail. The experiment accelerates as we watch Beyonce plunge into a street full of water. Watching the textured effect of underwater lighting on skin was a delight. Exhaling bubbles in time to the music under a bluish haze is just good filmmaking. Metaphors abound, my favorite transition is Beyonce swimming from the bedroom and emerging from a buildup of rushing water. The water pushes her into a baseball bat wielding crazy walk in Uptown. Hold Up is instructive. Watch the scene again. Beyonce is hot; and I believe she truly enjoyed filming this sequence, but take a moment to look at the action that’s happening in the background as she’s singing and swinging the bat. Check out how the director brings the background motion in and out of focus. Look at the contrast between her yellow dress and the drab cars she’s busting up. Pay attention to the timing of her throwing her arms up in the air and the 12 o’clock boy popping a wheelie. Check the synchronicity between the explosions, her bat bashing, and the drum beat. And; she closes the scene by swinging on the camera with the monster truck pulling up on time. That’s just Hold Up. That’s nine minutes, thirty-nine seconds into an hour and five minute film.
And this continues for another 50 minutes. The choices between color and black and white, to bleach process, and using film grain effects in various scenes just works. Especially the use of red filters in both the color and black and white sequences. For the photog among us, peeping the red filter in Freedom is a delight. You just have to watch it and appreciate it, which brings me back to my list.
The people on my list are the biggest and baddest creators and innovators. They are people who build or make things to build and make things. They had big visions, took big risks, and after achieving a degree of success, they put their reputations on the line to continue making the things they want to make. Critics be damned.
After achieving what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls fuck you money, Beyonce has reached a point at which she can create the art she wants to create without fear of critique. Lemonade is an unapologetic message of woman empowerment, black women’s empowerment specifically. It portrays a pain and struggle for acceptance and respect that’s hard to miss. There are a few latinas in the film, but black women dominate the hour and five minutes with black men relegated to the background. “Shut up and listen, we have something to say,” is what she yells during the film. But after all of the shouting, a diss to the Becky’s which is really the most minor part of this film, she shows that black women are a foundation of forgiveness and love. And they do this through all of the struggles for having their hair styles stolen, being criticized for having big hips and ass, and are constantly portrayed as attitudinal, over sexed, angry black women. What people fail to realize and my wife continues to state whenever I slip into the patriarchy, is that, “women have not been able to choose the life they want for themselves until they got control over the bodies, could work and make their own money, and could get their own credit.” And women giving voice against these things makes some uncomfortable.
Her haters, negative critiquers who are black, white, and POC who complain about the message this artist, a true artist, is communicating are either tone deaf, paid by Beyonce, trying to get quoted, or are uncomfortable that their personal views on black women and their contribution to society are being challenged. Really, when I hear and read quotes from people like Piers Morgan (who I respect and like) and others who complain of using Eric Garner’s mother ‘for selling albums’ or whine that Lemonade is a blow to ‘feminism’ are the reasons why there are certain elements in the film. The cuts to mothers of the fallen aren’t there to sell albums it’s to make a point. The lack of white women in the film is to make a point. Black men relegated to background motion and scenery is to make a point. The home footage of her and her father is included to make a point. Hell, the scenes with his Jay-ho-vah’s-ness are there to make a point.
A point the haterade contingent misses.
You don’t have to agree with what she’s saying (singing?), you don’t have to like the choices in color, or using mothers of slain victims in the work. Really, you don’t even need to like it. You just need to appreciate that this is a brilliant work of art.
I speak to kids and business groups often, and people frequently ask me, “how?”
• How did you get an opportunity speak in Dubai?
• How did you get on the radio?
• How did you file a patent?
• How did you get that deal?
As a society we’ve been sold on this myth that there are overnight successes. Or big breaks. The honest answer is that overnight success and the big break are the result of early mornings and late nights. It’s more than a 9 to 5. People were asking how could Prince stay up for days on end and keep working. It’s a drive. Before Destiny’s Child there were times Beyonce just sung and danced. You don’t create things like Lemonade by getting in to work late and leaving early. Beyonce has a production team and apparatus now, but the thought and work put into Lemonade had to be a disciplined project with many hours and nights put in by more than her production team.
I tell people, “I don’t run my life by the time clock.” And dedication and work is the only way to get there. And yes, luck follows those who work hard and are prepared. 6 Inch is an entrepreneur’s power anthem. The song resonates with me as a person who grinds it out week in and week out trying to turn a vision into reality. Look past the Lincoln Continental and listen to the lyrics. Everyone knows that she’s one of the hardest working people in entertainment, and here’s how.
It’s that type of dedication to your art and being a craftsmen that I respect. And that’s why Beyonce is now on the list. (As if she cares)
Lemonade is a masterpiece. Slick production, near flawless execution, personal home footage, street footage of couples, visually sharp cuts of Eric Garner’s mother and others who’s sons were killed by the use of excessive force, Beyonce communicates that we are women who are your mothers, sisters, daughters, and lovers.
Don’t fuck up again.