“This is not album of the year. This is album of the life.” Kanye West tweeted about his album, Life of Pablo, which was released in February and has since become one of the most popular albums released in 2016. Alongside Life of Pablo, ANTI by Rihanna, This is Acting by Sia, Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar, Views by Drake, Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper, and Endless by Frank Ocean have also garnered major notoriety. However, one of the most iconic albums of 2016 is Lemonade by Beyoncé.
2016 has been a year of heartbreak and frustration for black people in America as the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling fueled the tension between the black community and law enforcement. Black artists, including Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and Chance the Rapper, utilized their platforms to bring attention to these issues. Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, made specifically for the black community, incorporates rap, pop, country, jazz and blues, funk, gospel, R&B, and many other music genres. Aside from sympathizing with the black community, this album acts as a political awakening for everyone else.
Lemonade also promotes a sense of black feminism, otherwise called womanism. As Malcolm X said, “The most disrespected individual in America is the black woman. ” Beyoncé incorporated African Southern, Voodoo, Afrofuturist utopian ideals in costumes, sets and lyrics. Afrofuturism is the cultural aesthetic that mixes aspects of science fiction, historical fiction, Afrocentrism and fantasy with non-Western cosmologies. Afrofuturistic artwork can be described as funky and hippy as it conveys the issues that people of color, specifically Black people, face. Beyoncé even had Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet, write poetry for Lemonade. She used Shire’s poetry, specifically “For women who are ‘difficult’ to love,” “Grief Has Its Blue Hands In Her Hair,” “Dear Moon,” and “How To Wear Your Mother’s Lipstick,” that highlighted not only infidelity, but also womanism, feminism, and the exploration of the black female body.
Beyoncé also added Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner; Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown; and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, into the visual album as a way to show the unfortunate reality that black women – especially black mothers – face in a society that is rigged against the black community. Other well-known black females, including Zendaya, Chloe x Halle, Amandla Stenberg, Quevenzhané Wallis and Blue Ivy Carter, were shown in the visual album as a showcase for the future generation of young women who will act as pillars of power for generations to come.
Graphics: Jessica Chang