Narratively, Lemonade is as much a journey through self-reflection and healing as self-discovery, learning about who you are when faced with seemingly insurmountable trauma.
Released months after news of her husband's allegedly adulterous dalliance, Lemonade reflects the notion that for all her public visibility, Beyoncé's true life and emotions are not available for public consumption or critique; on Lemonade, it's only Beyoncé who tells the story, who allows access to it by reflecting on the dynamic stages that women — and often here, specifically black women — go through for friendship, love and family.
Soft, plaintive coos open the album, but the pain and subdued anger is palpable as Beyoncé sings "You can taste the dishonesty" over the synth-orchestral ballad "Pray You Catch Me," which balloons into the reggae-infused, uptempo "Hold Up," produced by Diplo. As with the release of Beyoncé's self-titled 2013 release, Lemonade was released in full with accompanying visuals in a 60-minute documentary that aired on HBO, and in the visual here, Beyoncé wields a baseball bat named Hot Sauce as she smashes windows, singing, "What a wicked way to treat the girl who loves you."
She's downright pissed by the anger-driven rocker anthem "Don't Hurt Yourself," which features Jack White before diving into the spiteful, Isaac Hayes-sampling "Sorry." The Weeknd joins Beyoncé on "6 Inch" to offer a seductive, post-break up chapter that will resonate with any woman (and man) who's ever borne the brunt of infidelity.
Beyoncé pays homage to her country roots on "Daddy Lessons," and after she laments that "Every promise don't work out that way" on the heart-rending "Sandcastles," James Blake provides impetus to learn from what's happened on "Forward." The timing is perfect for Kendrick Lamar and Just Blaze to assist Beyoncé on horn-led, gospel-influenced anthem, "Freedom." The execution and power, though, are all hers.
On Lemonade, Beyoncé takes agony and, rather than spinning pure beauty out of it, refracts it and takes time to work through each facet: anger, sorrow, forgiveness and self-actualization. The result is an album in which millions will find their own struggles reflected back to them, as therapeutic as it is utterly dazzling. If you've ever been handed lemons, you need Lemonade. (Columbia)