Beyoncé | Lemonade14:15
I think it's safe to say that as it stands, there will never be a Beyoncé album that doesn't go without major media hype, but Lemonade beats all. After dropping Formation - the confident, fierce, black power anthem - before her performance at this year's Super Bowl, rumours swirled for weeks about an impending Beyoncé album. Of course, we all safely assumed it would be similar to her first surprise album, the self-titled LP she dropped in 2013 - through which Beyoncé vocalised a lot about her healthy relationship with Jay-Z, and most memorably, her stance on feminism. Album five was about girl power, female empowerment, loud and clear.
But no one expected this.
Before listening to Lemonade, I was admittedly worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. And boy, there was so much hype. Lemonade shook the pop world to its core as it became blatantly obvious to fans that all was not well in Beyoncé's marriage to rapper Jay-Z - that he may have, in fact, been cheating on her. The fact that Beyoncé has kept her personal life so private, and has had a relatively strict no-interview policy for years now, probably added greatly to the shock factor of her sixth album. Lemonade inspired countless lengthy, in-depth reviews from music critics; dozens and dozens of memes, GIF.s and videos (such is the modern world's response to everything: make a meme), and accidentally influenced an online witch-hunt for the elusive "Becky with the good hair", with whom it is alleged Jay-Z has been cheating.
So naturally, expectations were high, but spoiler alert: Beyoncé went above and beyond and blew everyone out of the water with this one.
Lemonade starts with the haunting and beautiful Pray You Catch Me, but it's second track and single Hold Up that really gives me chills. Beyoncé means business on this record, and lord help anyone who stands in her way. Beyoncé is angry, and that anger and pain at the turmoil in her lengthy relationship is so raw, and so deep that for the first half of Lemonade, it's almost palpable.
Don't Hurt Yourself and Sorry see the queen Bey get furious - there are points where she's almost screaming in frustration ("Who the fuck do you think I is/ you ain't married to no average bitch, boy"). Throughout Sorry, she repeatedly sings, "Middle fingers up / put them hands high / wave 'em in his face / tell him, boy bye." It's a massive, chilling fuck you to the singer's husband of eight years.
Daddy Lessons stands out as one of the most interesting tracks on the record - it is, clearly, a homage to Beyoncé's father, and she sings of her admiration for him, her love for her mother and sister, and the ways in which her father 'warned' her about "men like [him]" (Matthew Knowles also cheated on Beyoncé's mother, Tina). The song itself also pays tribute to her southern roots, as a jaunty, country-style guitar number, that proves that Beyoncé can kill it at any genre she chooses.
The latter half of the album sees a heartbroken woman questioning herself, her flaws - sometimes even blaming herself - and the relationship to which she was so heavily devoted: "You're my lifeline / are you trying to kill me?"
Piano track Sandcastles is where the emotion really heightens, as Beyoncé sings of her inevitable heartbreak, and surprisingly, forgiveness. Spoiler alert: prepare to cry, excessively. And have your heart strings wrenched like never before.
Freedom, with the much-acclaimed Kendrick Lamar, is all round excellent and one of the stand-out tracks of the album. It shows us a Beyoncé, strong as ever, picking herself back up and showing who's boss once again. Freedom will have you fist-pumping and feeling fucking powerful. It's also one of two political tracks on the album - with Freedom, Beyoncé addresses the ever-present issue of systemic racism, injustice and police brutality in the U.S. And no better artist to collaborate on a track such as this, than Kendrick Lamar.
And so it closes with the highly controversial but imperative Formation, feisty and fierce as ever. It leaves you feeling empowered, like you can take on the world, and no one can stand in your way (and yes, I acknowledge that this album isn't really for me, as an Irish white girl, but you really can't help but feel inspired by Beyoncé's fierce and confident attitude). The album may be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, but ending it on such a powerful note is what really crowns it, and makes it such a masterpiece.
Lemonade is a genuine testament that the best music comes from the rawest of emotions - it's pure anger, hurt and pain, poured into a forty-six minute long roller-coaster of music, from soft, emotional piano songs to loud saxophone and blues, to the deepest, angriest of hip hop. It ranges from frustration and anger, to heartbreak and self-doubt, to triumph and feelings of pure empowerment and yes I'm fucking better than this.
It's easy to get overexcited about albums like this, and artists like Beyoncé, and start throwing ridiculously high praise around but I mean this when I say it: Lemonade is truly, genuinely, one of the best albums I've ever heard. It's that good.
Yes, Beyoncé is "queen" and "yaass sslayyY" and all that shit, but Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is also a genuine artist, musician and dare I say it - fucking genius.
All hail Yoncé.