Just when we all thought Beyonce couldn't possibly slay anymore - she drops her album Lemonade and kills it with her hard-hitting lyrics. The short film, also titled Lemonade, premiered on HBO on April 23rd (proving only Beyonce has the true power to make everyone stay in on a Saturday night) and the twelve track album was released exclusively on Tidal thereafter.
After the launch, the Twittersphere went into overdrive: Why is Beyonce attacking Jay Z? Who is Becky with the good hair? Is her marriage over? Save the speculation however as Queen Bey has made it very clear that she does not like her lyrics to be misunderstood. During her Super Bowl halftime performance, when she performed Formation, many were calling for a Beyonce boycott as they believed the message was "anti-police." Beyonce told Elle magazine in an exclusive interview earlier this month, "I’m an artist and I think the most powerful art is usually misunderstood. But anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken."
Now we have even more cryptic clues and hidden meanings to decode throughout her new album. What we have found from Lemonade is that this the most honest album she has released to date - and Beyonce is certainly not to be messed around with.
12 Pray You Catch Me
Throughout the entire Lemonade album, she mentions Jay-Z's dishonesty eighteen times over eight tracks. Beyonce sets the tone for the whole album with the first lyric of the opening track Pray You Catch Me as she sings: "You can taste the dishonesty. It's all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier." Ever since they were first married in 2008, Beyonce and Jay-Z have dodged rumours about infidelity and jealousy.
The actual use of the term "cavalier" is a direct reference to Jay-Z's close friend LeBron James who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two guys have been pictured on several occasions enjoying nightclubs together sans Beyonce. "It's all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier" could be Beyonce calling Jay-Z out for romancing with other women on these nights out. She knows her husband has not been 100% honest with her and she is determined to catch him out. This is only backed up further as she sings the chorus line: "Prayin' I catch you whispering. I'm prayin' you catch me listening".
11 Hold Up
Last year, Jay-Z rapped on DJ Khaled's track They Don't Love You No More: "Hold up, you ain’t got love for me? Ever meet another like me? Are you sure?" Beyonce sings on her second track of the album, Hold Up, "They don't love you like I love you, slow down, they don't love you like I love you." This is her time to let Jay-Z know that he needs to forget the love he receives from his fans and not let it go to his head - literally just "stop and think."
She sings in the second verse: "Let's imagine for a moment that you never made a name for yourself. Or mastered wealth, they had you labeled as a king. Never made it out the cage, still out there movin' in them streets. Would they be down to ride?" Jay-Z was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, he had a tough upbringing and even at one point turned to selling crack cocaine to get by. Now, the rapper is worth an estimated $650 million and Hold Up is all about Beyonce trying to keep his feet on the ground.
10 Don't Hurt Yourself
No matter how much success Beyonce has - she simply can not avoid the haters. On the third track, with The White Stripes frontman Jack White, Don't Hurt Yourself is Beyonce's time to directly speak to her haters. Beyonce uses this track to assert herself as a strong feminist, she drops the line: "Keep your money, I got my own."
There is also another feminist lyric in the second verse. She sings: "Beautiful man, I'm the lion." She uses the lion as a metaphor of power, female lions are better hunters than the males because they can run faster, proving Beyonce's point that women are stronger than men and really can run the world. This could also be another hidden meaning concerning their 4-year-old daughter Blue Ivy - if their marriage does end in divorce she might be projecting herself as a 'lioness protecting her cub' - a subtle clue that she will fight for sole custody.
Beyonce's Sorry, the forth track on the album, is a follow up to her song Telephone with Lady Gaga. She already made it clear the first time around that she hates being disturbed in the club, but this time - she really means it. In the first verse she sings: "Headed to the club, I ain't thinking 'bout you. Me and my ladies sip my D'USSÉ cup." In 2012, Jay-Z teamed up with Cognac brand D'Usse and they used his name to the promote the brand. Beyonce's Sorry is all about out-partying Jay-Z and whatever he can do - she can do harder and even outdrink him with his own brand.
Then to further this diss track, the last line of the song is: "He better call Becky with the good hair". In black communities, “Becky” is a stereotype that refers to the average white woman with straight hair. Beyonce raps later in Formation, "I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros" to also add to her point that she is proud of her black heritage. So who is "Becky"? The same night Lemonade premiered, Damon Dash's ex Rachel Roy posted a selfie on Instagram with the caption: "Good hair don’t care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always. Live in the light #nodramaqueens."
Roy was also the rumoured reason behind Solange's attack on Jay-Z in the elevator during the Met Ball. When Beyonce fans called Rachel Roy out as "Becky" she tweeted in response: "I respect love, marriages, families and strength. What shouldn't be tolerated by anyone, no matter what, is bullying, of any kind." If it is true and she is "Becky" then she obviously finds Sorry to be offensive with the line that she's just an average "Becky".
8 6 Inch
For the fifth track, 6 Inch, with The Weeknd, Beyonce sings about a woman in "six inch heels" who is "stacking money, everywhere she goes." The track is another example of female empowerment, she is subtly singing about a stripper who is making her own money and how much she respects that.
Commonly in society, women who choose work as exotic dancers to earn their money are looked down on. Beyonce flips this opinion and glamourizes their role with the line: "She works for the money. From the start to the finish. And she worth every dollar. And she worth every minute."
Beyonce previously expressed her admiration for exotic dancers with the video for her previous track Partition. Jay-Z had taken her to a trip to Paris when he proposed and she fell in love with the Moulin Rouge dancers - she previously revealed in an interview that she would love to dance erotically for her husband much like the performers they went to see together.
7 Daddy Lessons
Beyonce's career was basically shaped by her father, Matthew Knowles. He quit his job to manage her music career and as she describes in the sixth track, Daddy Lessons, "Daddy made me dance." In the pre-chorus she also sings: "He said take care of your motherWatch out for your sister." The message Beyonce had hidden in the song was that "take care" and "watch out" meant financially not emotionally. In 1995, when he resigned from his job to manage Destiny's Child, this split the Knowles family income in half and her parents were forced to move into separate smaller apartments. Her father knew that he had placed all bets on Beyonce becoming a star and that she would eventually be worth millions, which would help support the family.
Their faith and determination had paid off and Beyonce now has an estimated net worth of $450 million. However, her father won't see too much of that as she dismissed him as her manager in 2011 following rumours that he stole from her fortune.
6 Love Drought
On Jay-Z's track Ain't No Nigga, he raps: "Promise to stay monogamous, I try. But love you know these ho’s be making me weak." It was a track which allowed Jay-Z to come forward and admit that he struggles with being faithful. During the opening verse of Love Drought, Beyonce sings: "Ten times out of nine, I know you're lying. But nine times outta ten, I know you're trying. So I'm trying to be fair." Much like her song If I Were A Boy, Beyonce is trying to see it from Jay-Z's point of view. He can't help looking at other women but at least he's trying to be monogamous.
Love Drought is a song that also expresses Beyonce's frustration with her husband being unable to see just how perfect she is. She sings in verse two: "I always paid attention, been devoted. Tell me, what did I do wrong?" Much like her 2008 track Why Don't You Love Me, she cannot hide her frustration that her husband is ignoring the fact she is the perfect woman, yet he continues to chase others.
Beyonce uses the metaphor of Sandcastles to describe the current state of her relationship - it appears as if it's built strong but then everything can be easily washed away and undone. She sings in the opening line: "We built sand castles that washed away. I made you cry when I walked away."
Although her line: "Dishes smashed on my counter from our last encounter. Pictures snatched out the frame" sounds like a violent encounter - Beyonce is actually remembering a heated sexual moment. Like the lyrics for Drunk In Love which read: "Foreplay in a foyer, f***ed up my Warhol" - Beyonce often describes making love to her husband graphically. Her last line in the song: "Every promise don't work out that way" is her broken promise to herself - she always vowed to leave Jay-Z if he cheated but now the moment has come she just can't walk away.
For Forward, featuring James Blake, Beyonce begins to wrap up her emotions and metaphorically 'move on' from all that has happened. The line: "I love you more than this job, please don't work for me" is Beyonce expressing her fear that her marriage might experience the same troubles she had with her own father - working too closely together.
Beyonce and Jay-Z have separate business ventures, she owns the management company Parkwood Entertainment and currently manages herself, whereas Jay-Z owns his label, Roc Nation. However they both decided to make a business deal together, as Lemonade has been released exclusively on the streaming platform Tidal, which is owned by Jay-Z. Now their financial ties are starting to derail their personal ties - these are all huge warning signs for Beyonce as history appears to be repeating itself.
Freedom is Beyonce's anthem with Kendrick Lamar about African-American rights. Lamar had previously touched on the issue with his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly about black empowerment. Her first line: "Tryna rain on the thunder" is a metaphor for the racial oppression and discrimination in America - Beyonce expresses here how she wants to put it out. She later describes how she also wants to "rain on this bitter love" too. Her goal is to drag America out of it's current state of oppression and she is not willing to give up without a fight as a "winner don't quit on themselves."
In the second verse she sings: "I'm a wade, I'm a wave through the waters. Tell the tide, 'Don't move'". This line has a hidden meaning as she is directly referencing a Negro Spiritual known as 'Wade in the Water'. The sermon is about the Israelites escaping Egypt - it's how she envisions a future America, with the black communities escaping their own racist society.
The last line on the song is read by Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie at her 90th birthday, she was sharing memories with her family at the time when she read from her speech: "I had my ups and downs but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade..."
2 All Night
All Night is Beyonce's final track on the album that allows her to express true feelings about marriage. She sings: "So many people that I know, they're just tryna touch ya. Kiss up and rub up and feel up" - this is a reference to Jay-Z's patterned dating history. For years it has been "Bey & Jay" but let's not forget those who came before her. He has previously dated Blu Cantrall, Aaliyah, Karrine Steffans and Shenelle Scott. His most serious relationship was with actress Rosario Dawson for three years.
During the bridge Beyonce sings: "Love is the greatest weapon" which is a common Christian phrase used to describe how good faith in the Lord can heal wounds and end wars. The power couple are both deeply religious and have referenced their beliefs on previous albums. As marriage is sacred, Beyonce is expressing with her lyrics that she won't divorce her husband - instead they have a lot of problems to get through but she's determined to make it right.
Formation was the first single Beyonce released from the Lemonade album - it was also the black power anthem that had the world talking. The song was released the day after what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 21st birthday and a day before what would have been Sandra Bland’s 29th birthday. The introduction is a sample from an Anthony Barre video titled Booking the Hoes from New Wildin'. Barre was best known by his social media handle 'Messy Mya' - he was a New Orleans native, tragically gunned down and killed as he was leaving a friend's baby shower in 2010.
Her first line: "Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess" is an expression of her frustration with people comparing her and Jay-Z to the Illuminati. People have been crediting the couple's success to the Illuminati instead of praising their actual hard work as the reason they have both gained so much credibility. Jay-Z touched on the issue in his track Heaven, he raps: "Conspiracy theorist screaming Illuminati. They can’t believe this much skill is in the human body."
Beyonce also drops the line during the chorus: "I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it". The term "Yellow bone" is a reference to being black but with light-skin. Beyonce has been accused of lightening her skin in the past - something she strongly denies. Formation is her opportunity to set the record straight about her own roots - she is considered "yellow-boned" as opposed to "red-boned" but is a proud, black woman.
She also sings: "I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros" which is a reference to her 4-year-old daughter Blue Ivy's hair. In 2014, an online petition circulated demanded Beyonce "brush her daughter's hair" which was seen as a racist slur towards Blue Ivy's black roots. She takes the time out with this lyric to remind the world that she is proud of her daughter and "baby heir."