The Hodgepodge: Beyoncé’s Visual Album ‘Lemonade’ and Music’s Next Steps

On April 23, pop sensation Beyoncé dropped another surprise album for her fans. However, unlike 2013’s Beyoncé, this surprise album Lemonade also included a surprise HBO special. This one-hour program was a visual aid to the album, essentially a string of music videos for the album’s songs, interlude with an original poem written by Warsan Shire. That’s breaking it down to almost nothing, because the album, listening to it or watching it, is deep. It’s more than just a call-out to her husband Jay-Z who may or may not have cheated. In an age where social justice is at the forefront of many of today’s issues, Beyoncé’s Lemonade gives a voice to African-American women. A voice that challenges stereotypes and the treatment this group of women tend to receive from the public.

Beyoncé not only simply uses music, but an entire album in multiple media, to send her message. She connects with her core audience in the best way she knows: writing and singing songs. And she takes this a step further with the visual album. As many of the songs deal directly with the anger, confusion, and worry of a possible cheating husband, the visuals on the album tell a more complete story.

Now there’s an elephant in the room that quickly needs to be addressed: Tidal. For a short time, Lemonade, was solely available through Tidal: the music streaming service owned in part by Jay-Z and Beyoncé. It’s obvious that, to some degree, the purpose of Lemonade’s surprise release was to boost sales and interest in the streaming service. In the wake of Lemonade’s release, Tidal saw a huge increase in downloads and online searches. This is only a part-time victory for Tidal, as Lemonade also became available through Apple Music only a day after its release to Tidal. But I also believe that message spoken loudly in Lemonade was also part of Beyoncé’s honest motivation for creating the album.

I’m a big proponent for albums and singers/songwriters using their artistic ability to tell stories and spread messages through the album format. I would love to see more of it in country music. For the most part, country music tends to build albums with songs not generally connected by a theme. It’s not a bad thing, and there are some great albums (Traveller, for instance) that don’t necessarily follow a theme or concept. Albums like Sturgill Simpson’s latest two albums, Southern Family, and Red-Headed Stranger are fantastic examples of concept albums in the genre.

The beauty of devoting a whole album to a story and message is seeing an artist stretch his or her creativity beyond other albums. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and A Sailor’s Guide to Earth both showcase Sturgill Simpson stretching the genre of country music and his own personal musical prowess, exploring different avenues for the songs’ production. Beyoncé’s Lemonade shows the pop star letting outside genres influence certain songs or chapters of the story, including a country/western influence on “Daddy’s Lessons.”

Unfortunately, mainstream country is too controlled by Music Row who wouldn’t dare risk any loss of revenue by experimenting with a concept or visual album. Artists working independently have the creative freedom to create such an album if they so choose, which is why we see Americana artists release more theme-oriented albums. Now these independent artists don’t necessarily have the same resources as Beyoncé to create a visual representation of their album, but I would like to see more creative visual representations of the music from these artists.

Dierks Bentley is doing a smaller version of a visual album with his own four-part mini-movie over the course of four songs from his upcoming album Black. While this is as much of a marketing ploy for Black as it is a creative display of his music, it’s still something different and I respect the effort from Dierks. While the Black mini-movie isn’t as symbolic as Lemonade, it’s nonetheless a visual representation of the songs – a creative music video that goes beyond three minutes. As music continues to move toward the digital medium, away from radio, and away from music videos on TV, mini-movies for the albums would be a good move forward that I’d be excited to see more of from my favorite artists.

Upcoming/Recent Americana and Country Releases

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter‘s The Things That We Are Made Of will be released tomorrow.
  • Cindy Lauper‘s Detour will also be released tomorrow.
  • Also released tomorrow is Ryan Beaver‘s Rx.
  • Jennifer Nettles’ newest album, Playing With Fire will be released next week on May 13.
  • Americana singer/songwriter Michaela Anne‘s newest album, Bright Lights and the Fame will also be released on the 13th.
  • We’ll soon have a review for the Elephant Revival‘s Petals, released last month.

Throwback Thursday Song

“That Ain’t No Way to Go” by Brooks and Dunn. Hearing Brooks and Dunn perform last Sunday at the ACCA’s was a treat. Ronnie Dunn’s voice is one of country’s best. This 1993 number one hit was released on their album Hard Workin’ Man.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

Tweet of the Week

A milestone always worth mentioning.

iTunes Review

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.35.33 PM

This was left under Florida Georgia Line’s newest single “H.O.L.Y.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

7 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Beyoncé’s Visual Album ‘Lemonade’ and Music’s Next Steps

  1. Josh Schott May 5, 2016 / 12:06 pm

    Excellent post, Derek. I now really want to hear this Beyoncé album, so I’ll have to pick up a copy of it soon. Concept and visual albums are something more artists need to explore you can really dig deep into a topic, as Beyoncé did with Jay-Z’s possible affair and Sturgill with his son being born. Of course one of my other favorites this year is a concept album, Chris King’s Animal.

    As for adding more visual media, I wouldn’t want to see all artists try this as I’ve seen the music videos from mainstream country artists and they aren’t very good usually because they have nothing to do with the song or are just plain weird (Tyler Farr’s “Withdrawals” comes to mind, haha). But the talented artists definitely need to this more. Sturgill has seemed to understand this from the start. Another one is great with music videos adding to the song is Wade Bowen. And I have to give credit to whoever did the music video for Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” too. They can really add to the songs if done properly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin May 5, 2016 / 5:27 pm

      Right, I wouldn’t want it to become a norm for music in general, but when visuals are done right, they add a lot to the music.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nadia Lockheart May 5, 2016 / 12:21 pm

    I never even liked Beyonce (for the most part) prior to the release of “Lemonade”.

    Leading up to the album, I always thought aside from some solid individual tracks, Beyonce was among the single most overrated entertainers of all-genres for a few reasons: 1) her songwriting and lyrics had rarely displayed nuance and veered too heavily to this sort of reactive “You’re in the wrong, I’m in the right!” puerile disposition, 2) her vocals were just painfully average in terms of expressive quality and ability to convey subtlety, and usually would rely on bombast………………..and 3) though she has often sold supposed feminist themes in her music, she had done so in the most shallow and trite ways imaginable that sometimes struck as antithetical to feminism.

    So you can bet when I heard and watched “Lemonade”, I was blown away. I was astounded. Now THIS is the Beyonce I’ve been waiting to hear and want to see more of! =D

    It sounds authentic, raw and personal.The production has serious teeth in drawing influences from Animal Collective, Outkast and Led Zeppelin, among others, as opposed to the assembly line beat from the likes of DJ Mustard. She exhibits more subtlety and range as a vocalist than I’ve ever heard from her. And she frames the songwriting in a much more grayscale way where she unravels all her rage, resentment and despair about Jay-Z in the former half of the album but, in the latter half of the action, self-examines the relationship more broadly in the context of songs like “Freedom” and “Daddy Lessons” and ultimately aspires to give what they built a fighting chance while refusing to settle for a cheesy Hollywood ending.

    “Lemonade” is excellent. And if it reflects the rule, rather than the exception, surrounding Beyonce’s music going forward…………………then I’ll consider myself a fan of hers for the first time in my life. No matter what, “Lemonade” is worth every penny.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OlaR May 5, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    Beyonce? Can’t stand her voice. But the idea of a concept like “Lemonade” is intriguing.
    In mainstream country music i can only see a handful of artists trying a concept/visual album: Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves & Chris Stapleton.

    More new releases:
    Keith Urban – “Ripcord” (with guests Pitbull, Nile Rodgers & Carrie Underwood)
    Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here” (no voice, no charisma, no dance-skills)
    Travis Collins – “Hard Light” (Travis who? Country singer from Australia)
    Jason Owen – “Proud” (“X-Factor” Australia runner-up 2012)

    Check-Out/New album: Martina McBride – “Reckless” (Nash Icon/BMLG)
    I really like the single “Reckless”. I like the most of the 10 tracks on “Reckless”. Her voice is still strong. Glad to hear Martina McBride the country singer again: “The Real Thing” with Buddy Miller & the radio-friendly “That’s The Thing About Love”. “Diamond” with Keith Urban sounds like a hit (well…a small hit).
    Is it the best Martina McBride album? No. But it’s a good comeback. 8/10.

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    • Robert May 5, 2016 / 3:17 pm

      “The Real Thing” is my favorite on Martina’s album. One of the very best April releases that hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage outside of bluegrass is Curtis Wright’s album – “Going Through Carolina” and “Old Man From the Mountain” are a couple of my favorites, and “I Will Someday” is a great religious song (written by the Stapletons and Bowmans) that reminds me of the sort of song that was a major part of the country music genre in its formative years such as the 1927 Bristol Sessions, Carter Family,etc.

      Like

  4. Cobra May 5, 2016 / 5:48 pm

    I’ve never been a huge Beyonce fan, but I certainly appreciate the way she connects with her audience and the impact she’s had on music in general as well as within her genre.

    I do love concept albums. One of my favorite concept albums is Counting Crows’ “Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings,” a spectacular album from a group that still makes great alternative music.

    OlaR, I agree that Martina’s new album is certainly not her best, but has some solid moments. Would probably give it a 7/10.

    On the other hand, I am incredibly impressed with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Things That We Are Made Of.” MCC is such a talented woman, she has such an incredible voice and Dave Cobb did it once again by producing an outstanding album to an absolute T. Josh and Derek, I hope one of you has the chance to review it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott May 5, 2016 / 10:06 pm

      I’m definitely giving Carpenter’s album a listen soon. Dave Cobb almost never lets me down, so it’s mandatory I listen to anything he produces.

      Like

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