“You know you that b**** when you cause all this conversation.”
Arguably, Beyoncé’s album “Lemonade” and its accompanying short film were together two of the most important and controversial contributions to our collective pop culture last year. And while the discussion around race relations that it sparked certainly (and appropriately) took center stage, another aspect of “Lemonade” that whipped up plenty of discourse was the notion that through this musical work – from one track to the next – Beyoncé was sharing her own dramatic true story of infidelity.
Music, by its very beautiful nature, is meant to be interpreted, and with “Lemonade,” Beyoncé sowed plenty of seeds for speculation. In the story of “Lemonade,” Beyoncé is a protagonist who begins her journey as a victim, and the transformation gets intriguing and rapturously nebulous from there.
And so I humbly submit the following interpretation of the story detailed in “Lemonade,” presented as a beat sheet. Alternate interpretations are very welcome… as no one will ever know the true story, after all (well, other than Beyoncé herself, and perhaps Jay-Z, though I’m sure he’s less happy with the knowledge).
Note: This is a beat sheet based solely on the music and lyrics of “Lemonade,” not on the film.
Opening Image: We are presented with a Beyoncé who can no longer deny the truth of her husband’s infidelity. She is rocked by this revelation and experiencing the raw confusion and pain that comes with it.
1. “PRAY YOU CATCH ME”
You can taste the dishonesty,
It’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier…
Set-Up: Beyoncé’s current world is one bereft of the love and loyalty that she had previously assumed was a constant. It is unclear where she should go from here.
1. “PRAY YOU CATCH ME”
Nothing else ever seems to hurt like the smile on your face
When it’s only in my memory, it don’t hit me quite the same
Pray to catch you whispering,
I pray you catch me listening…
Theme Stated: “Lemonade” is ultimately a story about how love brings redemption, and sometimes it is not the perpetrator who redeems himself, but the victim that grants the him redemption. Beyoncé hints at the strength of her love and devotion, though she hasn’t yet gone through the emotional journey it will take to understand its true power, and to extricate it from the pain and the hurt.
2. “HOLD UP”
Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you,
Slow down, they don’t love you like I love you…
Catalyst: Beyoncé realizes that she is ANGRY, and this anger is about to pitch her headlong into her journey of transformation. Forgiveness is not at all a certainty.
3. “DON’T HURT YOURSELF”
Who the f*** do you think I is?
You ain’t married to no average b**** boy!
Debate: Beyoncé takes stock of her situation and her own emotions. Can she resist her husband’s attempts to keep her from leaving him? Can she hold him accountable for what he did with “Becky with the Good Hair”?
He trying to roll me up, I ain’t picking up
Headed to the club, I ain’t thinking ’bout you
Break into Two (Choosing Act Two): Beyoncé starts to realize that this journey is not about what he did, but about who she is. What facets of her race, her family background, her faith, and her religion are going to help her process this life-altering event? The world perceives Beyoncé as an indomitable force (and she has worked hard to be this), but who is she really? Let’s find out.
5. “6 INCH”
She fights for the power, keeping time,
She grinds day and night,
She grinds from Monday to Friday,
Works from Friday to Sunday.
B Story: The key to understanding how Beyoncé will ultimately win in her story against the man who cheated on her, is to explore the influence of the other man who was most integral in shaping who she is.
6. “DADDY LESSONS”
Daddy made me fight,
It wasn’t always right,
My daddy warned me about men like you,
He said baby girl he’s playing you,
He’s playing you.
Fun and Games/The Promise of the Premise: The most tumultuous part of the storm of emotions has come and gone, and now Beyoncé must deal with the true problem at hand. The real fight has begun, and it’s an internal one. It’s Beyoncé-who-still-loves-her-husband vs. Beyoncé-who-has-worked-her-whole-life-to-be-strong-by-herself.
7. “LOVE DROUGHT”
Nine times out of ten, I’m in my feelings,
But ten times out of nine, I’m only human,
Tell me, what did I do wrong?
Feel like that question has been posed,
I’m movin’ on…
Midpoint: We want Beyoncé to be strong without her husband, but the memories of their love are weakening her…
We built sandcastles that washed away…
I made you cry when I walked away…
Bad Guys Close In: … to a point where she is trapped clinging to something that may be in the past.
What is it about you that I can’t erase, baby?
All Is Lost: Beyoncé does not have the strength to leave her husband, after all.
And although I promised that I couldn’t stay, baby
Every promise don’t work out that way…
Dark Night of the Soul: It appears as if Beyoncé has been defeated, and while the Beyoncé of the past was – even to herself – a symbol of strength and empowerment, the Beyoncé going forward has to reckon with the fact that she now lives as a woman who was cheated on, and yet stayed.
I love you more than this job, please don’t work for me
Go back to your sleep in your favorite spot just next to me
Break into Three (Choosing Act Three): Hold up. Beyoncé begins to see an alternate perspective on why she is making the decision she is making. Is she the woman who was too weak to punish her cheating husband… or is she the woman who can now understand the sins of her father AND draw strength from her faith in order to truly forgive him?
Lord forgive me, I’ve been runnin’,
Runnin’ blind in truth,
I’ma wade, I’ma wave through your shallow love,
Tell the deep I’m new,
Hey! I’ma keep running
Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.
Finale: With her new understanding of who she is and what truly makes her strong, Beyoncé can marry her ability to love and forgive unconditionally with her identity as one of the most powerful icons of our time.
10. “ALL NIGHT”
Found the truth beneath your lies,
And true love never has to hide,
True love never has to hide,
I’ll trade your broken wings for mine…
Final Image: Through this ordeal, Beyoncé is stronger than ever. Not only does she have a greater understanding of herself, but she understands that the source of her strength is her power to forgive, to endure, and to fight. And she’s not the only one with this power. And the battle against infidelity is not the biggest fight to be won (of course)…
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation,
‘Cause I slay…
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