Perez: Lemonade? I'll Have Water

by Sarah Perez | 5/11/16 5:30pm

I’d like to preface this column by saying that it will likely be among the most unpopular I’ll write. But, with 16S drawing to a close and the start of senior fall just around the corner, I’m definitely not getting any younger — so here it goes.

I don’t want to rehash the circus that has become the 2016 presidential race, or nitpick the pros and cons of the new housing communities. Instead, I just want to talk about one thing: “Lemonade” (2016). Given everything that is going on in the world right now, discussing Beyoncé’s latest album may seem slightly myopic. That being said, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what has been hailed as perhaps the greatest musical composition to ever grace human ears.

On April 23, the star released her sixth studio record. Accompanied by an hour-long film aired on HBO, “Lemonade” was Beyoncé’s second “visual album.” The most ardent members of the “BeyHive” were treated to 10 original songs featuring acclaimed guest vocalists, among them James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd and Jack White.

To put it simply, Beyoncé “broke the internet” with the release of her album. Around the world, fans took to social media in praise of its poetic lyrics. Several print and online publications acknowledged the momentousness of the occasion for the music world. The New Yorker waxed lyrical, declaring the work a profoundly moving “revelation of spirit.” The Daily Beast did not fall far behind, anointing the album a “breathtaking” musical masterpiece that “calls us to introspection, to speculation, and, most fiercely, to action.” Indeed, both the average listener and the esteemed critic have described “Lemonade” in glowing terms. “Beautiful,” “stunning,” “powerful” and “epic” only begin to scratch the surface of praise for the album. Clearly, Queen Bey struck a chord with her audience.

And that is perfectly fine. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That being said, there is an important distinction to be made. While I understand the overwhelmingly positive response to the album, I cannot begin to grasp why anyone would call it “empowering.” Perhaps I’m too tone-deaf to fully appreciate the awe-inspiring musical genius that is “Lemonade.” Maybe Queen Bey is just over my head. But just for the record, I awkwardly danced around to “Single Ladies” (2008) at middle school dance parties just as much as the next person.

Ever since the album dropped a few weeks ago, it has received widespread acclaim from women. Many took to social media, claiming that “Lemonade” left them feeling empowered and even liberated. Mothers gushed over what a remarkable role model “the Queen” had become for their daughters, her songs making them more confident individuals who were more comfortable in their own skin. Even President Barack Obama weighed in a few years ago, asserting that the singer “could not be a better role model for his girls.” It is no secret that the singer has become a feminist icon — but on what basis?

It is incomprehensible to me how lyrics laced with vulgarity and all manner of innuendo could be mistaken for female empowerment. The fact that we have exalted “Lemonade” as a work of art rivaling Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is deeply concerning. Evidently, something is off. Beyoncé, like every other musician today, wants to sell albums. Private galas with POTUS and weekend escapades in Havana surely aren’t going to pay for themselves. “Lemonade” is the culmination of a troubling trend in the music industry, the peddling of shock value in the place of musical composition. Its success points to a broader cultural desensitization, an inability to distinguish between the enlightened and the crude. There is no denying that Beyoncé is exceptionally talented, but her most recent album just doesn’t do her justice. “Lemonade” isn’t a testament to her talent, but her ability to spew f-bombs and other profanity. While I understand that well-behaved women seldom make history, it’s time for a reality check: What does it mean that we, as women, feel “empowered” by such baseness?

This past weekend, we celebrated Mother’s Day. Flowers were sent, cards were mailed and phone calls were made to women who have had a defining impact on our lives. My mother is among the strongest people I know. If I’m only one-tenth of the mom that she has been to my sisters and I, I’ll be happy. She’s made immense sacrifices for us, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank her enough. I have a feeling that I am not alone in this sentiment. Mothers across the United States, not to mention around the world, strive to provide for their families, even if it means putting themselves second. So, if we’re looking for sources of female empowerment, why not go with what’s most accessible? There is absolutely no need to spend $17.99 on an album that, quite frankly, is little more than lewd lyricism disguised as art. Instead, just pick up the phone and call home.