If the aftermath of this authoritative album tells us anything, it’s that the world at large is still unprepared for the genius of Beyoncé.
After the guerrilla release of her 2013 self-titled fifth album and the sneaky drop of a new single prior to Super Bowl earlier this year, audiences ought to know better about Mrs Carter’s pop ambushes.
And yet, music critics and fans were once again blindsided by the commando approach of Lemonade.
While the album’s promotional tactics – it was surreptitiously released alongside a HBO special – sparks conversation, its content alone initiates much discourse.
At a time when ludicrous topics are performed with much farcical gravity by mainstream acts, the subjects on Beyoncé’s sixth solo album – from slavery to riots and racism to infidelity – might seem too forceful for its own good.
That doesn’t mean that the record is a tough listen. Far from it, there’s a handful of made-for-radio numbers on this 12-track offering. The summer perfect Hold Up and audacious 6 Inch possess enough jazz and pizzazz to be hailed as genre-bending.
The transition between a multitude of sounds is also aided by indispensable guest appearances. James Blake on the labyrinthine Forward lends a new meaning to the term “interlude”.
That track finally gives way to kaleidoscopic drums on Freedom, a liberating number that’s further elevated by funky raps courtesy of Kendrick Lamar.
But even more amazing are the incredibly poetic lyrics that weave their way through the astonishing melodies. If anything, signs or marital strife are rife on Lemonade.
“You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath,” the R&B diva breathes on the poignant opener Pray You Catch Me. And on the supremely bizarre tropical-flavoured heads-will-roll Don’t Hurt Yourself, she warns an unnamed spouse (whom we can only guess is Jay-Z): “You ain’t married to no average b***h”.
In Beyoncé’s hands, domesticated life takes on a very gritty front. Given her celebrity, those marriage woes are amplified a thousand fold. But that doesn’t take away the fact that the songs all are still very real and truthful observations.
And that makes Lemonade an uncompromising record that woman and man alike will learn to appreciate.