Beyoncé shows her highs and lows with album-film Lemonade
Toronto's The Weeknd and Canadian model Winnie Harlow among cameo appearances in HBO concept film
The musical and marketing genius has re-defined what it means to release music in this era. There were no media interviews beforehand to promote the album. There likely won't be many after.
There were no leaks, despite numerous high-profile cameos. And the advertising leading up to it all basically came from you and me — the millions of social media followers and fans who discussed at great length every Instagram post and cryptic photo on her account, trying to figure out what she was doing next.
Not surprisingly, the album is available on Tidal, the troubled music streaming service owned by hubby Jay Z that now might have her to thank for boosting it.
At the same time her album was released on Tidal, there was a one-hour special on HBO of music videos corresponding to the album. But no one in Canada could see it.
Speaking of Jay Z, the series of concept videos that aired during the one-hour HBO special Saturday, also seemed to air a lot of dirty laundry.
"Are you cheating on me?" Beyoncé's husky voice starts off.
Beyoncé, who has used infidelity as a reigning theme for many songs over the years, including Irreplaceable and Ring the Alarm, made it very clear she was standing up for scorned women everywhere.
And that's where we find the beauty behind the madness. Not just in appearances by Toronto's The Weeknd and Canadian model Winnie Harlow, but by a rare display of desperately raw emotion from a woman who everyone thinks is so far beyond reach. Beyoncé dared to show that she might just go through the very same struggles as other people, and no amount of money or power can change that.
Lemonade. Thank you <a href="https://twitter.com/Beyonce">@Beyonce</a> for reminding us of our strength. <a href="https://t.co/30eAXmcd2J">pic.twitter.com/30eAXmcd2J</a>—@amandlastenberg
But Lemonade is as much political as it is personal.
Yes, there are revenge anthems for angry wives, a track for mistresses, and an eventual release in forgiveness where Jay Z appears in a cuddle, but there are also strong displays of BlackGirlMagic and support of BlackLivesMatter.
Imagery of strong, beautiful black women isn't just reflected in the musician herself, but in the entire cast of characters she recruited, which included tennis star Serena Williams, actress Zendaya, The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg and Oscar-nominated Quvenzhane Wallis.
From there, she layers on anger and frustration in the black community — the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are seen straight-faced as they hold photos of their slain sons.
At another point, she tells the audience through the voice of Malcolm X that "the most disrespected woman in America is the black woman."
The songs on Lemonade are not made for radio play and that seems to be a relatively recent trend for Beyoncé. The language is explicit and the songs fuse R&B, reggae, rock and even country. But more importantly, if her music is the best way for fans to understand her, it's better presented as a whole rather than in pieces.
With files from the Associated Press