The Good: With Lemonade, Beyonce continues to define herself as one of the most consistently creative forces in today’s pop landscape. She has managed to become and maintain herself as one of the most popular artists in the world while avoiding the Max Martin cookie cutter pop sound. On Lemonade she pulls from an impressive variety of sources and contributors spanning several genres and eras. For instance, “Hold Up” began as a tweet of lyrics Ezra Koenig (of Vampire Weekend fame) wrote about a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song back in 2011. The features have been kept to a minimum and are limited to short segments by Jack White, The Weeknd, James Blake, and Kendrick Lamar. This works well because while they tend to fit into the tracks well, Lemonade is really at its strongest when Beyonce is singing. Despite the seeming patchwork of influences and sources, the album is remarkably cohesive. It tells the story of a couple’s struggles through infidelity matched with themes of family and Beyonce’s trademark female empowerment. Overall, Beyonce can still sing and perform at a remarkable level and that itself is a spectacle worth listening to (or viewing on HBO).
The Bad: A lot of the buzz that has popped up around Lemonade has been celebrity gossip around Beyonce’s marriage to Jay-Z. It is easy to be cynical and think that it was at least in part manufactured to boost album sales. It is harder to trust that these issues are meaningful for Beyonce, especially considering the teams of songwriters that wrote and carefully honed each song’s lyrics. Finally, for an album that flows so well, songs like “Daddy Lessons” are so radically different that they can completely kill the momentum, even though the song is good.
The Verdict: Lemonade has less obvious hits than many of Beyonce’s past albums but makes up for that in creativity and consistency.