Archive

Tag Archives: art

beyonce-lemonade-album-48-640x355

Beyoncé can’t make being a black woman popular. Despite being arguably the world’s biggest musician, she can only hope that people look beyond her race rather than celebrate her blackness and other black women like her. This was made apparent when her video for “Formation” dropped: here was this empowering, unabashedly Southern song with a video that celebrated and reveled in being Black, being a woman and being “country” and it was met with critiques of not being inclusive enough or daring to throw a political statement of pride in one’s race in people’s faces. Beyoncé had committed the sin of reminding anyone who hadn’t been paying attention that she was indeed a Black woman from Texas.

About fifteen minutes into “Lemonade”, Beyoncé’s HBO-helmed visual album, there’s an excerpt from Malcolm X in which he states that, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman”. The excerpt comes in as a reminder of the Black woman’s burden of having to live in a world that would rather do without them. They are the neglected wives, the unwanted children and the mothers that have been taken for granted by lovers, brothers, fathers, children, employers and elected officials and Beyonce has used this moment to give their pain voice.

giphy (9)

On its surface, “Lemonade” feels like the deeply personal story of betrayal, heartbreak and anger that has replaced a once-loving relationship. Throughout, you feel like you’re invading her privacy by being an audience member to this show; going from bug-eyed wonder about the juicy details of the tawdry affair Beyoncé keeps teasing about in each song to genuine concern for Jay Z’s safety as you watch his wife gleefully stroll along the sidewalk, twirling a baseball bat or walk slowly while a room is engulfed in flames behind her.

Step back for a second and you begin to realize that this is not just about Beyoncé but it’s about every Black woman. It’s about those mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers and aunties; these are all their personal stories that they share amongst themselves out of earshot of the men who’ve either caused the pain or shown no inclination of caring about it. Her lyrics interspersed between the poetry of Warsan Shire with the stark, lingering images of black women in the Louisiana bayou–at once stoic, at other times fiery–make for a haunting, unshakeable Southern Gothic tale of the Black woman’s burden in not just America but the world.

Since the out-of-nowhere release of her 2013 self-titled album, Beyoncé has been re-energized  –not just in methods of creating an event out of the growing irrelevance of album releases, but in subject matter. Where self-titled was an incredibly sexual and liberating expression of love, “Lemonade” is on the opposite spectrum: a claustrophobic, relentless testimony of a woman scorned. However you might have thought this event was going to go, you probably anticipated something more vapid; more congratulatory of the celebrity of Bey. Instead you got a deeply Southern, specifically black, Toni Morrison story with some great songs attached. Maybe it was the sequence in which Beyoncé was drowning underwater or the images of Louisianians interspersed throughout or the moving sequence of mothers of slain children (including the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown), but at some point this movie hit you in a way you weren’t prepared for. At some point you had to reckon with the things we’ve done to Black woman and the ways we’ve made their lives harder.

featured-image-beyonce-lemonade-special-042516

Here’s the thing.

I’m obsessed with death almost to a fault. This is mostly due to my serious fear of it and my lack of real understanding about how you can exist and then not exist for a way longer time. With that being said, I lost a relative this week. What happened doesn’t matter and we didn’t get to be as close as I would’ve liked but that’s the tragic undertone of life I guess. As someone who obsesses over pop culture, there were two pieces of entertainment that pervaded my mind this week–as they always do when I think of death: Sufjan Stevens songs and Synecdoche, New York.

Released in 2008, Synecdoche, New York marked the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the absurdist manic writer behind such films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. The film follows the life of Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he spirals ever closer to depression and death while losing loved ones and trying to use a MacArthur Fellowship to fund the greatest living and breathing theatre piece ever made.

When the film was first released it was incredibly polarizing. People celebrated its embrace of the despair in life while others find it to eager to be the grimmest portrayal of reality. Truth be told, both views are right. it’s an often times overwhelming piece of art on life and death that borders on depression porn; it’s messy, exhausting and relentless in its presentation and, upon first viewing it, I really wasn’t sure how to feel about it–I was pretty sure I didn’t love it though. Then a strange thing happened: I kept thinking about it. It was on my mind heavily for a long time after viewing and I eventually bought it on dvd and watched it again. This is when I realized that I did love it–and still love it. What this says about me, I’m not sure but what I do know is that, for all it’s rough edges, Synecdoche makes for a wonderful thesis on death. It’s relentlessness is a great asset to it as well. If you can watch Cotard’s life crash in oblivion until his death and still walk away even feeling a little bit better about your own mortality then I think some real personal progress is made. Knowing what I know about my relative who passed I remember why I was so turned off by the movie in the beginning. As much as I hate the sappy redemption story, I feel that an extreme opposite story is no better–but it is more realistic. Maybe shit doesn’t get as bad as it did for Cotard but it does get bad, and no amount of happy endings can gloss over the abysmal affair that is death. I may never get over my qualms about death but I do have an almost child-like appreciation for life.

So R.I.P to my loved one, I’ll remember you for how you were and I hope that you’ve found true peace.

%d bloggers like this: