Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture – what’s new and old in entertainment.
Beyonce released her most recent solo album, Lemonade, over three years ago, and yet the album’s music is still making waves throughout the culture in 2019.
The album was a hit right off the bat, and it premiered as a series of music videos connected into an arc that was packaged as an HBO special. Beyonce performed the lead single “Formation” at the Super Bowl, and the album went on to sell over 2.5 million albums and counting worldwide. Last month, Lemonade finally hit Spotify and Apple Music, immediately taking over playlists and racking up streams on a bunch of years-old songs.
Last month also saw the superstar release her concert special, Homecoming, on Netflix which was, as you can probably guess, a huge success. The special centers around Beyonce’s 2018 performances at the Coachella festival, offering behind the scenes glimpses of Beyonce and her crew preparing for the performances, as well as a full accounting of Beyonce’s two concerts themselves, edited together to offer a look at both of the shows.
So clearly, Beyonce has a hold over our culture… which has led some to question why and how she has become the world’s most important artist, and possibly ask if she’s earned the spot. In short, the answer is yes, and the reasons are simple. Of course, her voice is incredible, but beyond that, Beyonce has used her platform to tell stories from a fresh perspective, celebrates the history and importance of both feminism and the black experience, and vitally, she puts thought into everything.
The Lemonade album tells the story of a woman who caught her husband having an affair. It takes listeners through the experience, from early suspicions through pain, anger and ultimately, forgiveness. It is honest, heartbreaking and thrilling to take in all at once, especially when you watch the visually-rich cinematic version of the album originally shown on HBO.
The Homecoming documentary and concert album puts her thoughtfulness under a microscope in a whole new way, and shows just how hands-on Beyonce was in using her role as the first black female headliner at Coachella to send a message. The outfits were meticulously created, the musicians and dancers all hand-selected, and the set built to perfectly display all that hard work. All together, the concert becomes greater than the sum of its parts, a celebration of America’s historically black colleges, as well as Beyonce’s role in our culture and her own career.
What sets Beyonce apart is that three years later, so many of us are still pouring over every detail, long after the rest of 2016’s music has faded into our long-term memories. That is the mark of a true visionary artist.
Three years ago, Beyonce’s album Lemonade captured the zeitgeist with its eye-popping HBO special and layered lyrics. That’s impressive, but every year has an album or two that catches fire. What sets Beyonce apart is that three years later, so many of us are still pouring over every detail, long after the rest of 2016’s music has faded into our long-term memories. That is the mark of a true visionary artist.
I’m Evan Rook.