Why Black Women Should Have the 1st Glass of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Explained

Beyoncé didn’t speak softly but carried a big stick in Lemonade.
HBO screenshot
Beyoncé didn’t speak softly but carried a big stick in Lemonade.
HBO screenshot

What is Lemonade?

Lemonade is my favorite fruit-related beverage. It’s great with everything—raspberries, artificial raspberry flavor, oranges, iced tea, gin, vodka, post-fellatio conversations about groceries, etc.—which makes it both versatile and delicious.


It’s also both the title of Beyoncé’s new album and the hourlong film accompanying it.

Wait … Beyoncé has a new album? How have I not heard about this before?

Hillary Clinton can’t even send a private text without Paul Ryan analyzing its read receipts and emoji frequencies, but Beyoncé has somehow consistently managed to pull off these multimillion-dollar productions with dozens of moving parts without anyone who’s not directly involved knowing s—t about what’s happening. No leaks. No wayward tweets. No nothing. Just radio silence. And then BOOM! It’s truly amazing. If this pop icon thing gets boring to her, she should go work for the NSA.

How is it?

It’s powerful, haunting, brilliant, visceral, important and, most notably, adult. We’ve watched her grow from an awkwardly attired teenager in a girl group to a married mother mogul in her mid-30s. And for her fans in the “post-millennial but not quite middle-aged yet” 32- to 38-year-old range, she’s the only artist of this stature we can say that about. Whom we’ve watched grow and grew with. Janet and Whitney were already adults by the time they were on our radars. And we were already full adults by the time Rihanna became Rihanna. And perhaps that demographic feels such a connection to her because of this connection to her.

That was some very insightful praise, but you still didn’t say much about the film or the album. No critiques? I know you’re not one to hold your tongue.

Well, I thought Just Blaze put his whole entire foot into the production of “Freedom.” And I thought Kendrick delivered a good—but not great (for him)—verse on it. And the album sounds great in the whip. Aside from that, I don’t feel particularly qualified to expound on its artistic merits yet. And even if I did, I don’t particularly want to right now.


Why not?

Although Lemonade is a widely released piece of pop art created by the world’s most popular pop musician, both the film and the album—lyrically, thematically, visually, spiritually and emotionally—are speaking directly to black people. Black women, specifically. Going further, it is not at all wrong to say that Lemonade is for them. That it’s a passionate and personal paean, poem and piece of prose by a black woman to black women. It’s also f—king heavy. This particular grade of lemonade is as dense as if it were mixed with dark matter instead of water. Over the weekend, a (black female) friend even told me it spoke so directly to her that it was both therapeutic and triggering.


Anyway, out of respect for that—and out of respect for the dozens of brilliant black women who write whom I personally know or don’t personally know but am a fan of—I believe their words and thoughts and takes on Lemonade and what it means should dominate the conversation this week. We—people who happen not to be black women—can exist in and add to the peripheral conversations.

Are you trying to start World War III?

No. Why do you ask?

I’m asking because you said black women should be the ones leading the Lemonade conversation this week. Which means white people shouldn’t. And nothing—not the last scene in the last episode of The Sopranos, not city streets with no bike lanes, not kale shortages, not even Kanye West—makes (some) white people angrier than telling them what they shouldn’t do. Even if it’s a simple ask, like, “Hey, for this week and for this album, let’s let black women drink the first glass of Lemonade. It was made for them and it might be a bit too tart for you anyway.”


Oh yeah. Hell hath no fury like a white man told “no.” And not even a solid “no.” Just a “wait.” They say the best way to start a riot is to yell “fire” in a crowded room. But I think the best way to start a riot in a room full of white people is to yell “nope.”

Which sucks for them. Because this assertion looks out for black women and white people.


Looks out for white people? How?

Do you know who Piers Morgan is?

Yes, he’s that guy who was the poor man’s Simon Cowell until he decided to be the poor man’s Keith Olbermann. Why do you ask?


Well, at the time of writing, Piers Morgan’s name is the top trending topic. Because he wrote a piece on Beyoncé today where he called her a born-again black woman, accused her of playing the race card and said her momma had a peg leg with a kickstand. (OK, that last part was made up, but he really said the rest.)

He went full white person?

Exactly! Naturally he’s getting blasted on social media. He’s a multimillionaire, though, and a known troll, so this isn’t going to affect him much. But for writers who happen to be white and don’t happen to have that type of status, it would be wise to stay away from the race- and gender-based deconstructions and interpretations of Lemonade and Beyoncé as an artist for a while. You just don’t want those problems.


Makes sense.


You know, I have to hand it to you. You, a black man, wrote a piece about why black men (and others who aren’t black women) should take a step back from the Lemonade commentary this week. But you wrote about how people should write about it without actually writing about it. That was some ninja s—t, man.


Thanks! I guess that lemonade I drank this morning did some good.

Don’t push it.


Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com.