When Beyonce premiered her debut album Dangerously In Love in 2003, she was 22 years-old, accomplished, shy, apologetic, and falling in love with Jay-Z-- though it was only rumored at the time. What was also rumored at the time was something that came to the light years later: the actions of her father and mastermind manager, Mathew Knowles.
Beyonce and Mathew’s relationship had always appeared to have been one of a mystical magic story: father gives everything to make the dreams of his family come true, and he excels beyond expectations. Beyonce fit the descript just as well: gracious, grateful, and talented beyond belief; a daddy’s girl.
The song, “Daddy,” always played to this premise. Recorded last minute and released to digital in time for her debut, this last cut on the album sang all of her love and devotion to her father. The unforgettable bridge sings:
I want my unborn son to be like my daddy
I want my husband to be like my daddy
There is no one else like my daddy
And I thank you for loving me
Six years later, Beyonce’s parents Mathew and Tina Knowles would split after nearly 30 years of marriage. In 2009, it was revealed that Mathew had fathered a love child with former Scrubs actress, Alexsandra White, with whom he had an affair with for 18 months prior to her giving birth in 2010.
Beyonce, who notably took a three year break during the tumultuous years of her parents' marriage and the fairytale beginning of her own-- was obviously affected. She and her father parted ways professionally in 2011, just months before her mother finalized their divorce.
“I’m feeling very empty because of my relationship with my dad,” Beyonce said in a private video filmed for her HBO documentary, Life Is But A Dream. “I’m so fragile at this point and I feel like my soul has been tarnished,” she continued. "Life is unpredictable but I feel like I had to move on...”
This same sentiment is echoed throughout Beyonce’s new visual album, Lemonade. Only this time, the comparisons are different than that of the glittery eyed 22-year-old who still idolized and adored her father. It seems that in fact, she did get what she wanted— a man like her father.
“You remind me of my father, a magician; able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men and my blood, you come home at 3am and lie to me. What are you hiding? The past and the future emerge to meet us here. What luck. What a f*cking curse,” she recites just moments before jumping off a building, over a city street filled with cars.
She continues to fall forward, but she does not break. Her body bursts into an ocean of water and begs the question-- did she save herself or was this experience other-worldy?
And it appears to be both. Beyonce's healing is first signified in the Lemonade act entitled "Denial." Through the Yoruban orisha Yemayá, mother of mothers who cleanses and rids her children of sorrow, the presence of water signifies the essential need for life and recreation. This transition between "Pray You Catch Me" and "Hold Up" is the heightening of this presence, this feeling to be free. "Fasted for 60 days; wore white," Beyonce says, alluding to a Yoruban ritual in which you wear white for a year as a sign of and longing for purity and modesty.
The question that has lingered throughout the first six minutes of the film is finally posed: "Are you cheating on me?" Doors open and Beyonce emerges amidst a river of water flooding out onto the streets-- a release, a shedding, a truth. Donned in a new light, now in a yellow dress (reminiscent of the Orisha of love, Oshun), she has fire, rage, and pure intentions. The love she has erupts from a cocoon of pain into full-out anger, a need to uncover and explore her most feared reality.
The echoes of her mother's tale, now (presumably) her own, and the same of many women she both do and do not know-- this story is one about overcoming pain from love. But not just romantic love. The way she loved, adored, and trusted her father's truths was presented in her new country song "Daddy Lessons"; it is the same way she loved, adored, and blindly pedastalled her husband's falsehoods. It is the same way her mother became renewed from the light; The very same way Beyonce has presented her ascension from the dark; in this same way Beyonce parallels the pain and healing of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown's mothers; in this same way Beyonce parallels Messy Mya's story with the homicidal death of young, Black men and the story of New Orleans: a tragedy, an unexpected fall, a devastating breaking that is norm. Black women have time and time again made the decision to start over anew, often walking alone amongst one another; conquering and conjuring life, relationships, love, heartbreak, and resentment in more forms than one.
Lemonade is about how you get from point a to point b; how to make delicious lemonade from lemons you never wanted in the first place.