Beyonce brought world premiere events back into style with her hourlong HBO presentation Lemonade on Saturday. The visual album was a series of deep cuts that not only dominated the conversation on timelines but also offered an inside look into the mind — and heart — of the mysterious Mrs. Carter.
The emotional ride began with a field of tall plants, a gray stone building and Beyonce, clad in a black hoodie zipped over her head, singing, “You can taste the dishonesty / It’s all over your breath.” Gasps ensued. “I prayed I’d catch you whispering / I pray you catch me listening.” Was the opener a public reprimanding of her relationship with Jay Z?
Before viewers could jump to further conclusions, Beyonce captivated with the visuals. For one of the beginning chapters, “Denial,” she walks over to a building ledge barefoot and jumps off before plunging into a bedroom that is underwater, as she asks the question, “Are you cheating on me?”
Lemonade is loaded with moments: Beyonce in a soaking sunflower-yellow dress grabbing a bat and smashing car windows, belting lines like “Don’t wanna lose my pride / But I’ma f— me up a bitch” and “What’s worse — looking jealous or crazy?” There is also a Soulja Boy reference here as she repeats the viral line, “I look in the mirror, say wassup?” Tennis MVP Serena Williams also makes a cameo, dancing alongside Queen Bey.
For a chapter titled “Freedom,” she recruits unfiltered black stars — actress-singer Zendaya, actress Amandla Stenberg as well as supermodel Winnie Harlow — for one of the peak emotional moments that pays homage to generations of strong black women. The mothers of police brutality victims like Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott appear with photos of their sons. Both the music and visuals fist-pump to her New Orleans roots and those who share her skin color and ancestral struggle. There is also the voice of Malcolm X, who offers at one point, “The most neglected person is the black woman.”
Beyonce owns her power here, if not for her, her daughter, her imperfect marriage, her imperfect father, her mother, all mothers, all black women, all black people. It would be an injustice to boil it down to Bey just throwing cold hard shade at sidechicks or possibly airing out Hov’s dirty laundry. In the final “Redemption,” personal wedding footage of her and Jay Z followed by scenes of the couple with Blue as well as her mother, Tina Knowles with her significant other and images of love shine through as the sky opens and sunshine breaks through over the once drab field that opened the film. Like every career move Beyonce has made, each lyric and visual is calculated, offering snapshots into her entire life story for those who pay attention. On Lemonade, Beyonce is just the way we like her — unapologetically herself.
This article first appeared on Billboard.com.