I’m not the biggest fan of Beyonce’s music. There, I said it. Send over the angry mob.
It seems that I never really grew out of my tortured alt-kid phase, so even now at the grand age of 31, times of emotional turmoil are more likely to see me lying face down on the floor listening to Placebo or Ill Nino than the heartfelt and empowering lyrics of Queen Bey. It’s just personal taste.
Nonetheless, I recognise that Beyonce is a fucking phenomenal woman, and an absolutely critical role model for all women during these dark times – few will take such a central place in the cultural history books than she, and her recent surprise visual album drop is testament to that.
Did Jay-Z cheat on her? No-one can say for sure, but the themes running throughout Lemonade – and of course the unrelenting media speculation – would suggest something was up. And she owned it. She took all the pain, anger, sadness and desperation of infidelity and turned it into a defiant masterpiece from which others can derive strength and comfort (which is unquestionably more important than the musical offerings of white boys whinging about their high school girlfriends). When life gives you lemons, make lemonade AND THROW IT IN LIFE’S EYES, right?
So this is the dominant social narrative to come from Lemonade thus far. But there’s another line of thought simmering away among the noise – one voiced by young women in particular.
“If Beyonce gets cheated on, what hope is there for me?”
A jokey, throwaway remark designed to get a few RTs, right? Maybe, but its underlying context nonetheless is that in order to be worthy of love and fidelity, you need to be rich, ultra-talented and gorgeous. That you always have to be your very best you (and then some) in order to enjoy some pretty basic relationship fundamentals, such as trust and respect. Come up short against these exhausting and relentless requirements and, oh well, what did you expect?
The focus of Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity has been put on her: She’s so hot and talented, what could she have done that would mean he cheated on her? And this is total, utter bullshit. His infidelity has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him and his alarming lack of morals and yet the internet is awash with jokes about him being caught out – when really, he needs to be held to account – and, worse, commentary from young men applauding his ability to bed a number of hot women at once. There aren’t nearly as many bloody lemon emojis plastered over his social media accounts than there are on Rachel Roy’s (or Rachel Ray’s for that matter – idiots), but that’s an entirely separate – and equally problematic – issue.
Lemonade is Beyonce’s battle cry in the face of one of the worst betrayals the human heart can bear, and it’s vital that we shape its infidelity narrative (and all infidelity narratives) around the shortcomings of the cheater, not the cheated. Listen to the album. Listen to the lyrics. This is the message Queen Bey is pushing here, and one that even I, with my predisposition to whiny, introspective guitar bands, can derive great strength from.