Lemonade – Beyonce

You know, I had heard this album was good, but I was knocked over by the vocal opening to “Pray You Catch Me”. This album is incredible. You’ve got some really cool scale stuff from a theory perspective, like the Lydian/Ionian mode mixture on “Hold Up” and the move three steps down on the scale of fifths on the bridge of “6 Inch (feat. The Weeknd)”. “6 Inch” is a rock song without guitars with synths that feel like an orchestra and choir, a chorus that beautifully changes the rhythm (not just to half-time but to swing), and really cool vocals throughout; “Don’t Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)” is a rock song with guitars, a palpable energy, a perfect percussion sample, and superb use of hammond organ. (“Freedom” also has that awesome organ sound and that kind of infectious danceable anger.) Really, the emotion is palpable throughout this album, especially in the daring vocals on “Sandcastles”, the piano on “Forward (feat. James Blake)”. There are so many things I would never have imagined to do, like the complete changes at the end of “Sorry” and “Forward”, the chord change in the pre-chorus to “Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” and the Cdim on “Pray You Catch Me”, the detuned spring noise that works so well on “Formation”, and the specific emotiveness of the vocals all over this album. There are a lot of college courses studying this album (read: Jay-Z messed up so bad students are reading about it all over the nation) and it is completely deserved. I’m not going to pretend to understand Beyonce’s experiences, but so many of these musical and lyrical choices are rooted in complex cultural statements that are interesting for me to try to ponder; I’d love to sit down with this album and a couple friends, pause it every couple seconds, and say, “So what is she doing here?”

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