Why I get a sour aftertaste from Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’

I don’t know if I’ll be asked to turn in my spiral curls for saying this, but I’m a little sour about Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” For my fellow old fogeys, Beyonce is a 30-something R&B artist who is talented and beautiful. In my mind she’s no Whitney vocally, but she certainly has the looks and ability to back her rise to becoming a music and business powerhouse.

And, I don’t know if I’ll be asked to turn in one of the branches on one of my X chromosomes for saying this, but she’s also a mother.

I haven’t watched it, but as I learned watching clips of Stephen Colbert on YouTube (note to self: Watch less of those), “Lemonade” is a visual album depicting the fallout from infidelity. From what Colbert suggested, I gather the depiction was quite graphic and trashy, including smashing things with a baseball bat and a monster truck demolition scene. A decadent paean to conduct befitting an episode of “Cops.”

Bad girls, whatcha gonna do?

“Lemonade” has been everywhere. It was referenced at the presidential press corp dinner, and I saw even NPR found a way to cover it with a cultural spin. This tale of infidelity and outrage has the media and social media swarming like piranhas feeding on the demise of others.

Or like lawyers and guardian ad litems feeding on the meager resources of middle- and lower-class families landing in family court, but I digress.

The feeding frenzy or, rather, drinking frenzy around “Lemonade” epitomizes the downside of our 24/7 digital world. We are constantly taking in information but never thinking about it. There’s no time to think because there’s always more information to take in.

The scuttlebutt is that the visual album tells the story of how Beyonce’s husband, Rapper Jay Z, allegedly had an affair with someone she describes in one song as “Becky with the good hair.” I don’t know if Beyonce’s husband cheated on her or not, but I am hoping the song is fictitious. I’m hoping that Beyonce and her audience have better taste than to feed on a family crisis that involves a small child.

Jay Z and Beyonce sit court side during the third quarter of the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on May 12, 2014.  (Anthony Gruppuso | USA TODAY Sports)

Jay Z and Beyonce sit court side during the third quarter of the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on May 12, 2014. (Anthony Gruppuso | USA TODAY Sports)

This power couple has a preschool-aged child. A daughter. I Googled it. Her name is Blue Ivy, and she was born in 2012.

By many measures, one could call this child blessed. No doubt she will want for nothing. Except maybe help processing that she’s the daughter of someone who could write lyrics like those found in the song “Big Pimpin” by Jay Z. I’m not going to repeat them here, but I know plenty of men who struggle with misogynistic attitudes who would find these lyrics disturbing.

The lyrics are so bad you could probably use them to turn most misogynists around. Anyone not thoroughly appalled probably needs serious help and restrictions from others, and I think even your average misogynist could see that. Google “Big Pimpin” lyrics if you don’t believe me.

As for the person who penned those horrific lyrics? Well, people can change. I’m not sure it can happen overnight right into marriage material, but that’s Beyonce’s issue.

Admittedly, Jay Z purports to have found the light guiding him away from misogyny when he found Beyonce and has since renounced such lyrics. Nonetheless, there they sit, waiting to be explained to his daughter at some future date. Or for her to discuss with some very expensive therapist somewhere down the road.

Which is why I am hoping “Lemonade” is fictitious. I would hate to think that Beyonce would add to her own daughter’s future baggage by suggesting that criminal behavior and emasculation on an international stage is an appropriate response to infidelity. I’m not suggesting that the fault doesn’t lie with the person who cheats in the first place or that, if cheating, Jay Z isn’t failing as a father.

But multiple wrongs have yet to make a right. And Beyonce’s already going to have to explain to her daughter how her idea of female empowerment could lead her to write the song “Partition,” which, besides being a sexually explicit flip side to “Big Pimpin,” seems to primarily focus on being “the kind of girl” that “daddy” likes.

I have no problem seeing “Lemonade,” if fictitious, as a woman using her voice to creatively express the anger one might feel if betrayed by a spouse. From that perspective, it’s kind of cool, and I can see why people might celebrate a woman bringing that message to millions — even if it’s not my style. However, if there is any truth to the idea that the album reflects real life occurrences, the frenzy around it is a sad statement about who and what we are.

There are so many issues it’s hard to count. Like, what if it was a powerful black man running around with a baseball bat smashing up things in response to a wife’s infidelity? Would we celebrate the album the same way?

If there is any truth to allegations of infidelity, is Beyonce dissing “Becky with the good hair” any better than Hillary Clinton helping turn Monica Lewinsky into one of the first victims of and now an expert on cyberbullying with her adamant support of her husband’s denials of misconduct? They’ve both ended their public displays of marital woes demonizing the other woman and humming the tune “Stand by your man.” Hillary is still Mrs. Clinton, and Mrs. Jay Z released her emasculation on her husband’s digital platform and dedicated a song to him in a live performance.

For all our technology and connectedness and supposed progress, we still act like the crowd at the Coliseum watching our fellow human beings thrown and throwing each other to the lions. Even when we know a little girl, a future woman, is watching; and, thanks to the internet, she’ll be watching in perpetuity. Thanks to the internet, millions of other little girls and boys, future men and women, are watching, too.

What values do we want to instill in them regarding relationships and commitments and parenting and mistakes? I think that’s something we need to slow down and think about.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.