Beyonce’s iconic 2016 album, Lemonade is famously accompanied by a visual album and storyline, that not only works as a whole but also works to stand alone as separate music videos. Images throughout the music videos for the tracks on Lemonade depict historically Black tropes and relics, while also demonstrating modern-day Black culture, and issues of racism towards the Black community that have systemically underscored American society since the beginning.
While examining the images from Beyoncé’s Lemonade period, it is important to note that Black representation, specifically the representation of Black women has always been prominent in Beyoncé’s work.
We have put together a gallery of some of Beyoncé’s music videos to showcase her continual work to promote Black excellence, Black culture, and Black history.
Beyoncé’s “Formation” is the ultimate juxtaposition between historical racism and modern-day racism. As images of a sunken, post-hurricane Katrina, lower 9th ward, New Orleans flash across our screens, we are also seeing images of Beyoncé and Blue Ivy in clothing that emanates symbols of the Confederate South. The video touches on police brutality, as a young Black child dances in front of a row of militant cops, while we are also seeing formidable images of Beyoncé dancing with Black women as she calls out, “Ok ladies now let’s get in formation.” The images in this music video make the viewer question how much has really changed since the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. “Formation” calls out how systemic racism is repeated in a modern context while reminding us of where it all started.
Throughout the video, Beyoncé reclaims images from the American south that often represent oppression and combines these images with references to traditional African culture.
Throughout the visual portion of Lemonade, we are shown various aspects of American Southern culture that is rooted in the history of enslaved people. Beyoncé weaves these images into her own story of self-empowerment. In the music video for “Sorry,” we see clips of happy Black, brown, interracial, and LGBTQ+ couples. This is a direct break-away from the “norm.” So often in media, happy couples are only depicted as white and heterosexual. Beyoncé makes it a point to show us that love is and always will be diverse and intersectional.
The song, which comes off of the self-titled 2013 album, Beyoncé, promotes the excellence and success of Black women. Beyoncé intersperses home videos throughout the music video in order to demonstrate her journey into superstardom, her hard work, and her accomplishments. The lyrics, “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want” are set to images of Beyoncé and Black women dancing.
Set in the Louvre, Beyoncé and JAY-Z claim the entire art museum as their own. The song comes off of Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s first joint collaboration, Everything Is Love. So much of the art on display in the Louvre comes from white male artists, during a time when colonialism was at its most prominent. However, this is all offset by the striking imagery of Beyoncé and JAY-Z in colorful power suits standing in front of works such as the Mona Lisa, or black and brown women dancing around the whole museum. The video shows us the dichotomy of modern-day Black icons taking up space that has historically not been accessible for artists of color.
Flawless is an absolute testament to the strength of women, specifically women of color. Throughout the music video, we catch powerful glimpses of women of color in a gritty crowd comprised of men. The women in the music video who stand alongside Beyoncé evoke the sentiment that women must work harder to prove themselves in society. These visuals are paired with an audio sample of Nigerian feminist writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who speaks truths about how women are conditioned to act, “We teach girls to shrink themselves
to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise, you will threaten the man’”