#10 A Visual Album
Lemonade is a visual album by Beyonce that premiered on HBO. It tells a story interspersed with music videos. Its story is all about infidelity and reconciliation. The album starts with Beyonce questioning her man – “are you cheating on me?” she says directly to the camera.
#9 Warsan Shire
The spoken words between songs were all composed by poet Warsan Shire. The 26-year old Shire is a Somali-British woman who became London’s first Young Poet Laureate in 2014. She amassed 50,000 Twitter and Tumblr followers before hooking up with Beyonce.
#8 Ever is Over All
In the video for “Hold Up,” Beyonce rages through the streets of New Orleans wielding a baseball bat that she uses to smash up police surveillance cameras, cars and everything in her way. Beyonce draws on the video installation of Pipilotti Rist. Rist’s 1997 art video “Ever is Over All” features a young woman with a long-stemmed metal flower smashing up cars.
#7 Daughters of the Dust
Daughters of the Dust is a 1991 feature film directed by Julie Dash, which was the first feature film distributed in the US to be directed by an African-American woman. It tells the story of three Gullah women on St. Helena Island in 1902 as they prepare to migrate to the North. Beyonce alluded to the film in an opening scene, featuring three women sitting on a rustic porch.
#6 Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Zendaya
Beyonce included many African-American women cameos in Lemonade. She recognizes young black women by having Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Zendaya all appear in the video.
#5 Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner
Although the focus of Lemonade is ostensibly infidelity, Beyonce also recognized the deep pain of the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner, young African-American men who were unjustly killed. Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden, and Gwen Carr hold photographs of their sons, whose deaths launched the Black Lives Matter Movement.
#4 Serena Williams
Tennis star Serena Williams appears in the video for the song “Sorry,” twerking while Beyonce sits on a chair like a throne. The image recalls Williams’ most recent Sports Illustrated cover, which had her posing on a throne in the same position Beyonce took up. The image mashup is thought to be Queen Beyonce’s tribute to Queen Serena.
#3 Hattie White
The album’s meaning about making lemonade from lemons is spoken by a woman named Hattie White, who happens to be Jay Z’s grandmother. The video is from White’s 90th birthday party, which Jay Z and Beyonce attended last year. White said “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”
At one point Beyonce takes a bus ride with other women, all wearing traditional Yoruba makeup. Yoruba spiritual traditions originated in Nigeria, Benin and Togo and made their way to America during the slave trade. Beyonce displayed the body paintings of Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo, who believes Beyonce accurately represents Oshun, a spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of God in the Ifá and Yoruba religions.
#1 Malcolm X
“Lemonade” also samples a famous speech by Malcolm X. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Malcolm said those words a the funeral of Ronald Stokes, who was shot in the back by police after putting his hands up. The words bring all of Beyonce’s themes full-circle.