MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we'll be hearing more about by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. This week, our word is lemonade. And we are not talking about the refreshing beverage, we are talking about the highly anticipated release by Beyonce.
She stopped pop music lovers in their tracks yet again with the release of what she called a visual album. It premiered on HBO last night and is now exclusively featured on the streaming service Tidal, which is owned by her husband, Jay Z, along with other artists. The hour-long special featured new songs and music videos influenced by her roots in Louisiana and Texas, and there are many lyrics that have fans buzzing about what might have inspired them.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DADDY LESSONS")
BEYONCE: (Singing) My daddy warned me about men like you. He said, baby girl, he's playing you. He's playing you.
MARTIN: Here to talk about Beyonce's visual album, "Lemonade," is culture writer Michael Arceneaux, who's also, I think we should mention, Beyonce's number one fan. Right, Michael?
MICHAEL ARCENEAUX: Yes, very sleep-deprived but nonetheless energetic and lit. How are you?
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. And you're sleep-deprived because you were just up all night digesting. How did you respond to it?
ARCENEAUX: Yeah, I love that Beyonce took us back to a moment where people had to be still and watch music be presented in this medium. And I actually genuinely love how happy Beyonce makes black women. It is really nice to see. She makes my sister feel powerful. She makes my nieces feel beautiful. So it was nice just to still enjoy it. Like, it might not have been directly for me, but it moved me all the same. And I'm just, like, really, really happy that I got to watch it the way I did yesterday.
MARTIN: One of the things that, you know, you pointed out is that not a lot of artists could pull off a moment like this. And also, she featured just a really incredible array of people in this album - in this film. I mean, there was tennis star Serena Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Amandla Stenberg, even the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, who were two young African-American men who were killed in circumstances that are very haunting. And yet, Michael, the underlying theme was a cheating partner, right? Let me just play another clip from it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLD UP")
BEYONCE: (Singing) Hold up, they don't love you like I love you. Slow down, they don't love you like I love you. Back up, they don't love you like I love you. Step down, they don't love you like I love you. Can't you see there's no other man above you? What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.
MARTIN: Well, let me throw you something - you raised in one of your - in a review that you wrote for Rolling Stone, you said look, it's hard to parse whether or not some of the material references her experiences with Jay-Z or her father, Mathew Knowles, who is known that he - I mean, he has a child wedlock with a woman who's not, you know, Beyonce's mother, so that is known. I want to pose another possibility, which I posed on Twitter last night, which is that - is this also extended allegory about the relationship that black people have, and black women in particular, have with America?
ARCENEAUX: Yeah, I can easily see that. You could remove, like, a relationship from the equation, but what the themes that are conveyed in that saying is very much how collectively society mistreats black women, so I could easily see how that could be an allegory for, like, black people's overall relationship with this country based on how we're treated here.
MARTIN: And it doesn't end with the release of this visual album. Beyonce's also going on tour. She's kicking off the Formation World Tour this Wednesday in Miami. And, Michael, you know I have to ask - do you have your tickets yet?
ARCENEAUX: You know I have tickets. I will be there. I'm very, very, very excited.
MARTIN: OK, that was writer Michael Arcenaux, who joined us from New York City. Thank you, Michael.
ARCENEAUX: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DADDY LESSONS")
BEYONCE: (Singing) Texas. Texas.
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