All hail Queen Bey! Beyoncé has surprised the world again, dropping her highly-anticipated new album, Lemonade, Saturday night. Now streaming on TIDAL, the album premiered in tandem with an hour-long special on HBO. The special was a visual album—a combination of a music video and personal essay—featuring all 11 songs from Lemonade and served as an exquisite introduction to Beyoncé’s new record. With mesmerizing cinematography and the combination of both music and spoken-words, Lemonade on HBO was an absolute treat for the senses and should be required viewing for all Beyoncé fans. Bey’s stunning wardrobe alone in the hour-long pièce de résistance was visually arresting (seriously, #closetgoals). We don’t know who made all the costumes for Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ but the looks were styled by Marni Senofante, a costume designer, stylist, and brand consultant based out of New York City, who's worked with the musician before.
Lemonade is broken up into 11 chapters, each with a spoken-word introduction, and follows Beyoncé as a woman determined to reclaim her personal power after her marriage is rocked by infidelity. “Are you cheating on me?” she asks her partner, opening a church door as a flood of water rushes through with her.
Lemonade is a gradual journey from disgust to forgiveness as this woman deals with her husband’s betrayal. Both the film and the record address the struggle that occurs when a modern woman’s independence clashes with the desire for traditional romance. With this storyline, Beyoncé is shedding a light on a broader theme about how women, particularly black women, often suffer in their relationships and how they still thrive. “I was served lemons,” the singer's grandmother says in a featured home movie clip. “But I made lemonade.”
Beyoncé is a shape-shifter, moving from one persona to the next throughout her career (Need proof? Youtube some early Destiny’s Child videos). A definitive fashion icon, Queen Bey uses the power of clothes to embody the different characters that serve as conduits for her music's messages. The costumes and styling in Lemonade are no different; they are both transformative and surreal.
In the first shot, Bey is wearing a simple hoodie and skirt in front of a theater’s red curtain. As a prelude, it is a simple visual that is surprisingly vulnerable and indicates that this visual album is a personal essay of sorts.
By the time the first song begins, the “Single Ladies” singer is clad in a wildly stylish, yellow Roberto Cavalli dress while walking down a city street smashing car windows with a baseball bat. Beyoncé’s fiery dress echoes the scene’s tone: passionate and angry but relishing in the fun of her destruction.
Stylist Senofante puts Bey in an assortment of both high fashion looks, vintage and cultural send-ups, and more casual street-style. In one scene, surrounded by a circle of fire, Beyoncé embodies a Voodoo high priestess channeling spirits in a chic, smoldering red corseted ball gown and reflective, ornate headpiece. In another scene, she rocks athleisure in a grey sports bra/leggings combo topped off with a floor-length fur coat (as you do).
Lemonade acts as a tribute to the singer's cultural roots. There are style references to both her Louisiana heritage and her African ancestry. Set against the backdrop of the deep South, many costumes take inspiration from bygone Southern style. Looking like she belongs in the late 19th/early 20th century, Beyoncé in once scene wears a white cotton shift and natural curls, sitting on a cabin porch.
In some sequences, the star and her cast wear patterned cloth, jewelry, and face paint visually indicative of African culture.
A large part of Lemonade tackles what it means to be a black person, especially a black woman, today. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” a voiceover of Malcolm X asserts at one point. “The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Like Bey’s recent music video “Formation,” this visual album celebrates black women’s strength and beauty.
Chapter after chapter, Beyoncé surrounds herself with cadres of stunning black women—including some famous faces like Zendaya and Amandla Sternberg—on a cabin porch, in the backwoods on a painted bus, and leading a line of white-dressed women into the ocean.
Serena Williams' presence in one chapter is a triumphant depiction of the black female body. Clad in a black bodysuit, her body is (duh) beautiful — but its beauty comes from it's strength. She is sexy because (not in spite) of her powerful body and what it can do.
Basically, the entire film is the personification of “#blackgirlmagic.” The visuals of fierce black women proudly rocking afros, braids, and other traditional African American hairstyles reaffirm black beauty.
With "Lemonade," Beyoncé proves, once again, that she is not only a style icon but a true artist who can use costumes as a medium to express emotional and complex messages.