“Lemonade” is not simply another “he done me wrong” album or video. The relationship at the heart of the lyrics is a Trojan horse, opening to the shores of black womanhood as healing and salvation.
It’s also obvious that Beyoncé and her collaborators have combed through some college syllabi and taken a few trips to the bookstore. “Lemonade” is basically a video version of Black Feminist Lit 101.
- The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart by Alice Walker
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime by J. California Cooper
- for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
- Mama Day bu Gloria Naylor
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
Not everyone is feeling Beyoncé’s foray into country music with the song “Daddy Lessons” on her new visual album Lemonade, including Country Music Television News contributor Alison Bonaguro.
In a short post on the CMT site, Bonaguro asks, “What’s so country about Beyoncé?”:
Sure, Beyoncé’s new album Lemonade has a song with some yee-haws, a little harmonica and mentions of classic vinyl, rifles and whiskey. But all of the sudden, everyone’s acting like she’s moved to Nashville and announced that she’s country now.
Some Twitter users saw a different problem: Bonaguro can’t hear the black roots of country music.
The subtext of @alisonbonaguro post is that Beyoncé is trying to appropriate country, a genre stolen from Black folks by white folks.
Lemonade stands out both for Beyoncé’s emotional and musical range: She tells the story of heartbreak and self-affirmation through a Kübler-Ross model of griefsung in classic R&B ballads, trap, soul, rock, and also, notably, country music.
This is a testament to Bey’s artistry. But it is also a reflection of the integral part black people have played in American music since its inception across all genres — including country music.
In the visual album, Beyoncé kicks off “Daddy Lessons” singing “Yee-haw” while wearing a voluminous Antebellum-style dress cut from African wax print — paying tribute to her home state Texas and her identity as a person of African descent, which also parallels the origins of country music itself.
Before Nashville was the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, country music was a genre borne of African slaves. Indeed, musicologists have traced country music’s iconic banjo back to the ngoni and xalam, plucked stringed instruments rooted in West Africa.
And yet country music’s “little white myth” persists today because of the erasure of the genre’s black roots and the contributions black artists have made to it over the years. One of the first black icons of country music was DeFord Bailey, an outstanding harmonica player whose hillbilly records in the 1920s drew from the black folk music tradition he grew up with.
In 1962, Ray Charles, one of the fathers of soul music, released Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, the first country record to sell 1 million copies, ushering in the possibility of the sort of pop and country music crossover for which white artists like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are now celebrated.
“[‘Daddy Lessons’] doesn’t sound like a country song to me,” Bonaguro wrote. That has little to do with Beyoncé and almost everything to do with the way country music’s black voices have been silenced or forgotten.