When Beyonce Gives You Lemons
By Diana Matthews
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]H[/dropcap]ere I am in Nashville. I’m sitting at my best friend’s kitchen table licking the icing off her birthday cupcakes (the chocolate cake is stale now but the Swiss merengue buttercream is to die for). It’s Thursday, the night Beyonce was supposed to play in Music City. However, six days ago, she postponed her show and rescheduled for October.
After hearing the news, I decided to make the trip regardless. It had been three years since I’d seen my friend in person and Queen Bey truly wasn’t the only reason I was going.
But seriously, what a disappointment.
When Beyonce’s team made the announcement, the room eventually stopped spinning and I was able to bring myself to my computer to find out why she wasn’t playing the show. After digging around on Google, it became apparent that I had only experienced the tip of the iceberg on the negative emotions I’d feel in this situation. No reason was given from Beyonce, her team, or the stadium where she was set to play.
Much like the rest of the Bey Hive, my friend and I have a ridiculously fierce loyalty to the Queen, dating back to her Destiny’s Child days. But even we could agree - this was bad form. The stadium was quick to shut down rumors that the construction in the building was to blame for the sudden date change and rumors began to fly that the concert, which wasn’t sold out, was postponed to a later date in hopes of filling more seats.
“That’s for sure what it was,” said my friend’s boyfriend, a musician himself who was mad on our behalf at the lack of professionalism. “Look, Lemonade is a great album and she’s an incredible artist. But she’s all about making money. This is an earning opportunity.”
My friend and I both exploded with fake sobs of self pity, feeling so hurt that we could be betrayed in such a capitalist way. We had bought our tickets back in February and the Nashville show was booked for the beginning of the tour, a little under two weeks after the release of Beyonce’s latest visual album, Lemonade. An album that rocked me to my core.[divider type="dashed" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]hen I first heard the raw narrative she had constructed through a blend of music, poetry, and experimental film, I felt emotionally dropkicked. My perspective on what the concert would be shifted. I was filled with anticipatory energy of how Beyonce would tell this story, her story, while also delivering the high voltage dance party she’s known for.
When she postponed, there was nowhere for that energy to go.
Lemonade details the rollercoaster of emotions involved in infidelity - sadness, rage, betrayal - and it felt so personal to be done wrong by the artist herself who had presented these emotions with such tangible honesty.
Look, the list of things more upsetting than the rescheduling of a Beyonce concert is extremely long. I can feel my own privilege as I reflect on the disappointment. Yes, she did reschedule. But the integrity was missing.
As a student of popular culture and avid fan, I had spent hours watching and analyzing the album, talking about it with my girlfriends and reading reviews and articles about it online. It felt as though I had wasted that time. The lyrics were all talk, the narrative an elaborate money ploy to sell concert tickets.[divider type="dashed" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap] identified with Lemonade on a deep level, one that can only be described as spiritual. There’s a point in the visual album where I can feel tears prick behind my eyes, a sensation that happens every time I watch it. It feels silly to talk about because at the end of the day, it’s popular music. But it spoke to me, in the way that all artists hope their work connects to an audience.
There’s a theme throughout the album that explores varying definitions of wealth and poverty. Hattie White, Jay-Z’s grandmother, was the inspiration for the album and is described as being a fountain of love and support to those around her, despite her lack of monetary wealth. Hattie stands in stark contrast to Jay-Z, the kingpin of a media empire who embodies the American Dream and all measurable standards of success. Yet through his own actions, he’s represented as lacking love - both in the ability to give or receive it.
Beyonce’s decision to postpone her concert without notice felt personal because it came at a time when she is getting very personal with her artistry. Whether or not you buy into the truth of Lemonade, it exposes a different side of the superstar.
She posted photos of her performances in Raleigh and Houston, dates that straddled when she would’ve played Nashville. We couldn’t help but wonder - why not us?
When Beyonce rescheduled for October, my friend hesitantly asked me if I still wanted to attend. And you know what? I’m going. I’m going because I want to see her perform, I want to see my friend again and to cancel would make me feel more disappointed than to bite the bullet and rebook a plane ticket.
Beyonce gave her Nashville fans lemons, running the risk of leaving a sour taste in the mouths of those who have been unwaveringly supportive of her. I choose the sweet.
I choose to make lemonade.