If there’s one artist that knows how to take the world by storm with a surprise announcement, it’s Beyoncé. She doesn’t need weeks of social media marketing or billboards over Sunset Boulevard to make the world freak out about her latest album; all she needs to do is drop it, and her name will do the rest. She did so in 2013 with her surprise visual album Beyoncé, and now she’s doing it again in 2016 with Lemonade. However, this time around, it’s not simply the fact that she dropped a new album that’s making the world take notice. Lemonade seemingly hints that Beyoncé’s partner in crime Jay Z cheated on her, and fans are losing their minds. Is it true? I’m not so sure we should jump to conclusions.
Beyoncé’s visual album shows the stages of grief of discovering that one’s beloved has been unfaithful. In one scene from the visual album, she is suspended in water, asking one of the hardest questions one can pose: Did he cheat? In another, she is going all Carrie Underwood with a baseball bat on a city street, hitting anything and everything she can while laughing maniacally. She may be labeled jealous and crazy, but screw it — this is what she needs to process her loved one’s cheating. There’s no way to deny that Lemonade is about being cheated on, and how much it sucks — but that doesn’t mean we should assume that art is necessarily imitating life. Beyoncé has, after all, signed her name in the credits of the video as Beyoncé Knowles Carter, suggesting that her marriage to Jay Z — aka. Mr. Carter — is pretty solid.
There are many reasons why Beyoncé would choose to make a visual album about being cheated on, even if her own marriage was perfectly content. Her music explores layers of emotions and speaks to experiences that many women — especially young black women — will understand. Being labeled crazy for expressing anger isn’t specific to Beyoncé’s character in this visual album — the “angry black woman” stereotype is disturbingly common, and by not apologizing for her very valid anger, Beyoncé is essentially reminding the world that there’s nothing wrong with expressing messier emotions. It’s an important statement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a highly personal one when it comes to the cheating aspect of the story.
Beyoncé’s visual album could also be playing on all of those rumors surrounding her and Jay Z around the time of their joint On the Run concert tour. Shortly before Beyoncé and Jay Z went on tour together, her sister, Solange Knowles, was shown on security cameras attacking Jay Z in an elevator. At the time, rumors swirled that the confrontation had to do with Jay Z cheating on Beyoncé with designer Rachel Roy. The gossip was so intense that many tabloids reported that Beyoncé and Jay Z would be signing divorce papers the minute the tour ended — except, that never happened.
Beyoncé knows how to work the media to her advantage, so perhaps all she’s doing with Lemonade is giving fans something to talk about, even if it’s not representative of her own life. Fans love to hear gossip about Beyoncé and Jay Z’s relationship, and perhaps that’s how she came up with the theme of Lemonade. She may have never been cheated on by her husband, but the rumors surrounding her last musical venture could have certainly inspired her most recent work.