I wasn’t going to comment, share or even publish my thoughts on Beyonce’s extravagant visual-album, Lemonade. Yet, here we are. The circumstances to me typing out my opinions to an album that truly doesn’t need – or necessarily deserve – my opinions, are concurrently astonishing, in hindsight.
I’ll make one thing observantly clear from the beginning, however. I am, by no standard of the Beyonce threshold, a Beyonce fan. I am, conversely, a music fan. A considerable amount of my time is dedicated to music – albeit for my job – but also as a form of pleasure. When a piece of music comes along that has the Internet, radio stations and, on a wider scale, the global entertainment media on prime warning to discuss it; you know it’s something big. Something game changing. Why wouldn’t I divulge into something game changing?
The record is good. Great, even. Simply put, it’s a translucent pop record that breaks traditional moulds and tells a compelling story. I consumed Lemonade through the accompanying visual element of the record. The film pieces Lemonade‘s tracks together by extremely well produced footage of, predominately, Beyonce but also a plethora of female guest stars.
Even without listening to the album, you should know by now that Lemonade revolves around themes of infidelity and the plight of the black woman in America. A concept record, if you will. Beyonce has always been one to take primary control of her image so it’s utterly fascinating to see her expose her vulnerabilities and sentiments in such a public way.
Nonetheless, I’m not here to search for the deeper meaning in Beyonce’s new tracks or be compelled to write another 2016-relevant political think-piece on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. I’m here to comment on why pop music, as incredible as this, still comes with a stigma to, more particularly, Australian listeners.
The Australian music market is abusively controlled by our, “national youth broadcaster” triple j. The radio station is a trend setter for which international artists have a venue to perform at and which national artists ever get to see the light of success beyond their puny local, cult following. I’ll spare the history lesson but triple j was founded to, fundamentally, break from the “mainstream” radio broadcasters and play alternative, underground and unsigned music. Operating for, now, more than thirty years, changes were inevitable both to its audience and to the contextual music market that embeds it.
Triple j, as most of Australia thought was the unthinkable, played a Beyonce track. Probably for the very first time, in primetime hours, but don’t quote me on that. Zan Rowe, a reputable music lover and triple j’s most daring and passionate presenters, spun ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’, an early cut from Lemonade. A track that features Jack White on vocal and production duties.
Zan spoke vividly on the track, and the record. About her experience watching the film and what she ascertained from it.
The comments began to accumulate from what the nation had just heard. On one side, comments of, “you’re turning into a top 40 station.” With the other side being, “it’s disappointing that a man has to be on a song to give it credibility.”
A remark so carelessly strewn as the headline for an article as if the writer hadn’t heard one single refrain from Lemonade. The music, along with its counterpart visuals, is so clearly dominated by the female sex that it’s effect are almost negated by the presence of a male. Beyonce is, for the sixty-one minutes of on-camera footage, constantly surrounded by women with only two appearances from men – one of them being her husband Jay Z.
To say that triple j played a Beyonce track because it featured a man is visibly inelegant of the Australian public to believe.
Now with her latest two albums releasing unexpectedly and the most recent of such appearing as her most politically-charged and deeply personal to date, there’s austerely no reason to not accept Beyonce’s music as the defining sophistication of musical art as it is. Beyonce’s opinions are now an augmented reality of marketability.
*Words by Jake Wilton. Follow him on Twitter @jakeneeck.