When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in Beyoncé's case, make Lemonade, a revolutionary visual album that focuses on marital strife. Throughout the 12-track release, Beyoncé talks about infidelity and takes us through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief — now completely Beyoncé-fied — to dealing with the fact that your husband did you wrong. But it's not until the last half of the album, on the song "Freedom" featuring Kendrick Lamar, that Beyoncé reveals how the title is much more than a popular saying to encourage optimism; she actually has a truly personal connection to the saying. But who is the woman talking about Lemonade in "Freedom?"
In the final moments of "Freedom," an older woman's voice is heard saying: "I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade." This is the voice of Hattie White, Jay Z's grandmother, taken from a speech she gave at her 90th birthday party last April in Clayton, Delaware.
White's words aren't specific; she doesn't go through the exact moments, the turning points in her life that forced her to find something good in all that was bad. But White makes it clear that to get where she is now she had to rely on herself. She was the one that had to make the lemonade. She had to choose to forgive so that she could find happiness in the future.
The idea of making lemonade is synonymous with the women of the south, the matriarchs of Beyoncé's world like her grandmother-in-law White and her own grandmother, Agnéz Deréon, the mother of her mother Tina Knowles. Beyoncé even lays out the recipe for lemonade in the final section of the film, "Redemption," which falls between "Freedom" and "All Night." She says, "Take one pint of water, add half pound of sugar/ The juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon/ Pour the water from one jug, then to the other several times/Strain through a clean napkin."
Beyoncé refers to her grandma as the alchemist who "broke the curse with her own two hands," the curse being the sadness that follows the women who have been pulled down by the moments in their life that could not be corrected. "You passed these instructions down to your daughter," Beyoncé explains. "Who then passed it down to her daughter." And Beyoncé will likely pass it down to her own daughter.
White's message of making lemonade is more than just a recipe; it's a metaphor that focuses on the healing process. Now it's become the mantra of Beyoncé's new album, the reason she decided to forgive. To turn those lemons into lemonade, to let the good outweigh the bad.
Image: Parkwood Entertainment/HBO (2)