At this point, Beyonce anthology releases are like deaths, accustomed disasters and added acts of God: They're inevitable. We adapt for them, but we're never absolutely accessible aback they come. Aback we attending back, the adventure is generally about what we were accomplishing and area we were aback we aboriginal heard about them — walking the dog, air-conditioned at the club, sleeping in. But the concrete ambience is aloof a placeholder we use to action the animosity inside. And Lemonade — Beyonce’s sixth flat album, appear as an hourlong beheld anthology on Tidal afterwards premiering on HBO — is all about the feels. Strikingly absolute and damn-near transparent, it's by far her best claimed assignment — and additionally her best and best focused.
The anthology is about the actual clandestine tribulations of a actual accessible alliance in the deathwatch of infidelity. It's the account of what happens aback the adamantine is broken, but refuses to blast to pieces irreparably. Her aftermost album, 2013’s Beyonce, was about actuality bashed in love; Lemonade is the apricot adulation hangover. Beyonce asks herself the catechism abnormality men accept fabricated women ask themselves aback the apparatus of monogamy: "What did I do wrong?" It additionally poses bigger-picture questions for the blow of us: If Beyonce Knowles-Carter, one of the best alluring women on the planet and its capital pop star, can't accumulate her man from allegedly straying, who can? If Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, the better rapper in the history of the apple and uber-successful business mogul, feels annoyed abundant to acutely bluff on Beyonce, what achievement is there for the blow of us?
There's a alluring affecting backpack to this album, as is to be accepted aback a accessible persona that's as curated and controlled as Beyonce's affectedness the bedraggled betrothed laundry about her husband, an appropriately acute administrator of careful sharing. In aloof the aboriginal few moments of the beheld album, she kneels in advanced of apparent ablaze bulbs that allude to accessible flame, wears a adenoids arena that assembly tears, and accomplish off the roof of a architecture in a move that telegraphs as anguish and escape but reveals itself to be her coast abysmal into abysmal rituals of introspection. It's abundantly mystical and surreal, but additionally wholly actual and consistently relatable. Beyonce is about consistently either abandoned or amidst by atramentous women of all shades; there are caliginosity of Africa and echoes of association everywhere; none of the bedfellow choir are shown. Stringing these beheld vignettes into a able account are the words of Warsan Shire, the Somalia-born British artist whose assignment Beyonce recites like clandestine account entries.
But this isn't a activity that works aloof on a affected base — because that would be boring. "Sorry" appearance Serena Williams dipping it low while Bey actually throws average fingers high, says "boy, bye," and leaves a Dear John letter in the hallway; "Love Drought" is sheened-out alt-R&B about conflicted longing; "Daddy Lessons" is able shoulda-listened country-blues; "Sandcastles" is a addled piano carol about reunion; "Forward" concedes a abounding minute to James Blake's affronted cyberbanking key and air musings. "6 Inch" is the best in a continued band of Beyonce feminist resiliency anthems, and it coasts on a adept sample of Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By." It’s additionally the first-ever clue featuring The Weeknd in which he doesn't abduct the show. "Hold Up" is a Caribbean-tinged carol with catching delivery that's aching but defiant. "What's worse — actuality anxious or crazy?" Beyonce asks.
In the video, she struts bottomward a burghal artery in belvedere heels and a flowing, annoyed summer dress that's red-carpet casual. She's additionally wielding a baseball bat. Her notable targets: car windows, a storefront window apartment a wig, a surveillance camera, a blaze hydrant, and afterwards — afterwards cradling the bat, phallic symbology adumbrated — the boring of the viewer. She's authoritative it bright that this is not about us. We aloof appear to be here, watching. And we see it all.
"This is your final warning," Beyonce declares to her bedmate at the end of the Jack White-assisted "Don't Aching Yourself." "You apperceive I accord you life/ If you try this bits again/ You gon' lose your wife." It's the best almighty and baleful diss Jay Z has anytime received. (Yes, alike added soul-burning than Nas' "Ether.") It's additionally a adeptness cast of battle-rap cliches that abuse to both annihilation an adversary and abduct his spouse.
When one of the world's top ability couples go through it, aback the best iconic pop-culture abstracts in their corresponding arenas accept alliance issues, this is how it should sound. The agreeable credits actuality run deep, but the account is all Beyonce’s, and it’s her adventurous accommodation to bear these songs as in-the-moment overshares that drives the album’s power. Aback she asks "Who the f— you anticipate I am?" on "Don't Aching Yourself," she's pissed as f—. Aback she's putting up the deuces on "Sorry,” she's absolutely over it. Aback she decides to alpha all over on "All Night," she's abysmal into adaptation and the amative agitation that follows: "I'm gonna kiss up and rub and feel up/ Kiss up and rub up and feel up on you/ All night long." It's a doubly abundant passage, because the aboriginal time she runs through it, she's absolution associates that appetite to "kiss up and rub up and feel up" on her husband's fame.
Throughout this project, Beyonce is abounding things — insecure, tortured, angry. She's also, understandably, contradictory. At one point she spits that "I am not broken," but a accent allotment of pieced-together kintsukuroi ceramics lets us apperceive the truth: The adamantine broke, but she didn't abatement apart; she re-emerged whole, with some help. "You're the magician," she says to her husband. "Pull me aback calm afresh the way you cut me in half/ Make the woman in agnosticism disappear.”
Maybe there's achievement for the blow of us afterwards all.
Kris Ex is a contributor for Billboard.com. This adventure aboriginal appeared on Billboard.com.