I downloaded Tidal apprehensively. I’d seen the hype and knew I’d experience something both visually stimulating and musically mediocre but tried to keep an open mind. The first shot of Beyoncé with cornrows and a fur jacket looking down with graffiti in the background gave me hope – I continued to watch barely breathing.
After 13 minutes and 45 seconds I minimised the screen to see how much time had passed and sighed with relief.
I smiled and allowed the first wave of tears to fall.
To say I’m not a fan of yours is quite a scary thing to do, people do NOT like it.
Friends, strangers, work colleagues, the general message is that as a young woman of colour you should be my queen.
I used to think my indifference was bred from mediocre songs sold through fetishisation of the black female body but that was a fraction of it. Not until watching Lemonade did I realise the rest.
I discovered Destiny’s Child as a scared, confused child. At 10 years old I had just moved to Bristol from Wales where I was the only black child in the town.
Told routinely that no-one liked me because I was black, at break boys would choke me behind the games shed and run away laughing. The girls would look away from me left gasping on the ground.
After two years my mum found out and confronted the headteacher who said it was her fault for bringing our ‘inner city ghetto’ into his nice school.
I learned to be ashamed of my blackness before I understood what it was. We’d moved from Harlesden, London where colour never occurred to me and then at 5 years old it put a target on my back.
In Bristol the polar opposite happened, now I was a wash-out. I didn’t understand the language, the culture, the expectation…
Destiny’s Child were my salvation. I saw you singing songs about independence. I could relate to that, I needed that. You were the common denominator I had with a culture I didn’t know how to connect with.
But then ‘Crazy In Love’ followed, a dumbed down chart tune that left me bitterly disappointed. In my opinion the words were meaningless, the message was obvious and the symbol was sex. The connection was gone.
However having had to navigate myself as a black woman in a predominantly white world socially and professionally, I now understand why you diluted yourself into a more palatable product.
Why should it be your responsibility to make a positive change? Maybe you wouldn’t be in such a powerful position today if you hadn’t sung titilating songs.
It didn’t empower me, I saw it as a wasted opportunity but that’s the path you chose… And really, the music wasn’t made for me.
Lemonade changed that and I’ll happily wipe the slate clean of everything that came before it because this is what I’ve been waiting for. This is a product with integrity.
This is an album that has nothing to do with music and everything to do with words. Each one is relevant. Warsan Shire’s spoken word pieces together a version of you that we have never been allowed to see before.
This is not Sacha Fierce, not an alter-ego but a black woman who has struggled with a common cultural issue – that it is our very substance that allows us to be disregarded or judged.
Our looks, words, volume, pride, all play a hand in making us unpalatable.
Seeing you in this album unashamed and unapologetic of your anger, culture, sexuality, words, has caused celebration for black women everywhere.
Never before have I seen more collective pride and appreciation than I have over the last few days.
So I put my hands up to you now and say thank you. Thank you for showing your audience and the world your Black Girl Magic in it’s multi-faceted form.
It’s been worth the wait.