Posted on April 27, 2016, at 11:55 a.m.
by Elizabeth Broussard.
Well, Beyoncé’s done it again.
This past Saturday, the singer released a compelling visual album on Tidal named “Lemonade.” The multidimensional lyrics and engaging video content have fans and music industry executives alike discussing whether Beyoncé has, in fact, redefined the future of artistic expression.
“What’s most impressive is that the singer manages to offer an album that dabbles in R&B, country, rap and piano balladry, yet flows seamlessly as a complete body of work,” said Michael Arceneaux, a writer for Rolling Stone.
Since the release of the album, public sentiment has ranged from concern to adoration, but one fact stands true: Beyoncé is not an artist who will settle for her music to be passively listened to; it must be deeply felt and experienced.
All artists and musicians are storytellers in their own right, but Beyoncé takes this a step further by creating a fully integrated creative experience for the listener. Although this album is a deviation from current conventions, she’s getting back to the heart of what an album is: a complete entity meant to be accepted as a single work of art. Her presentation of the album as a film alters the listener’s ability to choose what part of the story they want to hear; they have no choice but to see the work as a cycle going from rage to redemption and separation to unity.
Beyoncé is in charge of the message, not the listener.
Furthermore, because she incorporated visuals, Beyoncé could expand the depth of her message and develop a unified story. Her lyrics speak of a woman dealing with personal and relational struggles, while the visuals place this discussion in a greater historic context.
“On their own, the songs can be taken as one star’s personal, domestic dramas, waiting to be mined by the tabloids,” said Jon Pareles at the New York Times. “But with the video, they testify to situations and emotions countless women endure.”
If nothing else, Beyoncé proves that sometimes the new is all about repackaging the old. In other words, the songs are still songs; the video is still video. The technology used wasn’t different — the vision was.
In a world that expects fully integrated experiences, all industries need to be embracing that reality, not running from it. For many years now, record labels and artists have been fighting technology and for good reason. Spotify, pirating services and even YouTube have been slowly stripping musicians of the respect and recognition they deserve. But maybe fighting is not what will truly save the industry. Perhaps it will be about redefining the listener’s experience.
My advice is when life gives you lemons, give them to Beyoncé.