Beyonce's latest work, "Lemonade," could be simply described as a visual album. On the surface you can sum it up as an arthouse-like film with a bevy of cameos that blends different genres of music -- from country and rap, to spoken word poetry.
But it's much more than that. Heralding a refreshing new genre that creatively melds video and music (her last album was also a visual album), Beyonce simultaneously remains personal, political and poignant in her point of view. It's a powerful piece that earnestly explores the emotions following a spouse's alleged betrayal, through a lens that unapologetically harnesses the historic resilience, vulnerability, beauty and strength of black womanhood.
The richly dense, smart and thoughtful album premiered worldwide on HBO to great fanfare and overwhelming critical praise. Though there's nothing new about the tired trope of a cheating spouse, the way Beyonce tells her story is groundbreaking in more ways than one.
In the era where singles are king, "Lemonade" creates a new standard of artistic expression that could possibly save albums from dying of irrelevancy. It's 2016 and Beyonce has us talking about her album -- not just a song, but an entire work of art.
Beyonce's endeavor is grand and complex, with the desire to experience the whole of something and not just a slice being intentionally manufactured into its greatness. It's the same way you can't just listen to one song from the "Hamilton" soundtrack and "get it." To understand why it's a pivotal moment in pop culture, you have to ingest it in its entirety.
That means, if you didn't catch it on HBO (or HBO Go), you have to drop $17.99 to download the entire album and movie, or subscribe to Tidal to stream it. Because you have to see and hear "Lemonade," and consume it. Downloading the single "Formation" and calling it a day just won't do.
In "Lemonade," Beyonce reconceptualizes how to even approach an album, serving up something more similar to Prince's "Purple Rain," the movie and album, or one of Michael Jackson's many historic music videos, which, at his peak, also premiered worldwide on television. As it transcends artistic genres, inspiration from the past informs Beyonce's current work; however, her voice is still uniquely hers.
The same way it's important for Beyonce to be recognized for the cultural commentary "Lemonade" provides, she should also be commended for pushing the artistic boundary of what an album entails. In the wake of recent deaths of cultural icons David Bowie and Prince, Beyonce carries the flag of Transgressive Pop Star into the future.
"Lemonade" is a beautiful, magnificent piece of work that is a result of our modern times. The music isn't confined to a disc, and the visual accompaniments aren't limited to a 12-inch gatefold LP. It is a piece of multimedia art premiered on television that you can stream or download, tweet about incessantly or dig into deeper online. It's a promising conception that takes something as tried and true as the album and spins it into something above and Beyonce.