Beyoncé has surprised the world yet again.
In case you missed it, she dropped her sixth studio album during her HBO special "Lemonade." Ahead of the release, she had released this cryptic trailer with such lines as, "The past and the present merge to meet us here / Why can't you see me?"
But it turned out to be a full-length visual album, following a sweeping narrative arc of rage to redemption. You can watch it for free on HBO this weekend, and also catch it on Tidal.
Beyoncé's latest release includes "Formation" and expands upon it. The Root describes it as "a burning ... love letter to herself and black women—our pain, our beauty, our hard love, our betrayal, our strength— exposing herself bare like we've never seen her before."
The album features the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and others whose sons have been killed, holding their portraits during the song "Forward."
It also shows video from her childhood and with her husband, Jay Z.
The New York Times notes that "the videos, heavy on Southern gothic imagery, are broken up with title cards that play on the Kübler-Ross model of grief — intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation."
As Rolling Stone reports, "her fury hits home because it stems from what feels like real heartbreak." The album casts Beyoncé as a scorned lover. It opens with the line, ""You can taste the dishonesty/It's all over your breath/As you pass it off so cavalier." At one point, she asks, "Are you cheating on me?"
Here's more from Rolling Stone:
"There's already debate as to whether or not Beyoncé would really expose marital problems – namely her husband's infidelity – to the masses. It's hard to parse whether or not some of the material references her experiences with Jay Z, or her father, Mathew Knowles, or perhaps an imaginary scenario that's serving as good practice for a future dramatic role she hopes will secure her an Oscar nomination."
The emotional trajectory of this album ultimately comes full circle in "All Night": "With every tear came redemption. / My torturer became my remedy. / So we're going to heal, we're going to start again."