I attended the a lecture by Professor Leslie Grinner about Beyonce's album "Lemonade" at the Fortes Library on Wednesday, October 12th. It enjoyed the lecture and discussion. According to Professor Grinner, "Lemonade" is considered controversial because the imagery and lyrics of the album delve into major issues in our society such as feminism and racism. According to Professor Grinner, the album has been criticized by black feminist Bell Hooks, but has been defended by other black feminists. Bell Hooks criticized the commercialism of the album and the representations of women as beautiful rather than intellectual. However, many people have been inspired by Beyonce's courage in making the album. Beyonce is an artist who is successful commercially, so she uses a commercial venue to express her views. However, without the commercial success, she wouldn't be able to reach so many people with her message. According to Professor Grinner, in "Lemonade", Beyonce has chosen to explore deeper issues than are generally present in her albums, although she has touched on these issues in the past through Destiny's Child. By creating this controversial album, Beyonce has brought a dialogue about these issues to the forefront of popular culture. The album includes quotes and references from poets, musicians, entertainers, and activists which may help to introduce many people to new artists with activist views.
I hadn't seen any of Lemonade before the lecture, so, afterwards, I watched some of the videos on You Tube. I found videos like "Hold Up" to be an explosion of feminism and black activism. The album was very captivating and much more artistic than what I usually see in pop music. What was important to me is that it felt to me like Beyonce was really expressing her voice and her experience. While she uses pop music and culture as her medium, she challenges aspects of popular culture in videos like "Pretty Hurts" which questions the very beauty standards that she is expected to uphold as a pop music icon. I hope that the video gets other people, especially young girls, to think critically about their experience and to feel empowered in expressing their voice and being true to their own perspectives and experiences.
It made me think in some ways about Youth in Action and how this program encourages young people to be activists and think critically about their experience in society. The participants in the program learn how to express their voices and speak about their experiences to each other and to people in the community. They learn how to honor the truth of each others' stories as opposed to holding only to the expectations that society may have for them or assumptions that may be made about them. In this way, they challenge and critically examine the society that they are a part of as Beyonce challenges and criticizes popular culture that she is a part of through her album.