Monday, May 02, 2016

MUSIC - Making "Lemonade"

"With ‘Lemonade,' Beyonce shows she's an artist in control" PBS NewsHour 4/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Pop sensation Beyonce's sixth studio album, “Lemonade,” made an immediate impact with its innovative release as a visual album on HBO and through the music streaming service Tidal.  For more on the groundbreaking work, which addresses both her personal troubles and the larger history of black women, Jeffrey Brown talks to Salamishah Tillet of the University of Pennsylvania.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It was a surprise record, released at first exclusively on the music streaming service Tidal, but also as a so-called visual album, a one-hour film shown on HBO.

Once again, the pop music phenomenon Beyonce is doing things her own way, and this time with songs and stories that address both personal troubles and the larger history of black women.

Joining us with more is Salamishah Tillet, a scholar and professor on black women performers at the University of Pennsylvania.

Welcome to you.

So, surprise albums aren't such a surprise anymore, but Beyonce and “Lemonade” takes it to a whole 'nother level.  Tell us what's going on.  What do you see?

SALAMISHAH TILLET, University of Pennsylvania:  Well, I think it's Beyonce pulling a Beyonce.

And by that, I mean, she is an artist who has — this is her second consecutive visual album that was dropped unexpectedly.  I think it's akin to Michael Jackson's “Thriller” premiere on MTV in 1983, and, of course — and this may be controversial, but to — it's comparable to Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in '65, meaning that you have an artist who's at their peak who is conjuring and converging with the sound technologies and the political demands of the moment.

So, it's unexpected and it's a surprise, but only Beyonce could do this in this magnificent of a fashion.

JEFFREY BROWN:  So, is it fair to see it as part of these big changes and a kind of continuing a battle of changes of artists, music labels, streaming services, to figure out sort of who's in control?


In many ways, I think it's Beyonce both aligning herself with the new technologies, whether it's Tidal came about as a way of artists being able to control the content and benefit from the new streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music.

And so Beyonce is responding to that, but also she's innovating that, right?  So, it's not simply, like, releasing music on a music streaming service, but she's also innovating the artistic form of what we think of as an album, what we think of a music video.

So it's a convergence of an artist's reinventing her sound and herself and using and benefiting from new technologies, and also making a statement to the music industry that artists can continue to benefit from, not simply be exploited by these changing tides.

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