“Beyoncé Is Black,” Grace Haring (2017)–Inquiry 2

“Beyoncé is black?” exclaims a stricken Kate Mckinnon in a Saturday Night Live skit (NBC 2016) addressing the uproar after the release of her music video to “Formation” (Beyoncé 2016). In the music video, Beyoncé unapologetically celebrates black culture and addresses controversial issues that affect the black community such as police brutality. The video drew a national uproar and an effort to “boycott” the pop diva. Beyoncé was getting political, and America didn’t like it. What many failed to understand, however, was that the album was not intended towards the usual broad audience that previous albums had catered to. In her album Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016), Beyoncé utilizes enthymeme in conjunction with pathos and kairos to send a message of pride and empowerment to her intended audience: black women and the black community.

A portion of the video that appeals to women is prior to “Daddy Issues” (Beyoncé 2016), when Beyoncé describes a little girl trying on her mother’s lipstick. This is an innocent activity that many little girls engage in, and the images of Beyoncé and her daughter are touching and intimate. This is an appeal to the pathos of the female audience, who can empathize with the admiration Beyoncé describes the child feeling for her mother and the desire to grow up to be just like her mom. She goes on to describe the empathy a daughter feels for her mother after seeing her struggle and the strong desire to defend and protect the women that raised her to be who she is today. The bond between a mother and a daughter is a unique relationship that can only truly be understood by women who have also experienced such a strong feeling.

Another powerful way that Beyoncé uses pathos is in her portrayal of black family life and connections. This is an appeal that is not intended for viewers outside of the black community, and an example of her combining enthymeme with pathos. The video prior to and during “Daddy Issues” (Beyoncé 2016) is edited to look like home videos and shows a variety of ways that black families engage with one another. Scenes include a daughter riding on her dad’s back, a young girl riding a bike, and a child playing tug-of-war with the person behind the camera. The children shown wear their hair in styles that are common in the black community. This portion of the video is a strong appeal to the pathos of her intended audience. The images are intended to evoke an emotional and nostalgic reaction, but this is only effective for members of the black community who experienced a similar upbringing to that shown in the video.

The intended audience for Lemonade is a vital part of it’s importance. It’s rare for a mainstream artist to create something that isn’t meant for a broad, general audience. It’s even rarer for a piece of mainstream media to be catered to the black community specifically. This rarity is part of the reason for the uproar caused by the release of “Formation” (Beyoncé 2016) and subsequently Lemonade. Up to this point, Beyoncé had spent her career not necessarily catering to her broader audience but never directly acknowledging her roots. The album marks a shift in Beyoncé’s public image from simply a pop diva to a political figure and a figure of black empowerment. She released an album meant for a community that’s rarely acknowledged by public figures as famous as she is, and she did so unapologetically. While the rest of America began to call for a boycott of her work, she took it in stride and began to sell “Boycott Beyoncé” shirts (France 2016) as a part of her tour merchandise. Beyoncé believes in the importance of her message, and will not undermine her message by apologizing just because some members of the public don’t like it. Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) is an album that bears controversy in both it’s message and it’s intended audience, and Beyoncé refuses to back down or quiet her voice.

In addition to speaking to the black community and black women in the community as a whole, Beyoncé also acknowledges the intersectionality of her intended audience in both the visual and audio components of her album. Throughout the video, she displays black women of all ages and backgrounds. Guest stars range from tennis star Serena Williams dancing around Beyoncé in the video for “Sorry” (Beyoncé 2016) to a scene of several generations of women in a southern black family in “All Night” (Beyoncé 2016) to smiling women simply going about their business on the streets of New Orleans shown throughout the visual album. The visual album makes sure to display and celebrate many faces and facets of black womanhood. Beyoncé shows how different the black female community can be by showing a wide variety of hairstyles, clothing styles, body types, and skin tones. She acknowledges and celebrates all of the differences in the women of her community and unites them all through her message of black pride.

The audio of the album is another way that Beyoncé celebrates the intersectionality of the black community. The twelve songs on Lemonade vary widely in musical genre. “Daddy Issues” incorporates elements of country music as well as New Orleans jazz, making a reference to Beyoncé’s own Southern roots. “Don’t Hurt Yourself ” is a combination of pop and rock. “Hold Up” is a tribute to reggae music. The album additionally contains R&B, hip-hop, ballad, soul, and dance music influences. This wide variety of genres all combined into one album is another way that Beyoncé celebrates the differences between members of the black community and again unites them. In the United States there is a wide variety of black communities, and each community with it’s own traditions and roots. The use of so many musical styles in Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) is a reference and celebration of this diversity within the community of her intended audience.

Perhaps the most important rhetorical element of Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) is it’s kairotic importance. The video for “Formation” (Beyoncé 2016) heavily features references to the nation’s current racial tensions and issues. More controversial is her references to the numerous crimes of police brutality and the resulting fatalities. She utilizes pathos in her featuring of the mothers of two victims of police brutality holding up pictures of their fallen sons (Griffiths 2016). The scenes are incredibly emotional and the pathos can appeal to black and other audiences alike: no mother is ever okay with losing her child, and especially in such an unjustified way. Police brutality is something that deeply affects the black community, and this is shown again in the video for “Formation” (Beyoncé 2016) where a child wearing a black hoodie dances in front of a line of men wearing riot gear. This is a reference to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the murder of Mike Brown (Buchanan 2015) and the hoodie is in reference to the murder of Trayvon Martin (Botehlo 2012). Beyoncé’s use of a child to stand in front of the policemen may be a communication that even the most innocent of black people are still seen as a threat by some in America.

The kairos of Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) is another audience-specific aspect of the album. Although the non-black community can recognize and protest about the many references she makes to police brutality and racism in society, only the black community is truly able to receive the message that she’s sending. Only the black community, which has been most directly affected by these issues, can truly recognize the appeal to pathos in these images and deeply relate with her wish to end the injustice. The concept of white privilege prevents white America from recognizing how difficult the black experience truly is and how badly there is need for change.

Beyoncé utilizes her platform as a famous pop culture figure to point out the unfairness that her community experiences every day. Although Beyoncé is a black woman, she is one of the few black women that has the trust and respect of the white community and broader pop culture audience as a whole. Her career was spent catering to all of America in order to elevate herself to such a level that she is now able to make political statements and not have to worry about the backlash. She is already rich, well respected, and the winner of many prestigious awards. She no longer depends on her audience’s approval to determine her success. This allows her to finally step out of her “pop diva” box and become an advocate for her community in a political and social climate where the black community desperately needs an advocate. By making the above- mentioned shift in her career, Beyoncé herself contributes to the kairotic importance of her album. Although the message of her album caused a national protest, this only served to further her cause by bringing more and more national attention to the issues that she addresses in Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016).

Lemonade is primarily meant for the black community, but it also serves a purpose in its unintentional message to those not within the black community. Although it garnered national protest from a variety of groups, it serves as a tool to educate others about what they may not be familiar with. There are a lot of aspects of the black experience that aren’t ever really communicated to those outside of the community and therefore not very well understood. In Lemonade Beyoncé recognizes and displays some of these aspects. Beyoncé’s many broader appeals to pathos throughout the visual album can also serve to cause empathy in non-black viewers to the black experience. This empathy can serve as a powerful tool to create more advocates for change in the highly-charged political and social climate that the black community lives in every day. In this way Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) also serves as a political call to action. She’s using her platform as a revered artist to not only inspire pride within her community but help those outside of the community to empathize with their struggles so that change can happen.

Although Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade can communicate a message to a wider audience, it is not intended for the general public. The main messages contained in Lemonade are those that resonate with the black community as a whole, and black women in particular. Beyoncé used her platform as a popular artist to convey a message of black power and pride and to celebrate the intersectionality of her own community. Lemonade (Beyoncé 2016) is more than just an album by a popular artist: it is a political statement, a call to action, and a vehicle of empowerment for black women and the black community.


Works Cited

Beyoncé. “All Night.” VEVO, 30 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=gM89Q5Eng_M. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Beyoncé. “Daddy Issues”. Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/

Beyoncé. “Don’t Hurt Yourself ”. Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/ lemonade-visual-album/

Beyoncé. “Formation.” VEVO, 9 Dec. 2016, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=WDZJPJV__bQ. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Beyoncé. “Hold Up.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/

Beyoncé. “Lemonade”. Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/

Beyoncé. “Sorry.” VEVO, 22 June 2016, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=QxsmWxxouIM. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Botelho, Greg. “What Happened the Night Trayvon Martin Died.” CNN, 23 May 2012, www.cnn.com/2012/05/18/ justice/florida-teen-shooting-details/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

France, Lisa Respers. “Beyoncé Selling ‘Boycott Beyoncé’ Shirts.” CNN Money, 28 Apr. 2016. CNN, money.cnn. com/2016/04/28/news/companies/beyonce-boycott- formation. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Griffiths, Kadeen. “Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ References Policy Brutality by Including Appearances by Mothers Affected.” Bustle, 23 Apr. 2016. BDG Media, www.bustle.com/ articles/156562-beyonces-lemonade-references-police- brutality-by- including-appearances-by-mothers-affected-

photos. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

“NBC.” NBC, Saturday Night Live, 13 Feb. 2016, www.nbc. com/saturday-night-live/video/the-day-beyonce-turned- black/2985361?snl=1. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.


Writer’s Reflection

I really enjoyed writing this paper. From the moment

I began to watch Lemonade I was in awe of its message and artistry. I’m really glad that I got this opportunity to think more deeply about it and the message that Beyoncé is trying to send with it. The message in Lemonade that really got to me personally is the emotional aspects of being cheated on and recovering. I’ve got a personal connection with the emotional journey that she goes through in the album and so it really evoked an emotional response from me when I first heard it. Writing this paper was also a good way to put into practice using elements of rhetoric and I feel like I learned a lot about them. Lemonade is (clearly) such a multi-faceted piece of work that I was able to analyze it from a variety of rhetorical perspectives. I really appreciate the freedom to choose what we wanted to analyze because it made this assignment really fun to write (obviously since I went 1000 words over the limit). I am really proud of this paper and all that I was able to learn from it. Finding sources for references to police brutality incidents was really eye-opening. I was aware of the existing injustices prior to writing the paper but reading into the specifics of the cases gave me a deeper perspective. This assignment helped me “stay woke” and really made me think about race issues in the country and what I can do to help as an ally. I also got to watch and listen to a large amount of Beyoncé while writing this so overall I had a grand time and learned a lot from this paper.