Using a baseball bat, mix celebrity gossip, poetry, powerful women, and then stir in rumors of infidelity—Brittany and NPR Music’s Kiana Fitzgerald break down the ingredients of Lemonade, Beyoncé’s latest visual album.
**Warning, this episode contains adult language.**
Episode #14 features clips from the following episodes (please click below for hyperlink to episodes):
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, and Brittany Luse with help from Kate Parkinson-Morgan.
It was edited by Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Mark Phillips.
The show was mixed by Matthew Boll.
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BRITTANY LUSE: Hi I’m Brittany Luse and welcome to Sampler, the show where we play you hand-picked moments from podcasts that you just have to hear. On today’s show, we are talking about the inescapable pop cultural phenomenon that is Beyonce’s sixth studio album, Lemonade. She premiered it as an hour-long music video on HBO on April 23. It’s Beyonce’s most ambitious, personal and political artistic work, and the conversation around it has been non-stop since it dropped. For better or for worse, whether you like it or not, Lemonade is everywhere. And this gives us the perfect opportunity to look at the world of podcasting in the aftermath of a singular major event. So, today we’re taking a long, hard look at how a bunch of different podcasts gulped down their Lemonade. And even if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry! There’s plenty of refreshing discussion to go around. But, before we get started, allow me to note that while lemonade is delightfully sweet, some of the themes and language in this episode are more on the tart side. So if you’re babysitting Blue Ivy, or hanging around any other youngsters, now’s a good time to pause and slip in some earbuds.
BRITTANY: So sipping on Lemonade with me today is Kiana Fitzgerald, of NPR Music. Kiana, thank you so much for coming on Sampler.
KIANA: Thank you for having me.
BRITTANY: Oh my god, my absolute pleasure. So full disclosure Kiana’s a friend of mine and also a really talented music journalist for NPR music and Kiana you actually did a review for NPR like immediately after Lemonade came out.
KIANA: I did.
BRITTANY: Tell me about it.
KIANA: So the process was really stressful because I had no time to listen and ingest and figure out what does this mean so it was really like OK I’m going to seclude myself for the next however many hours I had until I had to like tape and track and everything. And I mean I’m not going to lie it was a really emotional thing for me – like, because the themes within lemonade especially visually are like about the black female experience. So going through that album again and again and again was a lot.
BRITTANY: Let’s hear a little bit of that review…
KIANA: Beyonce couldn’t have produced an album this defiant or blunt two years ago. Lemonade has been made possible by the cultural, social and political upheaval we’re in the midst of triggered by the deaths of boys and fathers who will never be forgotten by the pain of the women who loved them. We’ve all been changed by these events. Beyonce may be a machine but she’s changed too. And so has Serena Williams, actress Amandla Stenberg, literary giant in the making Warsan Shire. And, the other figures featured front and center in the visual version of the album. From the women who look like my mom and my aunties and my cousins to the women carrying the grief of a nation. The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown.
KIANA: I really got to say exactly what I wanted to say as a black woman and I am very grateful that NPR didn’t you know strip out my voice and make me be more objective about it than I could have been because this is about me in a way too.
BRITTANY: So Beyonce’s Lemonade was organized into chapters which showed different stages of this musical journey. Different stages of how you maybe reconcile after infidelity in a relationship ranging from intuition to anger to redemption. It was kind of like the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, right? So for our sampling of Lemonade we’re organizing our show into chapters as well.
BRITTANY: We’re going to explore the different stages of consuming Lemonade.
KIANA: This should be fun.
BRITTANY: Alright let’s get started.
KIANA: Let’s do it.
BRITTANY: So our first stage is experiencing Pure Joy. Our first clip is from the Read.
KIANA: Of course.
BRITTANY: Of course. So The Read is a podcast hosted by Kid Fury and Crissle. Anyone who has heard their show knows how much they love – love – loveI don’t even know if that’s a strong enough word.
KIANA: No it’s not.
BRITTANY: They just love Beyonce. So naturally when lemonade came out they expressed a whole lot of um I’ll say “enthusiasm.”
KIANA: Yea, I think that’s fair.
CRISSLE: This bitch is only getting better and the fact that she topped herself after self-titled which I frankly I was worried. I was concerned. I was worried about Lemonade I was like what if this flops because how can she outdo self titled?
KID FURY: She said like this.
KID FURY: Like this bitch know me.
CRISSLE: Bitch is straight like this like a goddamned movie and next time bitch you’ll be paying $25 to watch it in the theater. Like and you right B I will. If Beyonce puts her next album out in fucking theaters I will buy a ticket and take my ass to go experience it. Bcause she has shown me that she is more than willing to do the work as an artist to only get better and improve like…
KID FURY: I only expect for martians to be doing the Milly Rock in her next video.
CRISSLE: I can’t deal with how brilliant this woman is and and I cannot… I love that she has these concepts and ideas and then hires the right people and connects with the right teams to get her vision done
KID FURY: Her visuals my nigga…
KID FURY: Are top notch.
CRISSLE: They’re beautiful. Like every fucking frame is a photo, girl.
KID FURY: Parkwood could direct a movie with Beyonce not even in it and that shit would just be beautiful. Like the shots are just so great.
CRISSLE: They’re gorgeous. They’re gorgeous. I’m sick of this bitch. I’m sick of her.
KID FURY: I cannot take it. It’s too much. I cannot handle it. I’ve watched Lemonade no less than 7 times in the past few days. I listen to the album non-stop. The only thing that I may have listened to other than that is some gospel, bitch, because I had to get on the same page as Christ the King. To be like Lord, thank you. Jesus, thank you.
BRITTANY: Where were you when you first heard, watched, saw Lemonade?
KIANA: I was with my best friend Greg at his house and we were watching it on HBOGo but we didn’t know if it was going to pop up like immediately so we were just like refreshing refreshing like oh my God please please please. So finally it popped up and of course we screamed and then we pressed play and didn’t say a word. I was conscious like looking out of the corner of my eye like looking at him like is this happening? What’s going on? What is this?
BRITTANY: So Crissle mentioned in the clip that the next logical step for Beyonce… because like the first thing she did 2013 she like, released an album just on Thursday night like after Scandal was over and had all of the songs and all of the videos at once. And then it’s kind of like well how are you going to top that? And obviously it’s like you know. I’m going to put a musical an hour-long music video of the entire album on HBO. Crissle said the next logical step is obviously she has to like place it in theaters. And like with the release of Lemonade, Beyonce has redefined the concept of like the album release.
KIANA: Again. I think she’s fucking brilliant. And honestly I’m trying to be objective but there’s only so much you can skirt around somebody’s pure passion and commitment to being great. And she is in a position where she can make these calls to like say you know what I do want to have like a secret album and I do want to present this on HBO as a cinematic experience so everybody can be watching this together at the same time so we can like live tweet it together… lose our minds together. Anytime somebody is able to just bring people together in that way I am all about it. So, thank you Beyonce.
BRITTANY: So that brings us to the next phase –
KIANA: [whispers] Okay.
BRITTANY: Lemonade permeating unexpected places. So like, you know it kind of had this weird world-stopping effect where even if you don’t like Lemonade you couldn’t help but be affected by the fact it came out. You know what I’m saying? You kind of had to be living under a rock to not notice. So like you know we kind of knew at Sampler that definitely pop culture podcasts would have something to say about Lemonade.
KIANA: For sure. It’s a cultural event.
BRITTANY: Right but it was such a huge moment that talk of Lemonade showed up in some places we did not see coming. And one of the first places actually that it showed up is the podcast that we’re featuring in our next clip – it’s the Slate show Trumpcast, hosted by Jacob Weisberg. Trumpcast is a show that’s all about trying to understand who Donald Trump is.
BRITTANY: And why Trumpmania is taking over our country. So most of the show is interviewing experts about Donald Trump, but it’s not all serious, like sometimes they’ll have a Trump impersonator read his latest tweets. Yeah, no, I said Donald Trump.
KIANA: Yeah just clarifying. Thank you. Thank you.
BRITTANY: And yet this clip is also about Lemonade. So it’s a sketch written and performed by Steve Waltien of the Chicago improv group, Second City. So the premise is that it’s an email exchange between Republican presidential hopefuls — well, former hopefuls— Ted Cruz and John Kasich. This podcast came out before they dropped out of the race, and in this clip, Cruz and Kasich are trying to strategize against Donald Trump but keep on getting a little… distracted.
Sunday April 24, 2016. 8:06 a.m. Governor John Kasich to Senator Ted Cruz: Ted, I’m relieved our people were able to work out an arrangement on this. I gather announcements will be made soon and we can both continue our campaigns with a mutual acknowledgement that a Trump nomination is bad for both party and country. I am sorry I haven’t been able to reach out personally yet, but I’ve been very busy since Beyonce dropped this full album on this last night. Karen and I basically spent the evening with our jaws on the floor. How does she do it?
Senator Ted Cruz to Governor Kasich 8:49 a.m. John, I too am glad clear terms could be agreed on. Although our campaigns differ a great deal in ideas I know we share a common concern for our party and a sense than Donald’s candidacy is destructive to the process and bad for the American people. Re. Queen Bey unbelievable. Heidi and I were up all night with this thing. The visuals are stunning. Where does she find the time? She’s a force of nature.
Governor Kasich 9:36 a.m. Ted, Weaver is telling me we need to be clear about ground rules for Indiana. It’s important to me also that our statements are worded similarly and that both campaigns stay on message when the inevitable Trump attacks come. As for Queen B, I’m just in awe of her ability to continually create compelling work and explore new facets of herself as an artist. I’m really responding to the personal nature of the lyrics on these tracks. So brave of her to explore the hardships of her marriage in a public light. While still having strong united family images at the end of the piece.
Senator Cruz 10:19 a.m.: John, ground rules will be important and Jeff Rowe in my office will be very precise about turning over files to you on our existing ground strategies in the states. I know my people are drafting something now in a variety of directions on Donald’s response. Again my whole team was totally sidelined this weekend with Beyonce’s Lemonade. I think we all needed time to take the whole thing in and digest. When it comes to her exploration of marriage I think it’s particularly profound in a country where the institution of marriage is under attack.
Kasich 11:01 a.m. Ted, I’m glad you brought up conservative values. It’s important to me to get the message to voters that a vote for Donald is a vote against the interest of anyone who is a true conservative. I wish they understood how empty Donald’s faked concern for them is. I want to say to these voters he don’t love you like I love you LOL but I could never do it with the grace and flawlessness of Queen Bey.
Cruz: 11:56 a.m. agreed. Very glad we were able to find common ground on this. I swear it Trump wasn’t the nomination I will take a baseball bat to every car on my block, Bey-style.
Kasich 12:04 pm: LOL I’ll join you. Bey for life.
Cruz 11:12 pm: Seriously, so, so good. Can’t stop watching it. See you in Cleveland.
KIANA: [laughing] Very interesting.
BRITTANY: But this is like the very last place I expected to find literally a Donald Trump podcast – this is the last place I expected to find a Lemonade clip. What does this say to you about like the reach? Because one of the things you said about the album, which I agree with, is it’s a really black female thing right? But it’s also this thing that was super widely released.
KIANA: Yeah it’s everybody’s. As much as it is very specifically directed toward black women, this is everybody’s album. Because she is Beyonce, you know, she has performed at the super bowl more than once.
BRITTANY: More than once in the past 5 years. [laughing]
KIANA: Exactly like she’s a part of our country, like she might as well be on the fucking flag. Like she’s a part of us. So I can understand why, you know, I can listen to a Donald Trump podcast and still hear about her because she is like woven throughout the fabric of what we do in America.
BRITTANY: One of the things about Beyonce, for better or for worse, being a part of the national fabric is that even though she gives us very little information in general about her life all of us are wrapped up in her personal business. Do you know what I’m saying?
KIANA: Yeah absolutely.
BRITTANY: Like everybody’s thirsty for photos or video of her wedding. When her baby came everybody was like I need to know more about this child immediately. Pretty much anything to do with her personal life causes some sort of media frenzy. So that brings us to our next stage: determining if Lemonade is autobiographical or simply art. So uh our next clip is from an ESPN podcast called Jalen and Jacoby. So it’s a sports and pop culture show hosted by retired NBA player Jalen Rose, and sports commentator David Jacoby. So in this clip, they’re addressing the debate over whether Lemonade is autobiographical or just a piece of art that Beyonce put out there for all of us to take in. So here is Jalen telling David his theory.
JALEN ROSE: Beyonce has become a global superstar and has selectively used her voice over this period of time. She’s always stayed classy. She’s always been disciplined. And she’s always been calculated. Very calculating same with Jay-z. Both of them are masters ok. There’s a reason why they are elite at what they do. I’m taking this as her and Jay-Z are too intelligent to air so much dirty laundry when they just had a daughter.
DAVID JACOBY: You remember when they were on tour? Do you remember what dominated that summer’s headlines? Oh they’re gonna get divorced? Are they going to get divorced? Who’s cheating on who and what’s happening? They were in the headlines all summer long. Do you know what else they were in? The money. Because that’s how that works. I want to say this I learned a couple of things you never judge what’s going on in someone else’s relationship
JALEN: No, there’s only two people that know what’s going on in a relationship and those are the people involved. No one else has 100% of the story. No one in the world. No matter how much you think you know you don’t know. Your best friend, male or female, is not telling you everything that they talk about with their mate.
DAVID: No. They’re giving you one side. They’re filtering it.
JALEN: That’s why it’s called pillow talk. You’re not around. And so what I truly think is this is Beyonce being an artist just like when you go to a movie somebody’s reading a script and they are playing it out for public consumption. They put something out on television as well…
DAVID: Jalen, Jalen you think they made this whole thing up?
JALEN: I’m not wrong.
DAVID: You think they made this whole thing up?
JALEN: This is why you ready for this?
DAVID: Tell me.
JALEN: Because I think if it was this deep at the end of that documentary it would be her packing her stuff.
KIANA and BRITTANY: Hmm.
KIANA: OK, yeah. [laughing]
BRITTANY: Which side of this argument are you on? Do you think that it’s like – do you think it’s fact or fiction?
KIANA: I haven’t had to say this out loud yet. I’ve just been thinking about this in my head ever since it came out.
BRITTANY: So we’re getting an exclusive.
KIANA: Yeah – um I feel like it’s largely autobiographical and I feel like there might be some parts – I do –
BRITTANY: Sorry I don’t mean to be making this face at you.
KIANA: That was like a whattt. It just seems like if this isn’t autobiographical then Jay-Z is a really good and brave man to put himself in this position to be heavily scrutinized and villainized in the media across the country in like barber shops beauty shops whatever. Like if this isn’t real he’s a really really good dude for being able to take this on.
BRITTANY: Did you when you first watched it did you watch it while tweeting?
KIANA: Yeah I tweeted a few times.
BRITTANY: So, for personal reasons somebody made me go out and leave the house. So on Saturday night I left the house. I left the house at 9:15, crying on the train to where I was going. But I came back at like 4 and I was like we’re about to watch Lemonade. Like this is what’s happening. Watching it right now so I watched it without anybody tweeting or anything like that. So when I took it in it was just me by myself crying like you know crying because I had spent all this money on Tidal. Crying because it was 4 o’clock in the morning, and I was making myself committing to watching an hour long visual masterpiece when I was obviously sleepy. I thought the infidelity stuff was like allegory. I actually didn’t think it was like for real. Also like Beyonce sings about getting cheated on every six months.
KIANA: She does.
BRITTANY: All the songs in the beginning when she was like oh she cheated on me… I was like oh you know you’ve been singing about this since you were 15 years old so I was like OK, whatever.
BRITTANY: But then the next day I sort of got caught up on Twitter and then Irealized a lot of people really thought that this things was real. And then upon like six more viewings — you know which I did happily — I there are a couple parts at the beginning where Beyonce was so angry that I was like mmmm you might not actually be making this up.
KIANA: Exactly, exactly. I was just like hold up she’s throwing her ring at the camera going you going to lose your wife if you pull this shit like she was it just seemed very pointed and like even in “Sorry” at the end where she says big homie you know better grow up that is obviously Jay-Z’s nickname. So it’s like she’s putting very specific pronouns and like phrases and very pointed visual effects… it makes it seem like this is very personal and very real.
BRITTANY: So I saw it more as just like the difficulty and anger and pain and loneliness that just come from terrible things. That is what I latched onto when I watched Lemonade initially. As much as I do enjoy celebrity gossip I still kind of was like does it actually matter? Do you know what I mean? Like does it actually matter whether or not it’s autobiographical or art?
KIANA: I personally don’t think it matters. I think that her message remains the same, you know. It’s about infidelity. It’s about accountability. Responsibility. People should try not to focus on the gossip parts if possible. I know it’s sexy but it has no bearing on the actual content that she put out there.
BRITTANY: This idea of whether or not Beyonce’s work is fact or fiction, autobiographical… really like her intent and integrity as an artist… sort of intertwined with this whole conversation is like the question of Beyonce’s authenticity, which we will talk more about after the break.
BRITTANY: So hold that thought.
KIANA: I will.
BRITTANY: And we will be back with more LEM-ON-NAAAADE. I tried to practice all these different ways to say Lemonade.
KIANA: I’m into it.
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BRITTANY:So Welcome back to Sampler in the studio with me I have Kiana Fitzgerald of NPR Music.
KIANA: Hello hello.
BRITTANY: She recently reviewed Beyonce’s album, excuse me Beyonce’s visual masterpiece – uh Lemonade for NPR. So at the end of the first half of the show we talked about whether or not it’s autobiographical. That kind is of connected to this idea of how authentic Beyonce is or how authentic her image is. So that brings us to our next stage: socioeconomic implications. Did you see that one coming?
KIANA: No I should have.
BRITTANY: So this next clip comes from Talk Poverty Radio. It’s a show that examines issues around poverty in this country. It’s co-hosted by Tracey Ross and Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress. The first voice you will hear in this clip is host Tracy, followed by her CAP colleagues, Maryam Adamu and Constance Torian. They’re talking about the imagery Beyonce has been using in her most recent work and what it means from a socioeconomic perspective.
TRACEY ROSS: So one thing that I’ve thought about because I’ve heard other people say things because apparently all I do is read about Beyonce but I’ve heard other or read other people say things about like well how is this woman who is in a billion dollar family going to try to connect to – embrace cultures that aren’t hers even if it’s um, lower-income people in the US those sorts of things by having her work walking through New Orleans having her walk through her old um hometown in um Houston Texas but I say this on the show all the time: the average African American family making 100k a year in this country lives in a more disadvantaged neighborhood than the average white family making 30k dollars a year. So I feel like the fact that despite the fact that her paycheck is now out of the stratosphere black people in this country like regardless of class are in these sorts of communities that she features throughout the video. And so for me when you saying the third world connection I mean it’s very real that regardless of your stature in society, if you’re a black person you’re going to be in places that are suffering the most.
MARYAM ADAMU: And it’s not you it’s like your family or your extended family like?
TRACEY: Exactly exactly.
MARYAM: I don’t buy that like Beyonce doesn’t understand a black income black life. I’m not saying that like she lives that on a day-to-day basis but I feel like kind of what you were saying… like your social world as like a black person I think is like kind of like always begin tied to multi income levels and like various situations. And like even me in my comfortable American life I have like tons of family member living in Nigeria who are like in deep deep poverty. I like live in a town that’s like the fastest shrinking in America. So I can like both like visually people will be like oh you know young professional but like my social world back home and where my physical home is located is like one of the poorest struggling towns in the outskirts of the Mississippi Delta so like it’s really hard to make those distinctions I think specifically for black people
CONSTANCE TORIAN: And I also think that people have been asking that you know Beyonce become a little more real for some time now and be human and notice that she’s paying attention. I think the entire time I watched this I was like no she’s real she’s paying attention she realized all these struggles. So it’s like, do you want her to say something or not? Because now we’re talking about it and we weren’t before and it seems like she’s going to keep making us talk about it, which I think is really important. So I don’t know. I don’t get mad that she’s representing or putting things in Lemonade that she might not live on a daily basis because I think that helps like, again, expose things people who don’t think of things that way.
KIANA: So she said some people have gotten mad that she’s representing for lower income people? Whaaat? [laughs]
BRITTANY: What do you think?
KIANA: Well I think that what she did with this visual album, in terms of focusing on very, very directly on the way that black people live in this country, which, in the clip, largely is either beneath or very near the poverty line, or even if they are at a higher class monetarily— they still will be in situations where they’re not in the best environments. So it’s obviously something that has been screamed about in this country in certain rooms and conversations for decades and for somebody like her, at her level, to very directly put these women who look like my mom and my aunt and my sister… like these women that I very strongly identify with… for her to do that I feel was very, very necessary and I don’t think there is any reason for anybody to think that she’s inauthentic for doing that. If anything it’s the complete opposite.
BRITTANY: The other thing I think a lot of people don’t realize— a lot of non-black people don’t realize— is in the United States black people only had freedom for so long. And so when you haven’t had the opportunity to build generational wealth… like Beyonce seems like she grew up middle class… but the chances are really high that like her parents did not and also her family was not in that economic class for her entire lifetime.
BRITTANY: I know that’s that way for my family like I my older sister is six years older than I am. The way that my family was living when my sister was young was completely different than the way that my family was living when I was like six, you know? Six, seven, eight nine. Totally different than it was for my older sister because when you don’t have generational wealth and you don’t have generations of your family going to college… or like even just attain professional skills. Or I think of like my grandfather. Even though he served in the military and got a four-year degree he still had to go get an additional certificate in mortuary science because it was like difficult to get a job. You know he’s from Mississippi. So like a family of the generation that Beyonce grew up in… like your economic status can change over time. And then also if you factor in family. You know what I’m saying? Family, bloodline, friends….
KIANA: Yeah family, cousins, aunts and uncles… not everybody in Beyonce’s family is living at her level period. And it’s not like she’s cut off from them. Like we’ve seen the pictures of her at weddings and family gatherings and stuff. She is out here in spaces that she is not like on jets and yachts… like she’s not always in that setting. so I think it’s ridiculous and unfair for people to say that like no you can only speak about this small sector of society.
BRITTANY: Is Beyonce spurring real action— or even just change in thought— in terms of how people think about poverty? Do you think that like there’s something to her placing herself in context where people don’t think that they’d see not just her but even a black woman like her you know what I’m saying?
KIANA: I think she absolutely is. Most identifiably I think “Formation” like you know when she’s in the beauty shop or the beauty supply store and she has the black girls with the different color hair and one of them’s wearing the silk wrap or whatever… and the same situation with don’t hurt yourself in the visual album when she has that moment where she has a Malcolm X clip.
[MALCOLM X CLIP from Lemonade]
BEYONCE: Call me Malcolm X.
MALCOLM X: The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.
KIANA: She very deliberately, I feel, uses shots of women that look normal or that look like the women that you think is too loud on the subway or you think oh, I don’t want her you know sitting next to me on the bus. These are real women and I feel like her very deliberately putting them in the front of the camera and the way that she did was an attempt if anything to show people like yeah these are like real humans and you can talk to them and they have emotions and they deserve to be protected.
BRITTANY: It also makes me think about just judging, by a general litmus test of the internet, there are a lot of people who have very little concept of Beyonce being a black woman like any other black woman. Do you know what I’m saying? So I think that in putting herself in different contexts and bringing women from contexts that people assume that Beyonce does not ever enter into by like putting herself aligning herself with those women and aligning those women with her she’s sort of saying like what’s any different? There’s nothing different about me than these women in said beauty supply store and even the fact that she had a shot inside a beauty supply— most people don’t know what the inside of a beauty supply store looks like.
KIANA: I know which is crazy to me. I spend my whole life in there.
BRITTANY: Literally every single Sunday after church we went to the beau— there weren’t any good ones out in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
BRITTANY: So we would we went to Detroit to go to Church afterwards we would go to the beauty – Lee Beauty Supply. Of which there are 10,000 in the Detroit area. Uh but I’m actually glad that you brought up hair because that kind of connects to actually it directly connects to our next clip which brings us actually to our final phase.
BRITTANY: Yeah so our final phase— which I’m sure you have experienced, I know I have experienced— um, explaining Lemonade to white people. So this next clip is from Buzzfeed’s Another Round, which is hosted by Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, friends of the show who have appeared on Sampler before. So in this episode, their guest this writer Nichole Perkins. And it’s the three of them talking about this one specific line of Lemonade, arguably the most famous line of the album — BECKY WITH THE GOOD HAIR.
BEYONCE: [singing] Becky with the good hair.
BRITTANY: So Nichole and Heben and Tracy are all talking about these like, thinkpieces that came out after the album which were about this line and how it was supposedly “racially charged” or “reverse racism” or whatever. And one celebrity in specific who was getting all caught up in the meaning of the line… The first person you’ll hear is Heben’s, followed by Tracy:
HEBEN: First of all [laughing] – Iggy Azalea…
TRACY: Oh my god.
HEBEN: .. Was like don’t call me a Becky that’s offensive.
TRACY: Shut up Becky
NICHOLE: She just needs to sit down some place period.
HEBEN: But there’s this weird I feel like white girls do this thing where they know they’re not a part of something. Like this is not exclusively about me so I’m going to turn the attention to about me. And there are these articles that are like I too am Becky with the good hair. It’s like girl why?
TRACY: Like what was the thing that happened earlier like the Glamour thing or whatever
– Taking back Becky or ?
HEBEN: Taking back Becky. This also happened when the phrase – this happened when “basic” the word “basic” was blowing up and they were like you know what let me reclaim this.
TRACY: I have finally found my oppression.
HEBEN: Oh my God. It’s like I find it so wild how white people cannot consume a product that is not explicitly for them when the rest of the world has been doing that their entire lives.
TRACY: And they can’t even quietly not consume it. Like you can just not hit play you know?
HEBEN: You could just not tweet. You could not write this full article.
TRACY: These are options they cost you nothing.
TRACY: This has also shown me white people have no idea what good hair is or what it means.
HEBEN: It’s like please note their hair is excellent.
TRACY: Right come on now I mean I think what
NICHOLE: I think that Heben said… you tweeted that Becky with the good hair is actually a state of ideas or something like that?
HEBEN: It’s not person it’s a state of mind.
TRACY: Yeah it is!
NICOLE: Yeah I kind of agree with that I think there’s somebody else out there.
HEBEN: There’s a type yeah.
NICOLE: Yeah and my mother– who’s going to hate me that I’m saying this — my mother is saying like Beyonce she got some rough stuff so anybody’s got good hair. I don’t –
HEBEN: Beyonce we never said that – Bee-hive do not come for us. Do not at us.
TRACY: Beyonce has gorgeous hair.
NICHOLE: Don’t endanger my mother.
TRACY: Don’t go after Nichole’s mama.
HEBEN: Do you think a Becky is necessarily white?
NICHOLE: I think this is how Beyonce threw us off. Because of the history of good hair it’s what’s closest to whiteness, right? So you don’t need to qualify white Becky.
HEBEN: It’s a given
TRACY: Right. So I feel like Becky is a definite reference to whiteness. I think people who are deemed quote “not black enough” or like some sort of like “exotic black” or whatever if they if the implication is that they are not like in touch with their brownness or whatever then they too can be considered a Becky.
HEBEN: That is how I interpreted that.
TRACY: Yeah me too. I don’t – because white girls don’t have good hair. White girls have white girl hair. You know when we try to get white girl hair, we hope for good hair right? So that’s not a characteristic that an actual Becky would have I don’t think?
KIANA: Agreed, yeah. I love that Nichole in that clip said that Beyonce threw us off with that line because Becky and good hair are very separate ideas. Because like Becky is obviously like I’m sorry Iggy like get the fuck over it. But Becky is like a word that is used to encapsulate a white woman or a white girl. And then you have good hair which is it’s very situated in the black community so as they said it’s more about how close can you get to whiteness not whiteness period like I don’t think I’ve heard anybody say white people have good hair no disrespect but that’s not anything that’s ever been uttered in my presence. Um, it’s always been about how loose is your curl pattern? How silky is your hair? So that’s kind of Beyonce throwing us off and I also agree with the fact that it’s more of an idea of like the other woman. She’s just saying like go get that girl over there if that’s what you really want. She’s not saying that it is a white girl or she’s not saying that it is X, Y or Z. It’s just like a way that she is presenting this other woman.
BRITTANY: I kind of took it that same way. I took as like she’s been cheated on she is being as rude as humanly possible.
BRITTANY: And like — me myself personally, so like I’m for those of you who are just tuning in I’m black and I have dated many people in the past who had how do I put it had issues with their own identity and tried to impress those things upon me and definitely would like date me knowing full and well obviously they could see and they could hear than I am black but it became very clear like through dating them that it’s not what they were looking for. They were looking for Becky with the good hair. And you know when I broke up with these people I said any number of nonsensical rude terrible mean inflammatory things just to let them know because I guess what I identified with when Beyonce said that is sort of just like you obviously have some sort of like this is your predilection this is what you’re into. This may have been what you thought you were signing up for when you met me this is not what you’re getting so if that’s what you want – she has this whole like verse in like the interludes that was written by poet Warsan Shire.
Where she’s like you know if you want, like I can wear her skin as my skin…
BEYONCE: … Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp a cap. Her sternum my bedazzled cane.
BRITTANY: That struck me as like if this is what you want you can have that. And then you can also choke on your own spit and die. That’s sort of how I took Becky with the good hair. I think there was a friend of mine tweeted she’s like if you don’t know who Becky with the good hair is it’s probably you.
KIANA: The accuracy. Um, yeah. And that’s like another thing that I really loved about this album is that she really did insert these little like side phrases that only a certain group of people would know what she was talking about. Or even like in “Sorry,” uh, same song right? She’s like singing the hook and she’s like I ain’t sorry and she says “nigga naw.” Like She’s been very deliberate about how she is presenting these songs when she chooses to say becky with the good hair or the n word or whatever. Like damn you know I’m just like OK girl I see you and I appreciate it. That’s all that I can say.
BRITTANY: Well, Kiana I’ve played all our clips
KIANA: I know.
BRITTANY: So now that we’ve gone through our phases. How are you feeling?
KIANA: [sighs] I feel very relieved because I got to say way more things about this that I didn’t get to in like a four minute review.
KIANA: So it made me really think about certain parts of the album that I hadn’t accessed. And now I’m going to leave here and watch it all over again and go through many emotions and have a great day hopefully.
BRITTANY: Well thank you so much for coming on the show. This was great. You were fantastic.
KIANA: Thank you. This was like the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
BRITTANY: You can follow NPR Music’s Kiana Fitzgerald on Twitter “@KianaFitz”. And to recap the clips you have heard through all our stages of consuming Lemonade— The unbridled enthusiasm for Beyonce came from The Read. The unlikely pairing of campaign strategy and Lemonade-mania came from Slate’s Trumpcast. The theory on Jay-Z’s likely infidelity came from the ESPN podcast Jalen and Jacoby. The analysis of the socioeconomic implications of Beyonce’s imagery came from Talk Poverty Radio. And the explanation of Beckys and good hair was from Buzzfeed’s Another Round.
BRITTANY: [BIG SIGH] Wow we played a lot of clips today! And listen—when you head over to iTunes to listen to Lemonade for the first or fiftieth time, could you do me a favor? Take a quick minute to rate Sampler on iTunes. It helps people find the show, and it lets us know what you think about it! So, you know, just go do it. Rate Sampler on iTunes, and then continue listening to Lemonade on repeat. And a quick note: on last week’s show we incorrectly ID’d a voice in one of our clips. We played a clip from the podcast Flash Forward, which featured host Rose Eveleth and her guest Shelly Ronen. I mistakenly referred to Shelly as Madeline Ashby. We are so sorry for the error! Stay tuned after the credits for a taste of what we are sampling next week.
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman, and myself with help from Kate Parkinson-Morgan.
It was edited by Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Mark Phillips.
The show was mixed by Matthew Boll.
Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
BRITTANY: Sampler is sponsored by Framebridge. Framebridge is the simple way to custom frame any photo or piece of art. You send or upload it to them, they’ll handcraft a beautiful custom frame and deliver it back to you. Sampler listeners can get 15 percent off of their first order right now. Just go to framebridge.com and enter the promo code “Sampler.” That’s framebridge.com, promo code “Sampler.”
This week’s episode of Sampler is brought to you by Sonos. Songs is a smart, wireless speaker that allows you to stream all your favorite music or podcasts to any room or every room in your home. Sonos speakers are easy to set up and anyone can be in charge of playlists using the Sonos app. To learn more about Sonos, go to sonos.com/Sampler. That’s S-O-N-OS dot com slash “Sampler.”
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BRITTANY: And next time on Sampler… what we know and what we don’t know about Serial host and co-creator Sarah Koenig.
BRITTANY: He told us
SARAH KOENIG: Aw! He told you
BRITTANY: He told us that you used to be super into improv –
SARAH: This is so embarrassing that you’re making me say this out loud…