Few can forget where they were when Beyoncé’s Lemonade dropped on Saturday, April 23, 2016. The double feature — part pseudo-surprise album, part star-studded visual project — found the notoriously private superstar letting fans in on details of her marriage to husband Jay-Z. Throughout the 45-minute, 12-track LP, listeners and viewers were taken on a journey of grief, anger, acceptance and reconciliation across the musical lens of R&B, pop, trap, rock, and country. (During the visual project, these emotions are verbalized by prose from Somali poet Warsan Shire and spoken by Beyoncé.) Through both mediums, we gain insight into Queen Bey’s experience with infidelity, and the overarching experiences of Black women in America, which includes feelings of unworthiness, frustration, and shame. However, Lemonade ultimately highlights Black women’s astounding resilience against all odds.
Given the shocking death of iconic artist Prince just days before its release, many credit Beyoncé for carrying the torch of the multitudinous musical behemoths who came before her, while praising the album as a sonic triumph. While no one could have predicted the pain that came with losing yet another legendary act, the welcome celebration of life, love, and damn good music provided by Bey’s sixth project truly turned our lemons into lemonade.
In the five years since its release, Lemonade spawned countless dissections, podcasts, and even college courses regarding its legacy and alignment with the Black feminist movement. And those infidelity claims Beyoncé makes during Lemonade? Jay-Z confirms them in his Grammy-nominated project, 4:44, released a year later. In 2017, Lemonade was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, controversially winning only two. Nevertheless, its impact continues to reign, and the Grammys eventually caught up to her greatness; in 2021, Beyoncé became the singer with the most Grammy wins in history (regardless of gender).
In honor of the album’s fifth anniversary tomorrow, we’re dropping five facts about the album and visuals that you may not have known prior. Take a look below at some tidbits, and give Lemonade a stream or two in honor of its monumental birthday.
The Well-Used Samples
As mentioned above, Beyoncé showcases her ability to traverse genre throughout Lemonade, and various musical influences can also be found within its samples. The bouncy, emotional ‘Hold Up’ samples pop star Andy Williams’ “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” from 1962. The Jack White-assisted “Don’t Hurt Yourself” borrows from Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.” The shadowy, trap-tinged “6 Inch” is a nod to soul icon Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By” and interpolates psych band Animal Collective’s “My Girls.” And most notably, Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” is used in “All Night.” This is the second time within Beyoncé’s discography that she’s used this particular sample — the first was 2014’s “Flawless Remix” featuring Nicki Minaj.
“Songs Become Tweets, Tweets Become Songs…”
hold up…they don't love u like i love u
— Ezra Koenig (@arzE) October 21, 2011
”Hold Up, they don’t love you like I love you,” Bey sings in the chorus of “Hold Up.” But did you know that this line in particular reworks a lyric from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2004 song “Maps”? (“Wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” Karen O says in the original song.) Even more interesting, the reworked Beyoncé lyric was originally a tweet written by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig in 2011.
Koenig, who wrote “Hold Up” along with Bey, Diplo, Emile Haynie, Father John Misty, MNEK, and MeLo-X, was paraphrasing the lyric from “Maps” when he wrote the tweet, which randomly popped into his head while recording. “I figured it was going to be a Vampire Weekend song but was easily convinced that it could be better/go to a new place as a Beyoncé song,” Koenig tweeted in 2016 after the release of Lemonade. “Songs become tweets, tweets become songs – it’s the way of the world.”
Getting In Formation In Coachella
Swae Lee of the rap duo Rae Sremmurd is credited as one of the co-writers on Lemonade’s first single “Formation,” which dropped out of thin air in February 2016. According to an interview with the song’s producer Mike Will Made It, Swae Lee came up with the chorus of “Formation” on the way to Coachella in 2014.
“So we’re in the middle of the desert,” Mike Will told The New Yorker in 2016. “And we’re just coming up — we just freestyle, you know? — and Swae Lee said, ‘O.K., ladies, now let’s get in formation.’ And we put it on the VoiceNote. Swae Lee’s got so many voice notes that he doesn’t even record, but I’m like, ‘Dog, we got to do that “get in formation” shit.’ That could be a hard song for the ladies. Some woman-empowerment shit.” The producer sent five or six songs to Beyoncé’s camp, including “Formation,” and during a party months later, she told him she liked that particular song.
“I told her what I was thinking about the woman empowerment, and she was like, ‘Yeah I kinda like that idea.’ And she just left it like that,” he continues. “[She] took this one little idea we came up with on the way to Coachella, put it in a pot, stirred it up, and came with this smash. She takes ideas and puts them with her own ideas, and makes this masterpiece. She’s all about collaborating. That’s what makes her Beyoncé. Being able to know what she wants.”
At the end of the Lemonade visual, Beyoncé appropriately shares a recipe for homemade lemonade.
“Take one pint of water, add half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon. Pour the water from one jug, then to the other several times. Strain through a clean napkin.”
She adds prose regarding how her “alchemist” grandmother “spun gold out of this hard life” and “found healing where it did not live,” which of course just sounds like beautiful poetry. But this is the real recipe for homemade lemonade from her grandmother, Agnéz Deréon, that’s been shared through her family across generations. In 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recipe began to go viral on social media. According to Spoon University’s taste test, “The zest gives the lemonade flavor a uniquely tart taste, which is somehow also very sweet at the same time from the half pound of sugar.”
Grammy History, Because…Of Course
After the release of Lemonade, Beyoncé garnered nine Grammy Award nominations in 2017, including Album, Song, and Record Of The Year. According to an interview with The Recording Academy’s Head of Awards Bill Freimuth, Bey made history with these nominations as the first artist to ever be nominated across four distinct genres in one year. “Hold Up” was up for Best Pop Solo Performance, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” was nominated for Best Rock Performance, “Freedom” was recognized in the Best Rap/Sung Performance category, and Lemonade itself won Best Urban Contemporary Album.
“You’ve had other artists in the past, say Michael Jackson maybe, who have been nominated in that many different fields, but not in the same year and on the same album,” Freimuth said. “This is a first timer for us and personally I think it’s appropriate and pretty cool.”
According to the Associated Press, Beyoncé submitted her country track “Daddy Lessons” for consideration in a country music category. However, the song was reportedly rejected by The Academy’s country music committee. In the same interview with Freimuth, he says he was unsure if “Daddy Lessons” was considered for a country music Grammy, “But if it had, evidently the committee said it didn’t belong there.” Nevertheless, country artists like Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley praised the song against detractors, and an official remix of the song with The Chicks was performed at the 2016 CMAs.