Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade premiered on HBO, and the rest is history. Or is it? Creator of the Lemonade LibGuide, librarian Jennifer Ferretti on the learning potential.

September 22, 2017

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Beyoncé’s Lemonade Gets a LibGuide

Lemonade 600

Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade premiered April 23 on HBO, and the rest is history. The accompanying studio album has become an unprecedented sixth number one for Queen Bey, while the hour-long film, with its blending of music and poetry, and references to history, literature, and art has inspired a fandom of its own. Enter an accompanying LibGuide, a resource for all things Lemonade, created by Jennifer Ferretti. SLJ asked Ferretti, the digital initiatives librarian at Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art, to provide the backstory.—Kathy Ishizuka

Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade involved multiple directors and cinematographers to create a beautifully shot, cohesive narrative about a woman going through stages of grief. As an information professional at a fine art and design college, I’m interested in discussing this as a work of art with my students. While I can’t stop listening to the album, you don’t need to be a fan of Beyoncé’s music in order to praise or understand Lemonade. The contemporary and historical ideas Beyoncé is touching on in her film offer a perfect opportunity to engage research and information through a popular point of reference.

Are references lost if they aren’t understood?

The Lemonade research guide is meant to provide different perspectives, opinions, and ideas referenced or directly addressed in Lemonade. I wanted to hear more of the Malcolm X speech included in the visual album’s “Anger” chapter. I knew the women holding pictures of young black men in the “Forgiveness” chapter were mothers of victims of police violence and profiling, but I wanted to make sure I knew the names of their sons. Are references such as these lost if they are not understood?

One of the most striking visuals within Lemonade is the styling. Wardrobe and hair style contain references of their own, most of which I myself probably won’t fully understand without Beyoncé and her team providing an explanation. What I’m most interested in, however, is how an artist or team develops these creative decisions. This presents an opportunity for instruction in information literacy. My students could also benefit from related guidance in cultural literacy, understanding images, and how to implement research methodologies that focus on translating and embedding information into art. Understanding how to conduct research for a creative work will place that work into context.

Topical Research Guides

Research guides can be used for many purposes. I find them most compelling when they are used topically. After the 2015 Baltimore uprising, I composed the research guide, “Understanding Civic Unrest in Baltimore, 1968-2015.” Its purpose: to provide resources for our patrons and others to investigate and understand not only what was happening in Baltimore, but also the historic context. The civic unrest and Lemonade guides include a mix of printed books, publications, and online work from popular websites. Both can be used to demonstrate the differences between primary, secondary, and peer-reviewed sources. Copyright, Creative Commons, and public domain could also be explained and explored through these guides.

If you scroll through various social media sites, it is difficult to ignore all of the articles that have been written about Lemonade so far. Many of those articles provide insight into certain imagery, literary and film references, and discuss the musicians Beyoncé collaborated with to make the visual album. These resources help us unpack what we’ve seen. We also learn how certain things were achieved, which is critical for young artists to understand. Delving into a body of work such as a film and album not only provides an idea of how many people are involved, but also the different jobs that are available in this field. I want our students to see themselves working on something like Lemonade if that is what they want to do after they graduate.

Whenever I attend an artist talk at the Maryland Institute College of Art, speakers typically discuss their research process. They often touch on their failures—an important insight for a student of any program. It was at these talks that I began to think about the research methodologies of artists. Just as literacy is crucial to communication and understanding, research is critical to expanding and building on ideas. It is our own experiences and interests that help us see and connect with certain aspects of a work. Sometimes, as with Lemonade, it requires many people to make connections and find references within a work.

Jennifer A. Ferretti (@citythatreads) is a Digital Initiatives Librarian at Decker Library, Maryland Institute College of Art.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Mrs. L says:

    I do not feel she is worth having a Libguide for. After she disrespected law enforcement at the Superbowl, I lost all respect for her and will not patronize her music . Her provocative and sexuality that she uses is also unacceptable. Let’s have positive role models for our girls that do not use sex and send the wrong message to our kids. There are many other artists who hold themselves respectfully and have important messages, let’s focus on positive images and role models for our kids.

    • Mrs. Lays,
      It is your very lack of understanding that leads you to the misrepresented conclusions you have drawn about Beyonce and her music. I beg you delve into the allusions of this piece and not only will connect, but you will also be informed and inspired on many levels. It does, however, require that you to step out of your comfort zone and rise above media and speculations. Many, if not all females, can relate to the story that she is telling. Know that many people are inspired by those who they see as themselves. Lemonade has nothing to do with sex. On the other hand, sexuality should always be embraced and celebrated. Respect the art! Listen to the story! You’ll be glad that you did!

    • I also think that you should look past your own surface level understanding of the Beyoncé visual album. The Libguide itself is not about her and whether she deserves one or not is not up to us as we are not to make decisions as professionals based on our own biases. The guide directs users to the literary, art, and cultural references used by the artist. The librarians did an amazing job on dissecting the video and pulling out the works that are referenced. What the album does is open up a dialogue among women about the sacrifices we make to our own selves to appease others and how we can start to find comfort and joy in simply being ourselves as women ought. The Super Bowl performance was a bold statement to the world that she recognizes the injustice that happens to persons of color at a disproportionate rate at the hands of law enforcement when they are supposed to protect and serve all at the highest level.

  2. “The accompanying studio album has become an unprecedented sixth number one for Queen Bey, while the hour-long film, with its blending of music and poetry, and references to history, literature, and art has inspired a fandom of its own”
    I don’t agree:
    http://www.thescrapshoppeblog.com/2015/06/lemonade-stand-kit.html
    – Paz