The Tea on LEMONADE: ‘Hold Up’

After my first cup of tea on ‘Lemonade’, I had to really consider if I wanted to give another queer read on a visual from the album. Recently, attending FORMATION: World Tour gave me no doubt though, yall gon get this read!

Firstly, I think I should give a little context of what I’m talking about when I say I’m giving yall a queer read on ‘Lemonade’. While queer is a word that some folks use as their sexual or gender identity meaning anything non-normative or non-binary, queer is also a theoretical framework. How I understand queerness, it is not only who I am, but also how I understand things. Think of queerness as a pair of sunglasses. It colors the ways in which I see the world. Therefore my queerness is my lesbianess, but it is also the experiences I’ve had as a lesbian that allows me to see things even the most intersectional heterosexual feminists don’t see. My read is queer because I am queer… so all of that pulp from lemonade got caught up and sifted through my lesbian cheese cloth filter. Now, allow me to fill you in on what these queer shades revealed in ‘Hold Up’.

‘Hold Up’ is the second song on the visual album and comes after “Pray you Catch Me”. This is important in the way that Bey kills herself at the end of “Pray You Catch Me” by jumping off of a building. The first time I watched Lemonade, I readied myself to see Bey slam into the concrete beneath her (chiiiiile talk about a heart attack!) But instead she drowns. In almost an out-of-body visual, she sheds her black hoodie, head wrap, and skirt and watches herself. Drowning. Asleep in a bed. This visual starts the conversation of survival in ‘Lemonade’. Bey is watching as parts of herself die in order to fulfil other parts of herself. Fulfilling the role of ‘wife’ is drowning her, especially in the bedroom. Other parts of her look on as she drowns under the pressure to perform in the bedroom scene, even though she looks like some sort of goddess mermaid.

As Bey watches parts of herself drown and disappear, she realizes she has to let go, and as she releases the bed, she levitates. This scene reads so clearly to me that all of the heteronormative expectations of how and what a woman is to perform in the bedroom are drowning them. All of those ideas of what a woman ought to do – everything from ‘surfboarding’ to sanctifying their sexuality – leaves no room for women to actually explore their sexualities. I’m thinking about this in of course a physical way of discovering what feels pleasurable, but more so in a self-defining way of naming for ourselves what our desires are. Not to beat the water metaphor to death, but sexuality is also fluid. Too often though, the fluidity of femme* sexuality is confined to a fishbowl of the male gaze and isn’t truly given room to, well, be fluid. Bey’s releasing of the bed frees her from the duties of a wife and the fishbowl and she swims out of the bedroom, no longer confined.

And in a gust of water a la (re)birth, Queen muva edge snatcher emerges from the house, feet first. The gush of water surrounding her feet made that moment feel like a breech (re)birth – atypical, uneasy, worked for. Bey was also draped in a yellow gown that gained a lot of attention for its designer and its striking resemblance to the attire of Oshun, the orisha of water, sexuality, and love.  Many have wrote on the comparisons, but as a savant in all things Solange, I couldn’t help but notice how this dress was a nod to Bey’s baby sister. That dress in that color was SO Solange post sandcastle disco days. Not to mention that weeks later Solo wore a similar fanned yellow dress to the Met Gala. In my head I imagine Bey telling her in the way that older sisters do to their younger sisters to wear the dress, and Solo putting her own spin on it through incorporating the latex tights. Another obvious nod to Solo came when Bey innocently smiled at a surveillance camera (oddly with the same angle as the infamous elevator tape), then smashed it with a baseball bat. Why would Bey nod to her brilliant little sister in ‘Hold Up’? Because not even two years ago the media was calling her little sister BOTH jealous and crazy. Bey told us what went down in that elevator through this acknowledging of her sis. Solange wasn’t crazy, she was turning up for her big sis – in the same way that so many sisters do when the suspicions of their partner’s infidelity are confirmed.

And just like baby sis, Bey showed us that she could pop off too! She borrows a baseball bat from a lil boy on the block (come thru lil homie with non-Basketball sport dreams!) and starts to smash the row of muscle cars on the block. No words I type here will do justice to the sound I made watching Bey demolish muscle cars. First of all, the narrow block as the backdrop – with everybody kickin it in front of the corner stores and riding 4-wheelers looked so familiar to me as a Queens native. I immediately drew the connection to a New York City block which stands out given that most of the other scenes are so clearly deep south. The Big Apple is full of lemons that Bey has made lemonade from – including her hubby (all shade intended). Secondly, the muscle cars are out of place. Point blank period! Aint nobody on the block pushin’ no muscle car! In this way the cars became a representation of masculinity taking up space, juxtaposed to the fluidity of femininity.  Bey shows that while masculinity is visibly powerful – muscle cars being known for their high performance and endurance – femininity is just as powerful smashing through windshields and storefronts.

My favorite take away from the car smashing was by far the first reaction we see of the folks on the street. This reaction was a Black girl, jaw dropped in shock, but also in a “oh no she didn’t!” expression.

I loved this reaction so much because it said what Beyonce did with the “Hold Up” video. Her rage gave other Black girls permission to be unapologetically rageful in public. Violence is often brought up when folks talk about this scene. The violence – both interpersonal and institutional – that Black women experience daily should be the only violence called out here – and Bey reminds us of that “What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you”. While some might read her rage as violence, I read it as liberating in the way that it allows Black women to experience a full range of emotional experiences, from fury to glee. Throughout ‘Hold Up’ these range of emotions are highlighted and the fire hydrant scene is another example of this. Ohhhh how shady muva Bey is! The last time we saw her in a fire hydrant, she was kicking it open in the ‘Crazy in Love’ video serving slim thickness for Jay Z. In ‘Hold Up’ she evokes that ’03 scene, but opens the hydrant with a baseball bat, smashing the remnants of the younger her who was crazy in love. She doesn’t wallow in the shattering of that hopeless romance though, she dances with a newfound bliss of a realistic kind of love – one that isn’t always perfect. This realistic love also makes room for others as the kids from the block join her in dancing in the water. Her rage birthed a shared moment of Black bliss. And that’s the real tea of ‘Hold Up’: give space for Black girls to be mad as hell (be it through tears or a baseball bat), and we’ll all get free in the process.

Carefree Black Girl Summer Playlist 

Carefree and aspiring carefree Black Girls who need something to bob their heads to this summer!

i. i’m still fly-chrisette michelle| ii. schoolin’ life-beyoncé| iii. do my thing-estelle ft janelle monae| iv. sandcastle disco-solange| v.mind the gap-nabhia| vi. grown woman-beyonce| vii. that’s alright-laura mvula| viii. dance apocalyptic-janelle monae| ix. all about the bass-meghan trainor| x. wild young hearts-noisettes| xi. switch!-jazmine sullivan| xii. oh what a night-elle varner| xiii. ten inch stilettos-chrisette michelle| xiv. cosmic journey-Solange| xv. no going back-rox| xvi. don’t give up-noisettes 


Watch on

.:Weekend Delight~Solange “Sandcastle Disco”:.

Not a new song, just a good song