Like most human beings, this week I’ve been listening to, watching and loving Lemonade, the new visual album by Beyoncé.
In a world where humans have shorter attention spans than the famously absent-minded goldfish, it’s easy to listen to music without really LISTENING to it. It’s on in the background, while you read or work or make dinner. Music is never your main focus, because nothing is. We have multiple browser windows open in our minds at all time. Our attention is perpetually divided.
Lemonade is Beyoncé snapping her fingers and asking you to look at her when she’s speaking to you. She’s asking for – no COMMANDING – your full attention.
Lemonade isn’t just for the ears, it’s an immersive, full sensory experience. You can feel the warmth of the fire she sets and the iciness of her voice as she whispers “I can wear her skin over mine.” You can see the vindication in her face as she smashes the windscreen with the baseball bat. You can even taste it – the word lemonade is so evocative you can almost feel the bitter sweetness of the sugary lemons on your tongue.
I’m listening to Lemonade differently to the way that I normally listen to music.
When I was younger, I’d always listen to the whole album. I’d listen to Side A from start to finish then I’d turn the cassette over and listen all the way to the end. I knew the words to every song, even ones I didn’t like so much.
Now, when served an album, I don’t treat it like a full meal I treat it like it’s a buffet. I pick one or two tracks and I add them to a playlist or I listen to them on their own. I see the album as 12 separate pieces gathered together that I can easily break apart. I don’t enjoy the album for what it is, a carefully crafted whole.
Lemonade makes you listen to it all in one go. It asks you not to take it apart. It’s been carefully put together.
Lemonade says stop what you’re doing. Put down your phone. Look at me. Listen to what I am saying. And don’t leave until I’m finished.