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Twin Cities musicians reflect on Beyoncé's power

The all-powerful Beyoncé

The all-powerful Beyoncé

On April 23, Beyoncé gave Kanye West a run for his self-declared "greatest artist of all time" title when she dropped a surprise new visual album.

Lemonade immediately made a splash that echoed across continents. The film/album even reverberated deep into the Instagram comment sections of anyone fitting the description of "Becky with the good hair," the rumored mistress of Jay Z to whom Bey lyrically alludes. Not even Rachael Ray's pictures of hamburgers were spared from swarms of angry lemon and bee emojis dispatched by Beyoncé's devoted fanbase, the Beyhive.

The entire Beyoncé experience has spawned countless internet thinkpieces, but we wanted to know how Lemonade has influenced the creative lives of Twin Cities musicians. We got some of our favorite local music personalities on the horn ahead of Beyoncé's concert Monday at TCF Bank Stadium. Here's what they had to say about the megastar's far-reaching impact on feminism, racial discourse, and the music industry.

Where Were You When Lemonade Dropped?

"Watching Lemonade is one of those things I'll remember for the rest of my life — where I was when it came out, how it made me feel," says Liz Elton of feminist punk band Kitten Forever. "I felt like it changed my perception on a lot of things." Her group covered a dozen Beyoncé tracks at the 2014 Girl Germs showcase, deconstructing them and rebuilding them in their own style.

Songstress Yasmina "Mina" Moore-Foster first saw scenes of Lemonade at a Greenroom Magazine party, and felt compelled to watch it in private. For her, Lemonade was immediately personal.

"It means a lot to me in the racial context, feminist context, and in an artist context," she says. "It's historic."

"Daddy's Little Girl" No More

Many artists we spoke with weren't surprised by Beyoncé's bold strokes of poetry mixed with deep socio-political messaging. Instead, they saw those elements as part of her natural evolution since 2011, when she severed professional ties with her father.

"Being a superstar, she had to play a role and be submissive and quiet at certain times and be all the things she rebelled against on Lemonade," says DJ and MC Sophia Eris of Grrrl Prty. "If she had come off too powerful too quickly, she wouldn't have been as widely accepted. Now she's a superstar. She's free; she's not under her father's management anymore. She has the power to do what she wants and share her truth. I really appreciate her for that."

"Since [ceasing to be managed by her father], she's been on a pretty steady forward progression to taking control of herself and her image," agrees Corrie Harrigan of Kitten Forever. "Lemonade is the culmination of that."

"Beyoncé's career arc reminds me of a presidency," Moore-Foster says. "The first year in office you have to play the game, then you build and build and build, and by the end you have your middle fingers up — you're going for it."

Chad Kampe, the creator of dance series Flip Phone, which frequently throws Beyoncé theme nights, admires the fact that Beyoncé is using her global influence for good. "I'm 100 percent for Beyoncé leveraging the power she has to make political statements and to draw attention to things that the normal Beyoncé listener doesn't think about all the time," he says.

Kampe produced a series of events to support what he's billing as #beyweekend, including a dance night Friday at First Avenue and a Lemonade-themed brunch Saturday at Union.

A Manifesto for Black Women

Lemonade is most certainly about marital infidelity, but to artists like Moore-Foster, it's about so much more.

"I think that focus [on infidelity] is really smart; that's a universal experience, so she can get a large audience with that," she says. "But if you read between the lines, you see that she's saying black women are valuable. Black women have a history. Black women built this country. Black women suffer. Black women deserve everything... it's about the strength and tenacity of black women."

For Eris, Lemonade was a revelation.

"I was a little frustrated with what was happening in my life at the time," she says. "Watching it was like, 'Yes!' It got me in the best mood and made me feel really powerful as a woman of color."

Eris believes Beyoncé, 34, is sending a powerful message to her four-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.

"She takes it upon herself to make sure her daughter doesn't feel submissive or oppressed in a world when everything is extremely heightened socially," she says. "Making a video featuring all women of color gives her daughter a statement in stone about how powerful she is."


Autobiography or Social Awareness?

So what is the artistic statement of Lemonade? A manifesto on the lives, power, and struggle of black women? A personal piece of catharsis about a marriage in peril? Or both?

Moore-Foster believes the cheating theme is a Trojan horse meant to captivate audiences with its drama, and then serve them an even more important story about feminism and being black in America.

"Beyoncé and Jay Z knew exactly what they were doing," she says. "They knew that they would sell more records by putting out this controversial peek into Beyoncé's diary. I do believe that Beyoncé feels those emotions and they weren't fabricated, but it was blown up to be dramatic."

Eris thinks Lemonade is an open letter about Beyoncé's personal life and experiences.

"It was about her own relationship and her father and mother's relationships," she says. "She's a black woman talking about her own story and sharing that with people like her."

Harrigan agrees that Lemonade is about much more than responding to gossip.

"It's not like she's doing interviews and speaking on the troubles in her marriage and tabloid things," she says. "She doesn't have to do that. With Lemonade, she lets her art speak for itself."


Elevating the Game

There was a consensus opinion among all of our sources: With Lemonade, Beyoncé raised the bar for all artists. While she's not the first to emphasize visual releases — the Beatles and Michael Jackson come to mind — she absolutely made the format her own.

Kampe believes Beyoncé is keeping the very nature of the concept album alive. "Creating an album that tells a story from beginning to end — that's part of her staying power," he says.

Eris contends Beyoncé is fusing acting and music in revolutionary ways.

"She acted her butt off in Lemonade," she says. "People don't realize how well she portrayed every song."

Whatever's next from Beyoncé, everyone is excited.

"We're in the golden age of Beyoncé," Elton says, "It's empowering and exciting in a different way." 

Beyoncé 
When: 7:30 p.m. Mon., May 23.
Where: TCF Bank Stadium.
Tickets: $45-$305; more info here.