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Fire on the Beyou

NOLA in Beyoncé's "Lemonade"

The Bey Hive is buzzing about New Orleans, but the Crescent City was not stung by the latest export from the Queen Bey. On Saturday (4.23) Beyonce dropped her one hour video art installment, “Lemonade” on HBO for one day. The 12 track film and album generated much lots of talk from culturistas, but at NoDef HQ, our priorities are local. The complete breakdown of the local references follows.


Abstractly, “Lemonade” follows themes of love, loss, coping, and rebirth. We’ll save the conceptual stuff for another column and jump right into the New Orleans shout-outs. 


The work began with footage of Beyonce in sugar cane fields as well as Carcoso (also known as Fort Maccomb). However, Louisiana has more than one dark side and the Queen Bey’s crosshairs are set on a different target than “True Detective.” A series of references to slavery and sharecropping follow.


Yet, “Lemonade” does not tackle contemporary racial divisions as directly as February’s “Formation” video. The topic at hand here is infidelity (on the part of Jay-Z presumably) and the struggles of black women in a patriarchy. Of course, feminist causes have appeared in Louisiana culture long before the video era. Beyonce references Pelican State author Kate Chopin’s  “The Awakening” heavily. There is no Lake Ponchartrain suicide, but plenty of other references to drowning.


Then, there is the track “Hold Up” which features an angry Beyonce rampaging with a baseball bat on the streets of New Orleans. Although, the set is more done up like a studio backlot, we know that this intended to be NOLA because Beyonce smashes a surveillance camera labelled “NOPD.” Mind you the NOPD’s relies mainly on privately owned and operated camera networks not their own, but point taken Your Highness. Point taken.


On the country track “Daddy Lessons,” Beyonce returns to Fort Macomb to sing alongside a blues guitarist. That guitarist in the throne looks a lot like Little Freddie King although “Lemonade’s” 3,105 credits attribute guitar work on the track to Eric Walls.


The streets of NOLA are also well represented as the film begins the second act. It is refreshing that French Quarter only appears once, for a split second kiss. The audience is instead treated to scenes of actual life in New Orleans. People hanging out on the stoop and on their blocks. The Lower Ninth Ward is seen without flooding or Brad Pitt. Just, you know, life.


We do get a few NOLA cliches, albeit most executed tastefully. There is a jazz funeral. The variety offered is of the dancing pallbearer sort which is preferable to parasol and handkerchief explosion saturation. Likewise, we are given a woman dressed in a  Mardi Gras Indian suit dancing around the empty dining room of an antebellum home.


We also are a treated to several scenes of the Edna Karr High School marching band. And then, there is that French Quarter smooch; it only lasts a few seconds and the emphasis is on the couple, not the scenery. Painless.


Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild) even makes a cameo. Famed and revered local chef Leah CHase appears sitting in a throne. For lagniappe, NOLA resident Joshua Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, shares writing credits on “Hold Up.”


Finally, there are the obligatory Saints reference. What’s a the City That Care Forgot without a little Black n’ Gold. In addition to the standard Saints shirts, da’ Dome factors prominently into the art. First, Bey uses scenes of herself alone in the stadium to express feelings of solitude. Then, scenes of Jay-Z and Blue Ivy playing together in the end zone provide an uplifting conclusion.

Revised to include Leah Chase.

What else did we miss? Let us know in the comments...

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