When I was asked to book this latest Beyoncé Tribute night, I'm sure the promoter had no idea how important the album Lemonade is to me (hopefully he had an idea how important it is to black women, more on that later). Before Lemonade, I hadn't written a song in two years. The girl who couldn't stop writing, who wrote even before she knew how to hold a pencil by dictating stories to her mom, stopped writing for two years. And even then, the year before that had only yielded one song. Was this because I believed that my bipolar medication had damped my creativity, and that my hypomania and depression were necessary in order for me to write? So many people wanted me to believe this. There is a whole movement that believes this, called the Icarus Project. They believe that Madness with a capital m is a gift, and after the longest creative block I'd ever experienced, I was starting to think they were right.
Or maybe it was because I had decided to try a stint at music school, where I studied composition. School involved these long, awkward private lessons during which I would play part of a song, and then the instructor would tell me that I could do better. Better meant weirder, more outside the box. I know he was trying to push me out of my comfort zone, and I'm sure that teaching style works on lots of people. But it froze me. Every time I sat at the piano, I would try and play something, only to shoot it down immediately. I would hear his voice in my head. "It's been done. Move outside conventional keys, create something entirely new." Nothing was good enough. I would try to write for hours, as was requested by my teacher, and I would come up with nothing, at least nothing good. Eventually I dropped out of school, after writing one not-that-great song in nearly two semesters.
During this time, I not only stopped writing music, I also stopped listening to music. I doubted whether I had ever liked music. It was never enough to keep my attention for long enough, and it certainly never made me feel anything. I thought back to when I was a teenager, and remember how music made me feel a million things at once. I wished I was back in high school, listening to Regina Spektor and knowing exactly who I wanted to be. As I now know, as someone who works in high schools, no one should ever wish they were back in high school. High schools are terrible. Simply having this thought is a cry for help.
So, Lemonade. The album is a celebration of blackness, or hashtag black girl magic. You don't have to be a black girl to see how important it is, and to understand what is has done for so many women. It is such a powerful album, and for the first time in let's say three years, I listened to music and truly felt something. It wasn't even necessarily all feelings I wanted to feel. But I challenge anyone, or maybe any woman, to listen to Lemonade and not feel anything. Beyoncé has always been a mystical unicorn in the night, and this album is like turning the lights on, and seeing her for who she is: powerful, angry, sweet, sarcastic, in love, a daughter, a mother, a real life person, a black woman. And though a lot of the music isn't applicable to my life, it inspired me. It made me remember that writing is a healing process.
I've been writing songs about my bipolar disorder and my anxiety, and that has been healing, but that is only half the battle. I am the way I am because of my illnesses, but also because of things that happened to me that I never dare to talk about. Here's the thing: I can't ignore them anymore. I'm the furtherest thing from a mystical unicorn in the night, in fact I'm more of an over-sharer (if you hadn't noticed), but there are things about me, or things that happened to me, that I feel afraid to sing about. Lemonade reminded me that there is a way to sing about incredibly personal, heartbreaking things, without destroying marriages or spiralling out of control. I apologize for my extreme vagueness right now, but over the next year or few years, I hope to write my own album about grief, anger, and forgiveness. Only then can I share these things with you.
Beyoncé Tribute Night means much more to me this time around. That's why I fought to have all female front ladies. That's why I tried my hardest to involve women of colour. That's why I would like to have BLM involved in some way, shape or form. The night itself isn't going to be "Lemonade: The Musical." We are going to sing silly Beyoncé songs and sexy Beyoncé songs and Beyoncé songs that are really more Beyoncé singing a Sia song. But Lemonade happened. It changed people's lives, and it brought me out of my horrible, never ending writers block. This one is personal. This one is intersectional. And of course, this one will be fun.