This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #259: Freedom by Beyonce.
“Freedom” by Beyonce is not so much a song as it is an exorcism; casting out the historical demons of racial injustice, martial infidelity and lack of control for women. “Freedom” comes from her multiple award-winning album, “Lemonade”, which was rated as being the #1 album of the entire decade from 2010-2020. It is a declarative statement of belief in herself as a singer in control of her music, a woman in control of her place in the world, a wife who offers fidelity to her husband and accepts nothing less in return and, finally, as a person of colour in a world where that has, so often, been seen as signalling a flawed character.
The album, “Lemonade” is an intense affair from the first track to the last but, it is the power of her personal beliefs that she pours into each track that raises it up beyond the norm. Each track on the album is borne from her own experiences or else, those of the women in her life or those of “her people”….Black people. The songs on “Lemonade” include spoken word poetry, snippets of recipes from her family, samples from a variety of songs made famous by white musicians that were originally written by Blacks (such as the opening salvo from “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin), a combination of genres ranging from Funk, to Pop, to Soul and Hip Hop. I usually cringe when I hear an artist proclaim that their latest project is “deeply personal” but, in the case of Beyonce and “Lemonade”, she is absolutely correct and we are the richer for her having bared her soul as she had.
The impetus for this album came from her reaction to a bout of unfaithfulness from her husband, Jay-Z. The entire incident caused Beyonce to question her ideas about marriage and to examine, in her words, the inter-generational impact of racial injustice/slavery on the relationships Black men have with Black women. Needless to say, Beyonce did a lot of soul-searching in her past and her present and, as a result, she dedicated her future to being one where she was in positions of power, never weakness anymore. The song, “Freedom”, in particular, tackles the very notion of slavery, as a defining moment in American History but one that she refuses to allow to define her any longer. She performs this song with Hip Hop titan, Kendrick Lamar. He is Hip Hop’s version of a Leonard Cohen; a poet turned singer and musician, who speaks from the heart about concepts lofty and, at once, familiar to everyone growing up Black in America. The result of this collaboration is one of the most intense and ferocious songs you are likely to hear for quite some time.
The video that you will be seeing was when she and Kendrick Lamar opening the B.E.T. Awards. Beyonce, also, performed this song during her Half-time performance at the Superbowl. Afterwards, she found herself targeted by Right-wing media/talking heads for her support of Black Lives Matter, just as that Movement was starting to make its presence felt. Several Police Unions publicly called for a boycott of her album, “Lemonade”. They were unsuccessful. I doubt Beyonce gave their comments a single moment of her time.
Beyonce Knowles is, arguably, the most powerful and in control, woman in entertainment today. That she has risen to occupy that throne is not a fluke. She is a Queen in a singer’s clothing. Without further delay, here is one of the most incredible performances you are likely to see for awhile, “Freedom” by “Beyonce” from the album of the decade, “Lemonade”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Freedom” by Beyonce, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Beyonce, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for, as always, helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.