As with most of Beyoncé’s oeuvre, the new album focuses on (black) female empowerment and solidarity in the face of male mistreatment. (Given the willful misreading that her endorsement of Black Lives Matter implies she believes white lives do not or, worse, that she hates cops, it comes as no surprise that some are already calling this album’s feminist message anti-male.)
In particular, this album tracks a wronged woman as she works her way through the stages of coming to terms with a man’s infidelity. And she is pissed. “Hold Up,” for instance, features the common video trope of a woman smashing a car.
Inevitably, many people are going to assume this album is autobiographical, take it as proof of the longstanding rumors that Jay-Z cheated on his better half (some are already publicly speculating about who “Becky with the good hair” really is). This reading is certainly not undercut by Jay-Z’s appearance near the end of the video, in the section dealing with forgiveness and reconciliation.
Why do we make this assumption? Why do we assume that singers, no matter how many co-writers they have, are exposing their own personal lives in their songs? Why do we assume Beyoncé is telling her story, not just a story? Do we assume Gillian Flynn‘s husband cheated on her just because she wrote Gone Girl, the ultimate scorned woman revenge fantasy? Do we even know who Flynn’s husband is?