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Lopes !

Stevan Lopes
Jonathan Stone
WRTG 3860
12 March 2017

Oueen Bey: Royalty in the Musical, Political & Rhetorical Realms

Beyonces album Lemonade can be attributed to several concepts described by Jimmie

Killingsworth. From concepts of race to gender equality. Due to prompt constraints this essay

will not be explicitly addressing those ideas. Instead it will focus on the idea of rhetorical

situation and its appeals to time; specifically speaking to the album, its songs lyrics, and music

videos as the basis for analysis. As well as observe the effectiveness of the album in rhetorically

persuading Beyonces audience into accepting her message.

What makes this album so significant is how it attempts to bring light and attention to

very important topics. These issues are centered on the Black Lives Matter movement, police

brutality, and racial tensions in America. This has can be observed countless times not only by

her lyrics, but the representations found in her music videos as well. The Washington Post wrote,

Beyonc doesnt hold back when it comes to showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter

movement. Now, as perhaps the most iconic musical performer of her generation, Queen Bey is

about to push boundaries artistically by addressing issues of racial inequality (Peterson, 2016,

para. 8). With this clear appeal to the BLM movement, we can begin to draw connections to

Killingsworths text Appeals in Modern Rhetoric.

Within his book he wrote, Exigence has to do with what prompts the author to write in

the first place, a sense of urgency, a problem that requires attention right now, a need that must

be met, a concept that must be understood before the audience cam move to a next step

Exigence suggests that topics emerge as urgent considerations at a particular historical

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time (Killingsworth, 2005, pp. 26-38). Drawing on this definition we can see how Lemonade

makes an appeal to time and is a product of Exigence. As racial tensions and profiling began to

rise in America and events such as the Ferguson riots were occurring, the country was beginning

to see a divide between its citizens. Beyonce addressed this divide and wanted to bring focus to it

through her music.Her words stop killing us appeared as graffiti in the video for her song

Formation, interspersed between shots of a young black child dancing in front of a line of

police in riot gear who later raise their hands up a reference to the 2014 shooting of Michael

Brown (Peterson, 2016, para. 9). As the pressure behind these events began to build and began

to be brought to the attention of the public, Beyonce felt this was a problem that require[d]

attention right now so she took the situation into her hands and released the politically charged

album Lemonade.

This album contains several hit songs like; Formation, Freedom, and Forward.

Within these songs, there are lyrics that speak to the events occurring in the country and focuses

on the issues that Beyonce felt were pertinent to address. Lyrics such as;



I cant move

Freedom cut me loose




Where are you?

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Cause I need freedom too

I break chains all by myself

Wont let my freedom rot in hell

Im a riot Im a riot through your borders

(Beyonce, 2016, Freedom).

These lyrics support the idea that Beyonce was attempting to present a political message

centered on racial events culminating in America. Several authors took notice of not only these

lyrics but the messages presented in the music videos as well. This is seen in the

quote,Freedom, perhaps the most politically aware song from her recent album Lemonade, is

an empowerment anthem for black women with lyrics that invoke both the historical subjugation

of African Americans by slavery and current menaces of racial profiling and police brutality. But

perhaps even more powerful than the lyrics themselves were the visuals that accompanied the

song in video that launched with the album in April: The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael

Brown, and Eric Garner holding portraits of their dead children (Peterson, 2016, para. 14).

These messages presented in her music video and lyrics were a powerful message sent to the

population of America, in hopes of creating change, and it is with that idea in mind that brings us

to the next rhetorical concept discussed by Killingsworth.

Killingsworth defined several types of rhetorical situations within his text. These

definitions can help us to better understand the purpose behind Beyonces album. Killingsworth

describes deliberative speeches as an attempt, To sway fellow citizens with a proposal for future

action by appealing to such values as survival and general prosperity (in the case of civic

projects) (Killingsworth, 2005, p. 25). Taking this appeal into account, our artifact can be
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understood in the realm of a deliberative speech, attempting to produce chance through


Far from the traditional sense of the word speech, this album transcends beyond just

this ideal of deliberativeness. Killingsworth also gave us an understanding of three other forms

of speech, Forensic speeches narrate past events with a view to influencing present decisions

and judgements; Epideictic speeches focus on events or occasion in the present time; deliberative

speeches propose future actions based on current trends (Killingsworth, 2005, p. 38). Lemonade

can be understood in all three of these frameworks. Not only does it pull on the past events of

the BLM movements to help persuade and influence perceptions in the present. It also focuses on

current events still revolving around racial tensions. Beyonce also attempts to incite future

change through her music and persuade her audience to create a different world, free from

profiling and violence. All three of these claims can be supported by the quote, We are made

strongest when we lean on one another, and Beyoncs hour-long visual masterpiece brings us

that much closer to social and political empowerment (Luders-Manuel, 2016, para. 9).

Understanding the genre of this artifact helps us to understand how Beyonce utilized her

rhetorical tools to make a convincing argument aimed at the public

Most often people do not see celebrities as politically persuading or associated with

rhetoric in anyway. However, after deep analysis, we can come to see Beyonces album

Lemonade as being rhetorically significant. Not only does she persuade her audience and bring

attention to important issues, but she does this through several appeals as they were described by

Killingsworth. After this revolutionary album, we might reconsider the notion of who can be

rhetorical in our modern world.

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Works Cited

Beyonce (2016) Lemonade [CD/DVD]: Parkwood & Columbia. http://www.beyonce.com/


Killingsworth, J. (2005). Appeals in Modern Rhetoric: An Ordinary Language Approach. Illinois:

SIU Press.

Luders-Manuel, S. (2016, April 25). Beyonces Lemonade: An ode to black formation in any

shade. Guerrilla Feminism. Retrieved from http://www.guerrillafeminism.org/beyonces-


Peterson, A. (2016, July 10). Beyonc is a powerful voice for Black Lives Matter. Some people

hate her for it. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/