Piers Morgan, British journalist and former CNN talk show host, wrote an essay published Monday in the U.K.'s Daily Mail titled "Jay-Z's not the only one who needs to be nervous about Beyoncé, the born-again-Black woman with a political mission," criticizing multi-platinum artist Beyoncé Knowles' "Lemonade," a visual album.
The hour-long visual album or short film debuted Saturday night on HBO and features videos for 12 of the songs on her sixth solo album of the same title. Morgan, the U.S. editor-at-large for the publication, begins his essay with fond memories of Beyoncé when he interviewed her in 2008 on his CNN show "Piers Morgan Live," which was cancelled in 2014.
Back then, he said, she was "at pains to be seen as an entertainer and musician and not as a Black woman who sings."
"Lemonade" has created conflicting feelings for Morgan. He writes:
I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé. The less inflammatory, agitating one. The one who didn't use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse. The one who didn't play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same.
It seems he prefers the "Bootylicious" Beyoncé years to her new "Formation," one of the singles on "Lemonade."
Piers Morgan Whitemansplains the World: Coming to you at 8PM EST / 9PM CST on Thursdays
— nana addae esq. (@shrekfacedkilla) April 25, 2016
my issue w/ @piersmorgan is he, like many straight white men, thinks his opinion (good or bad) of Bey/#LEMONADE is needed/important–it's not
— Mark Sundstrom (@106th) April 25, 2016
I don't know what @piersmorgan said about LEMONADE but I don't wanna hear anything a white man gotta say about it. IT WASN'T FOR YOU.
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) April 25, 2016
Morgan tweeted on Tuesday:
To clarify, I love @Beyonce & Lemonade's a great album.
I just didn't like the politically/racially charged video that went with it.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 26, 2016
Actor Matt McGorry of ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder," also joined the conversation:
— Matt McGorry (@MattMcGorry) April 26, 2016
The visual album features Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who succumbed to an illegal chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo; and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, fatally shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, each holding a photograph of their son. Other artists have also been supportive of the mothers. For example, Prince, who died unexpectedly on Thursday, donated money to Martin's family.
Morgan said Beyoncé is using "grieving mothers to shift records," but she and her husband, Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, have donated substantially to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The video for "Formation" caused a stir when it was released on Feb. 6. Beyoncé's anti-police brutality message is reflected in scenes including "Stop Shooting Us" spray painted in black against a white brick wall and a sinking New Orleans cop car at the video's conclusion.
That message didn't sit well with law enforcement unions across the country, which called for a police boycott of her tour. And she received backlash after performing the single during the Super Bowl 50 halftime on Feb. 7.
But, the "Formation" video also makes reference to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And the lyrics to the song also celebrate her southern roots and being a Black woman:
My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama
I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils
Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag …
Morgan said his issues with Beyoncé's visual album aren't about race. He takes issue with entertainers getting political. However, politics and music have a long history of intertwining.
For example, in the 1960s artists such as Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Odetta and Pete Seeger supported the Civil Rights Movement with their music. U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is an intentionally political song. For the past 30 years, Bruce Springsteen has been a political singer who endorses presidential candidates.
Morgan was also annoyed by a sample used in "Lemonade" in which Malcolm X says, "The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman."
"Lemonade" prominently features Black women including Serena Williams; actresses Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Zendaya; singers Ibeyi and Chloe x Halle; and model Winnie Harlow.
The short film includes the poetry of 27-year-old Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Also incorporated are nods to the literary styles of Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, and the music of Nina Simone.
"Lemonade" is "based on every woman's journey of self-knowledge and healing," Tidal, the music streaming service owned by Jay Z, said in an announcement. The mix of spoken word, imagery and lyrics on love, betrayal, infidelity and anger also has social media wondering if Beyoncé's newest release is directed toward her husband.