NEW YORK (AFP) - Pop superstar Beyonce released a musically diverse new album in the form of a film on Saturday (Apr 23), a bold tribute to the perseverance of African American women.
Lemonade was advertised only as a special on cable network HBO but, more than halfway through, Beyonce dropped an album by the same name.
The sixth studio album by the 34-year-old pop giant features collaborations with the critically acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar, garage rocker Jack White and the young R&B sensation The Weeknd.
It also shows a growing musical range by Beyonce, who performs one song with simple acoustic guitar, but elsewhere goes into hip-hop and electronica.
The movie opens with a bleak picture of betrayal and jealousy as Beyonce dances across New Orleans, smashing up cars as she rages against the infidelities of an unnamed partner.
The subject matter immediately triggered a fury of speculation on social media that Lemonade was an elaborate artistic announcement of separation from her husband, rap mogul Jay-Z.
But toward the end of the film, Beyonce heads into a chapter entitled Forgiveness as she is seen embracing a sullen-looking Jay-Z.
In a further sign that they are still together, Beyonce released the album of Lemonade exclusively on the Tidal streaming service led by Jay-Z.
Beyonce, who appears throughout the film with African American women in roles as speakers, artists and dancers, drew a theme early in Lemonade as the film cuts to a snippet from late civil rights leader Malcolm X, who is heard saying: "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman."
The album is Beyonce's first full-length release since her chart-topping self-titled album in late 2013.
Beyonce, the album, also brought in a strong visual component, with a series of short films to accompany the music.
But the theme of the 2013 album was far different, as it dealt with passion and monogamy, with the song Drunk In Love, an ode to marital bliss sung in duet with Jay-Z.