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Lauron Kerher

Lauron Kehrer is an Assistant Professor of Music at the College of William & Mary, where she teaches courses on American popular music, including hip-hop, and Western art music. She earned her Ph.D. in Musicology from the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. Her research, which focuses on intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in American popular music, has appeared in American Music and the Journal of the Society for American Music, among others.

"Who Slays? Queer Resonances in Beyoncé’s Lemonade"
 On Saturday, February 6, 2016 Beyoncé delighted fans with the surprise release of the music video for a new song, “Formation,” the first single from Lemonade, the visual album that she would release later in April. The track sonically places the listener in New Orleans, most notably through the inclusion of vocal samples from queer artists Big Freedia and the late Messy Mya, both known for their contributions to bounce. Yet, while “Formation” and the rest of the Lemonade album include a number of queer influences and resonances, few of the queer artists who contributed to the visual album are credited. There is something decidedly queer about much of the lyrical and visual language of Lemonade, but aside from Big Freedia, the album’s queer contributors and inspiration have been largely rendered invisible.

This paper examines ways in which Beyoncé’s most recent work incorporates, appropriates, and otherwise engages queer artists and their communities. A close reading of Lemonade reveals lyrical and stylistic references to queer cultures, especially those of the American South generally and New Orleans particularly. A discussion of the sources for the “Formation” video also reveals ways in which the labor of some queer performers, notably dancers, was featured prominently but went largely uncredited and uncompensated. Furthermore, this article places Lemonade and Beyoncé’s work more widely in a queer social and historical context. An examination of the singer’s selective support for LGBTQ rights (including her support of federally-recognized gay marriage in July 2015 and her silence over the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in November of that same year) illuminates the complexities of the singer’s relationship to her queer fans as well as her indebtedness to queer cultural productions.