How ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ pulled off a flawless ‘Lemonade’ tribute
In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3 episode 2, Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) dons a familiar yellow dress and swings a bat joyfully at his side. Instead of Beyoncé’s “Hold Up,” we hear the opening notes of “Summer Nights” from Grease, and Titus swings his bat (“Mayonnaise”), launching into a glorious Lemonade tribute.
The episode and lyrics were written by Tina Fey, with music from Jeff Richmond (Fey’s longtime musical collaborator, SNL colleague, and husband), who spoke to Mashable about how a famously quirky Netflix show pulled off the most successful Lemonade spoof to date.
Around a year ago, Richmond experienced something that was simultaneously happening in most workplaces around the country.
“I remember walking by Tina’s office, and five or six writers were around her desk and they were just watching Lemonade…and they were enthralled,” Richmond recalls in a phone interview with Mashable.
What’s worst, being heartbroke or roach bit, heartbroke or roach bit?
Or like, seeing you in your outfit
I gave you that outfit
I’d rather be roach bit!
The idea took root with Fey, who wrote Titus-ified lyrics for “Hold Up,” “Sorry,” and “All Night Long” to match the cadence of Beyoncé’s original tracks. Richmond and his team imagined that the spurned Titus would draw from his own library of musical samples for a cathartic musical journey. That’s where Grease came in, which Richmond built around to create a track that’s evocative of Lemonade without copying it.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to step into this thing of — is it parody, or is it homage, is it trying to do something completely different and it just sounds like the original thing?” Richmond explained. “There’s such a gray area legally.”
“I live for Beyoncé,” Burgess told Mashable via email. “She is my queen and Lemonade is a royal decree. I was watching it for inspiration before I ever knew I was going to be doing this homage.”
“We did it with such love toward her and what she achieved with that album,” Richmond added when asked what an ideal reaction from Beyoncé would be. “I hope that they see the sense of humor in it as much as we see the musical genius in what she achieved with the original, that she sees it as fun and funny and gets it on that level, because thats truly how we meant it. It’s just such a wonderful, fun thing to be able to kind of get close to. And you can only get close to it, cause it’s like fire. It’s so hot — you don’t want to get burned, but you want to get close to the fire.”
What will you say at my funeral now that you’ve killed me?
‘Here lies Titus, dead mother to my lizards, both living and dead
His heaven will be a grand piano full of baked potatoes’
And like Beyoncé, Burgess made “Lemonading” look like a whole lot of fun.
‘Lemonading’ brings about a special kind of joy,” Burgess explained. “I especially loved smashing a window with the bat. I’m considering building a shed in my backyard just to smash things.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.