This is the first official single released by N.E.R.D in seven years. Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley last shared an official single in 2010 with "Hypnotize U
" from their fourth studio album Nothing
. The trio did however release promotional songs "Squeeze Me
," "Patrick Star", and "Sandy Squirrel" from the soundtrack to the 2014 film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Rihanna appears on the track delivering a tough-talking rap verse about a woman who shines bright because of her beauty. The track dates back to 2014, and was originally written for Puff Daddy before the Bajan songstress came into the picture.
On January 3, 2015, Rihanna shared a bikini photo on Instagram accompanied by the caption, "Tell da paparazzi get the lens right." It turns out, this is a line from the song's chorus, where Rihanna and Pharrell sing:
Nigga the Veyron glide
Tell the paparazzi get the lens right
Williams told Zane Lowe in a Beats 1 interview that after penning the track for Rihanna the band later decided to "add a punk type situation" to the song.
According to the credits, Pharrell and Kuk Harrell produced the track with Williams listed as the lone songwriter and composer. Fellow N.E.R.D members Chad Hugo and Shay Haley's names are nowhere to be found.
The interlude features samples of the former United States Senator, Arlen Specter, shouting "wait a minute" at a 2009 Pennsylvania town hall meeting, as well as phrases borrowed from the 2015 viral Twitter video recorded by rap artist Retch.
The energetic Todd Tourso and Scott Cudmore-directed video starts out with Rihanna shaving model and dancer Mette Towley's head then for the rest of the clip the newly bald Towley struts a high-energy, booty-shaking dance routine.
Mette Towley has been a member of Pharrell's dance squad known as the "The Baes" since 2013. Speaking to The Fader about the clip, she said: "It's not about the hair. It's about my physical presence - how I was able to commit was because of this incredible team and what we did together. It was a transformation for me."
When the song debuted at #65 on the Hot 100 dated November 25, 2017, it marked N.E.R.D's first-ever entry on the chart.
This features in a commercial for Beats wireless headphones where Mette Towley dances to the song in a driveway while the guys from N.E.R.D look on from the top of a van.
Pharrell opens the song by repeating a variation of Jesus' words in John 8:32.
The truth will set you free
But first, it'll piss you off
Pharrell told The Guardian the opening lyrics were inspired by a speech feminist icon Gloria Steinem gave in 1998.
Rihanna performed "Lemon" live for the first time on December 21, 2017 as part of her set at the Top Dawg Entertainment holiday party in Los Angeles.
Mette Towley told The Independent: "We had a lot of conversations about what 'Lemon' meant, and to me it was almost like a revenge video. Her [Rihanna] cutting my hair was almost like a reset, stepping into new ways of being. And my new way for 'Lemon' is like a mirror of what I was going through at the time. It was like saying: 'Mette, you gotta own it. You gotta own your presence.' I think all of us do. It was definitely personal."
Drake jumped on the song's remix, which was premiered by Pharrell on a special episode of Drizzy's Beats 1 OVO Sound Radio show on March 17, 2018. The new version finds the Toronto MC delivering some luxury rhymes about how he lives it.