Pop fans love to dissect the more opaque lyrics of their idols for hidden meaning.

But there really was no mistaking what Beyonce was getting at when she released her new album, Lemonade, at the weekend.

Pretty much every song had a reference to the man in her life cheating on her.

'Tonight I regret the night I put that ring on,' she reveals in Sorry. On Pray You Catch Me, she sings: 'You can taste the dishonesty, It's on your breath as you pass it off so cavalier.'


And here she is, a little less poetic, on Don't Hurt Yourself: 'Who the **** do you think I am? You ain't married to no average b****, boy. If you try this s*** again, You gon' lose your wife.'

Just in case the message needed ramming home, the songs are accompanied by an extended pop video in which the 12 tracks are interspersed with the star reading dramatic poetry by the British feminist writer Warsan Shire.

The hour-long film shows Beyonce storming through the streets, smashing up cars and shop windows with a baseball bat, as the neighbourhood bursts into flames.

Elsewhere, she throws her ring furiously at the camera and, desolate, hurls herself off a high building, only to land in water.

This is, the message comes loud and clear, a portrait of a woman wronged.

The 'visual album' has been billed as 'based on every woman's journey of self-knowledge and healing'. A pretentious, extended wallow in self-pity? The critics don't think so, hailing its moving portrayal of what one called the 'resilience of black womanhood'.

And yet, after all the Sturm und Drang, Beyonce makes clear that she and her man have reconciled, intoning: 'So we're gonna heal. We're gonna start again.'

For many of the superstar entertainer's millions of fans, this emotional unburdening has come as a terrible shock. For her husband is none other than the equally acclaimed rapper and record label founder Jay Z, alias Shawn Carter.

Together, they have carved out a showbusiness marriage and partnership that has provided black America with both musical and commercial heroes.

With an estimated combined fortune close to $1 billion, the Carters have acquired an untouchability among their fans (even the Obamas revere them) and many members of the media, who are always ready to overlook any weaknesses or inconsistencies.

Persistent rumours that their six-year-old marriage, which has produced a daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, is not so perfect were long dismissed by their admirers as ugly mischief-making bordering on racism.

However, apparent confirmation from Beyonce herself of cracks in the union has unleashed the wrath of her army of blindly devoted fans, who - given that she is known as Queen Bey - call themselves the Beyhive.

These killer bees have spent the past few days swarming: attacking not the obvious guilty party, Jay Z, but the other woman - or women - who dared come between their idols.

On the album, Beyonce, 34, provides just one clue as to her love rival's identity - or at least her devotees think she does - in a song in which she complains of her philandering man: 'He only want me when I'm not there, Better call Becky with the good hair.'

So far no less than three woman - a fashion designer, a TV chef and a British singer - have been caught up in the firestorm, for 'Becky' is no easily decipherable reference, but African-American slang for a Caucasian woman with straight hair.

This week, suspicion quickly fell on an Indian-American fashion designer named Rachel Roy, who has long been romantically associated with Jay Z, 46.

Indeed, Roy fuelled suspicion by quickly posting a picture of herself on the social media website Instagram, with the cryptic message (before she swiftly removed both picture and comment): 'Good hair don't care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies, or self truths, always'.

Amid the barrage of abuse that followed, her biographical entry on Wikipedia was mockingly edited to claim, in a reference to the title of Beyonce's album Lemonade: 'Died: Under a lemonade stand.'

Roy's name hadn't come entirely out of the blue. The glamorous 42-year-old designer - who is based in Los Angeles and New York - knows Jay Z well.

She was formerly married to his business partner Damon Dash, with whom he started a clothing range, Rocawear, of which Roy became creative director.

Roy is also the woman rumoured to have sparked a notorious attack on Jay Z by his sister-in-law Solange Knowles two years ago when, in an assault caught on CCTV, the rapper was kicked and punched repeatedly as they shared a hotel lift in New York after a fashion party - her sister Beyonce watching on impassively.

Insiders later claimed Solange had been incensed to learn that Jay Z was having an affair with Roy, whom she had confronted earlier in the evening.

Roy never commented on those rumours but, two days after the party, posted online a link to her new summer collection, writing: 'The Beach is better!' The line was also the title of a 2007 song by Jay Z.

This week, Roy appeared to distance herself from the latest scandal, tweeting: 'I respect love, marriage, families and strength. What shouldn't be tolerated by anyone, no matter what is, is bullying of any kind.'

Yesterday - despite having initially refused to say whether she was 'Becky' - she went further, telling People magazine: 'I want to put the speculation and rumours to rest. There is no validity to the idea that the song references me personally. There is no truth to the rumours.'

She and her daughters had been targeted by 'online haters' in a 'hurtful and scary manner, including physical threats', she added.

Bizarrely, some of Beyonce's more clueless fans confused Roy with Rachael Ray, a 47-year-old celebrity cook, whom they also bombarded with hate messages online.
However, by then the Beyhive had largely moved on, stopping at the door of their next target, Rita Ora.

Suspicion fell on the British-born singer and actress, the daughter of Kosovan parents, after she posed online on the night of Lemonade's release wearing a bracelet embroidered with lemons and a necklace bearing the letter 'J' (although some suggested it was simply a lower-case 'r', for Rita, seen in a mirror).

Ora, 25, was once a protegee of rapper Jay Z and rumours surfaced of their having an affair in 2013.

She denied the claims, though these days - as she is suing Jay Z's record label for allegedly neglecting her music career - she may be feeling less obliged to spare him any embarrassment.

Certainly, Ora seems keen to fan the flames of the 'Becky' speculation and bait Beyonce at the same time. Yesterday, she posted a picture online of a poster for the Elizabeth Taylor film Ash Wednesday, about a middle-aged woman who is worried she is losing her husband. Another photo - this time showing her bared stomach and hips - was captioned: 'Oh . . . when you're the truth.'

She has also been snapped out and about in Hollywood wearing a distinctive red Gucci outfit - the same blouse and skirt that Beyonce wore in a recent music video.

Like Roy, Rita Ora performed a volte face after seemingly encouraging the speculation, saying on Twitter yesterday: the 'rumours are false . . . I have nothing but the utmost respect for Beyonce'.

What Beyonce's supporters may not appreciate, however, is that perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this sorry affair is Jay Z.

Though Beyonce's Lemonade can be bought online on Amazon and iTunes, in the frenzied initial rush to download the music the tracks were only available on Tidal, a subscription streaming service set up by Jay Z and in which Beyonce is a major shareholder.

Tidal will keep the exclusive rights to 'stream' Lemonade (streaming, or playing music online, is for most music fans far cheaper than buying an album), ensuring huge profits for a new business that was already ailing. Some industry experts say Lemonade has probably saved Tidal from going under.

Rachel Roy has been rumoured to be the one Jay Z cheated on Beyonce with. Photo / AP
Rachel Roy has been rumoured to be the one Jay Z cheated on Beyonce with. Photo / AP

So, the tills continue to ring merrily for Mr Carter even as he is apparently unveiled as a callous cheat. Surely, if Beyonce really wanted to teach her wayward husband a lesson, she could have thought of a way of doing it that didn't make him immensely richer in the process.

But then, given that Beyonce's father and former manager, Mathew Knowles, two years ago accused the couple of deliberately circulating untrue divorce rumours to boost ticket sales for their joint tour, one might be permitted just a twinge of cynicism about these latest bombshell revelations.

After all, the Carters have always been worth much more as pop music's most glamorous power couple than as solo performers. Many will not be surprised to learn that, for all Beyonce's musical fury and spitting lyrics, the commercially savvy pair are not splitting up.

So - just as with Beyonce's new-found identity as a black rights warrior, donning Black Panther-inspired costumes after years of running from any discussion of her race - what are we to make of the singer's sudden emergence as the wronged wife?

Certainly, industry insiders have been saying for years that - whatever the gloss put on Jay Z by fawning fans and journalists - Beyonce could have been in no doubt what sort of a man she was marrying.

A bigger star than the former Destiny's Child singer when they started their relationship in 2002, the music mogul has undoubtedly been very useful for her career.

But did she really expect a devoted husband? Raised in a poor Brooklyn neighbourhood, Jay Z has admitted that when he was 12, he shot his older, drug-addicted brother over a stolen ring. (The brother survived and didn't press charges.) He was also a drug dealer in his youth.

Even fame didn't soften his hard edges. In 2001, he was sentenced to three years probation for stabbing a man in the back in a nightclub.

In a film about his music, he was shown slapping and shoving a petite, camera-wielding woman who got in his way as he walked down a corridor. A spokesman later claimed he was just 'horsing around' with a friend.

In 2009, Jay Z wrote to a judge offering to employ a jailed crack cocaine trafficker for whom the star said he had once been a street dealer.

On the domestic front, he has long been dogged by rumours of infidelity. He was alleged to have had an affair with the singer Rihanna in 2005, though her biographer later claimed the rumours were invented to get publicity.

In 2013, a Belgian beauty queen said Jay Z had spent £5,000 buying her champagne in an Antwerp nightclub. In the same year, the model Olivia McFaller claimed she turned down Jay Z's advances.

It certainly sounds as if Jay Z has, at best, a wandering eye. Less obvious is whether his ugly behaviour has actually left his wife devastated - or just relieved she has found a sexy 'hook' for her new album.