Once again, in complete disregard for any industry release schedule or counterpart's album run, Beyonce & Jay-Z have disrupted the space/time continuum by releasing a surprise body of work.
Like to hear it? Here it go...
Imagine... you walk in a bar to have some Saturday afternoon drinks with your friends and catch up, y'know, not unlike your normal weekend activity. As the resident music head of your crew, you're immediately asked "Is it true?". Dumbfounded, because you have been safely driving without checking for texts, tweets, or IG posts - a quick look at your phone and you know exactly what the fuck is going on. The inevitable joint album from Beyonce and Jay-Z is here in the digital flesh and it's a problem! Only a few shows in at the onset of the OTRII tour, "Everything is Love" is unleashed unto the world. An equal parts sassily vocalized Beyonce and rhythmically self exultant Jay-Z album is out for general consumption. All of this, "Where is the new music?", "Y'all better dance to my old shit" banter can be hushed once and for all. Flustered and frantic, The fact that you can't retreat to the nearest pair of headphones and dive in is eating away at you, so what do you do? You ask the bartender to pass you the Aux cord. DUH!!
Fully equipped with a visual for the lead single "Apeshit", Tidal - and the internet as a whole - got flipped upside down on June 16th due to the surprise drop of "The Carter's" album. Continually topping themselves roll-out after roll-out, "Everything is Love" launched as a campaign at the end of their London show with a screen marquis announcement that simply said "Album Out Now". And by "launched" The Carter's mean: shutting down the Louvre for a next level, never been done before, introduction to their new era together. Scattered about the Parisian landmark, The vow renewed pair and their dancers stand statuesque amidst other world famous works of art. The statement making video provides a landscape for black love and the sanctity of it to be equated as beautiful, just like that of priceless artistry. *Cuts, to the album cover artwork of tour dancers Jasmine Harper of SYTYCD Fame adorably picking Nicholas "Slick" Stewart's fro in front of the Mona Lisa*. Vehemently inserting blatant black images in notoriously white spaces is really becoming a thing for these two, isn't it? Setting the scene and tone of the album, the visuals here are not modest in the least bit. They are celebratory and expensive. They are as self-aggrandizing as they are beautiful. They are everything that can be associated with the feeling of the project as a whole. Gaudy ad-libs from 2/3rds (Quavo & Offset) of the hip hop phenomenon "Migos" assist with the elevated trap production of the booming track while flashes of sought after historic art floods the screen. High art concepts have been of service to Bey and Jay in the past, specifically that of Jay-Z who admittedly made a purposeful shift in his lyrical output. Post marraige to Beyonce, Jigga has been known to often rap about the purchase of expensive art pieces, being a patron, and other rich understandings that will benefit the generational wealth of the Carter family name. This grandiose behavior saturates each track and the chest beating gloats leak from every lyric therein. It's Watch the Throne all over again except this time Kanye has been dethroned. Sorry... too soon?
Inherently personal, the album serves as a bookend to the Lemonade and 4:44 call and response. If looked at as narrative, the joint album's reconciliation is the truth in the middle of two sides to the story. Relying on their own mystery and well known privacy, Jay and Bey utilize elements of their music to draw their respective audiences in. Listeners have been given a front row seat to the ups and downs of this union solely through the music. The Carter's, as an artistic collective, exercise this practice even further with "Everything is Love" by hinting at several key occurrences in their real life story line that have [until now] gone unanswered. They will not be publicly addressing anything unless it's done in the studio and put out for purchase. The 9 track + 1 bonus curveball of an album tackles everything from the scandalous absence from Kimye's wedding all the way to Jay's nestled resentment for Drake and other artist's dismissal of Tidal for other opportunities.
The album also sheds light on Beyonce as a rapper. In some of the most vainglorious lyrics thus far in her career, Beyonce channels the machismo of her husband's rap persona for the bulk of the project. Showcasing a confidence that is usually reserved for men of the hip-hop practicum, Bey is the "soup du jour" of shit talkers when alongside her man. On the inverse, Hova spits endearingly about his faults and efforts to keep his wife after his own transgressions within their marriage. Since the inception of their coupling, it was evident that the two had the power to permanently change each other. Beyonce's audaciousness has been forever elevated while Jay's rags to riches motif is visually more keen after being fully realized. Dating back to the courtship phase of "the Carters" as a unit, fans noticed an added spunk within Beyonce that can be attributed to Shawn Corey Carter. Unbeknownst to avid listeners at the time, the sensitivity in Jay that enriched him as a storyteller also sprouted from his love for Bey. He consistently fosters a feverish flair in his woman that she exudes on stage and even more tangibly on this album. The his and hers vacillation on songs like "LoveHappy", constitute a play on the pain their relationship has endured and their ability to work through it. This type of transparency is intentionally preserved for their music. Time and time again, public speculation has surrounded the goings on of the two superstars. As a constant middle finger to the time they live in, Beyonce and Jay-Z only share what they want-when they want. Usually this discharge of information will coincide with a business venture or musical release of some sort. It's quite the marketing strategy, and it works out in their favor every single time.
The Carter's prove that they make each other better by coupling their virtuous talents. Showcasing a grittier side to her vocal regiment, Beyonce lets her lower register shine in ways normally reserved for her live performances. Flailing head voice runs flawlessly transition into sturdy-bottom-note-holding alto riffs on songs like "Boss". This gem of a song, cowritten by R&B darling Ty Dolla $ign, is a stand out on the album and touts some of the most braggadocious content to be featured. Another immediate fave from the project is "Friends". The Boi1da produced bop backs up the earlier statement from Jay, "Bey a Rapper Too". Bey Hive elite have been begging for a rap album from their fearless leader since her appearance on Gaga's 2009 smash - "Telephone" and they're finally getting it. On this song Jay-Z bares his soul and confirms what kept him away from his friends in some of the more turbulent times of his marriage to Bey.
Inclusive of additional production from Cool and Dre, Pharrell, and Beyonce & Jay themselves, along with writing from big names like James Fauntleroy (just to name a few), "Everything is Love" bodes very well in the continuous onslaught of wig snatching that has become the happy couple's brand. Inadvertent pats on the back emerge as full circle career moments when Beyonce interpolates her version of Jay's written lyrics for "Still" by Dr. Dre on "713". Throwing it back to Bey, Jay also comes in paying homage to one of his inspirations, Common, by adding lyrics from both "The Light" and "Love of My Life". The private family dare not finish an album without her, so Blue Ivy even makes a guest appearance with a shout out to her new siblings. But enough with the spoilers. This is the beginning of a new tidal wave for the billion dollar spouses. Carrying the Hive and fans of Jay-Z alike into more of a frenzy than usual, a drop of this magnitude smack dab in the middle of a tour is the most ballsy move they could've ever made.
The entire album silhouettes Beyonce's trained vocals and bad-bitchness in the blueprint of a top notch Jay-Z album. So much so that just when it seems like a Beyonce featuring Jay-Z song is on, the two flip flop and switch places, exhibiting full versatility. A smorgasbord of soul sampling and jazz horns bundled with punching percussions and chaotic rhythms more fit for Rock music than Rap helped catapult Jay-Z's crossover into the mainstream. "Everything is Love" takes that methodology, adds a healthy 50% dosage of his better half [Beyonce], sprinkles in the bars that hardcore HOV fans missed on 4:44, and results in perfection. The classic tit for tat, back and forth between both performers is what sold everyone on the OTR Tour the first time around. Now entering tour season with songs that mimic their interwoven staging, the U.S. leg of OTRII is sure to be a fiery display of what stans love about them. Their chemistry is electrifying and palpable in a way that ensues anxiety for what this music will look like live. EIL is a cause for new choreography, a completely upgraded set list for the tour, and possibly even more pot-stirring visuals. WOW... AN ALBUM.
The joint product of a resilient relationship between two flawed individuals rife with the refusal to give up on each other; "Everything is Love" by the Carters is musical closure to an ordeal that one of the most scrutinized and critiqued couples in the industry has let the world in on - on their own terms. They're perfect for each other and they have no issue in stopping the world to let that be known.