Jay-Z and Beyoncé in front of the Mona Lisa at Musée du Louvre in France. Courtesy: TIDAL
What mega superstars Jay-Z and Beyoncé achieved Saturday evening was monumental, but not in the way you may think. More than the fact that they kept a joint album secret for as long as they did, they successfully sold the idea that they, too, are human.
Without any pre-promotion or publicity runs, the power couple dropped, “Everything is Love,” a nine-track record peppered with the highs and lows of marriage, accented with the grandiosity of stardom all while divulging the simplicity of all.
During a performance on their “On the Run II” tour in London last weekend, the couple announced the album’s release, which at the time was only available on Tidal, a music streaming service they both partially own. Social media went crazy, per usual when the couple announces, well, just about anything.
It was a carefully-crafted plan. In 2016, Beyoncé released her sixth-solo studio album, “Lemonade,” a visual collection of music telling the tale of infidelity, betrayal, and women liberation.
A year later, Jay-Z dropped “4:44,” the artist’s 13th critically-acclaimed album that appeared to be in response to “Lemonade.” His album was the stripping down of the larger-than-life rapper, exposing the world to his flaws and fears as a husband, a dad and a businessman.
So what makes “Everything is Love,” so exceptional is the timing of it all. Here we have a woman using her mega-platform to express the trials of her ultra-private marriage, followed by her husband who did the same. It ends with the two acknowledging that “we’re flawed, but we’re still perfect for each other,” Beyoncé sings on the album’s last track, LoveHappy. More on that later.
On the album, Beyoncé once again proves the malleability of her talent, switching back and forth from melodic ballad-type verses to fast-paced raps. Her intonation flows seamlessly from track to track, first light and airy, then deep and heavy. Either way, it works; although they’re split-second moments when it appears gimmicky.
Similarly, Mr. Carter continues to master his already close-to-perfect writing skills, rhyming in a staccato cadence only few can pull off. His use of language is so vivid – so picturesque; it’s as if you’ve been personally invited inside their journey all along.
“We tried to hide in the hills/We watched the sky turn peach/Summer’s light like, summer’s night/It’s like, Christ masterpiece,” Jay rhymes on the intro track, “Summer.”
Let’s talk more about making words visual. As if the album wasn’t enough, Jay and B released a six-minute video for the record’s first single “Apes**t,” which they shot at Europe’s premier Musée du Louvre. Per the gallery’s guidelines, most visitors are not allowed near Leonardo DaVinci’s historic “Mona Lisa.”
The couple aren’t “most visitors,” though, and were allowed to shoot inches away from the painting. In fact, they rented the whole building to themselves, where they captured fantastical shots of the pristine Galerie d’Apollon ceiling along with shots in front of the museum’s iconic exterior, where they performed at night.
The video signifies the couple’s power – black power; a portrayal of African-American influence inside a building filled with collections of mostly European art. It’s a clever contrast – I’ll save that for another opinion piece.
Another point worthy to note: the juxtaposition between punchy high-tempo tracks with horns blaring throughout countered with heavy 808 bass spilling out on others. It’s clear the two musicians impact each other rhythmically, but there’s still some separation there, and it’s clear when the beat drops who’s clout stood above the other’s in each song.
But most of all, the album serves confidence. It’s cool, not forced. One could imagine they handpicked the songs they wanted featured on the album in about a day or two, and didn’t think twice about it.
Was the surprise album release calculated or coincidental? Most will never know, but either way, it proves, the couple that slays together, stays together.