According to Rolling Stone: Beyoncé and Jay-Z have closely guarded the particulars of their private lives for years. Lately, though, they’ve shown signs of trying to balance their massive public profiles with a desire for accessibility and superstar demystification. It’s a gesture Beyonce telegraphed with the unofficial campaign slogan of her Formation Tour: “God is God and I am not,” and it’s a guiding theme of Jay and Bey’s new surprise album, Everything Is Love, which they’ve released as the Carters.
“I got real problems just like you,” Beyonce grumbles on “Boss.” They’re people, too, they suggest—people who can shut the Louvre down on short notice to film a music video, but people nonetheless. Released in the second week of their On the Run II Tourafter a show at London Stadium, the album realizes the power in learning from our failings. In its embrace of cooperation, it finds strength in presenting a unified front and rallying against common enemies. It’s an act of reciprocity.
Everything is Love is the refreshing final chapter in a trilogy of albums that includes Beyoncé’s unburdening 2016 odyssey Lemonade and Jay-Z’s 2017 conscience-stricken apologia 4:44, glimpses inside a strained marriage from both sides. The ultimate power couple has been finding resolution and absolution through an active artistic process that’s apparently been as therapeutic and corrective for them as it’s been enrapturing for everyone else. But it isn’t quite reconciliation or vindication until they come together. “We were using our art almost like a therapy session,” Jay told the New York Times. “And we started making music together.” In teaming up and completing this personal triptych they show mediation can be a tonic.
If Lemonade was Beyoncé publicly, subtly and sublimely exorcising the demons of her union, 4:44 was a humbled and disarmed Jay-Z figuring family and community into his success equation. Both albums dealt directly (and tacitly) with their responsibilities to each other, and their responsibility to society as black billionaires. Everything Is Love is couples counseling as an art exhibition, as much a splendid relationship retrospective as it is a celebration of their growing black family dynasty. When Beyoncé raps, “My great-great-grandchildren already rich/That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list,” she’s connecting the dots between their love and their legacy.
Beyoncé and Jay co-produced every song, but Cool & Dre, Pharrell and Boi-1da distinguish exactly what the album sounds like – at times classicist and often trendy but usually stunning. “ApeShit” converts a Migos demo into a glitzy high-end trap boomer. The Pharrell-produced “Nice” strips the fluorescent sheen off Lil Uzi Vert’s “Neon Guts” for something decidedly less animated but no less satisfying. Pairing piano plinks with 808 bass, “713” takes their love to the streets.
In celebrating their reconciliation, the Carters take a victory lap hand-in-hand, and they have more ways to stunt than most, performing outsized rap boasts few others can match: saying no to the Super Bowl (“You need me, I don’t need you”), going to war with the Grammys, ignoring Spotify (“’Cause my success can’t be quantified”), dismissing Trump attacks (“Your president tweeting about Hov like he knows us”). Jay challenges the SEC and seeks a commendation for the part he played in freeing Meek Mill for good measure. Bey’s wearing 35 chains and demanding to get paid in equity. They let Quavo ad-libs echo through the Louvre as they pose before the Mona Lisa in the “Apeshit” video, a fitting metaphor for rap’s infiltration of predominantly white spaces.