by Dom Jones
A joint album became a rumor during the frenzy over Beyoncè’s Lemonade album. That rumor only gained steam when Jay-Z released what felt like a direct response to Lemonade with the confessional 4:44 album. Both albums addressed the deep, painful, and eventually victorious facets of being in a relationship. Both albums also took direct shots at political issues in society and in the entertainment industry. Each album was groundbreaking, sonically – Beyoncè’s for being so genre-bending and brazen that she would end up performing on the Country Music Awards in 2016. Jay’s was groundbreaking because he (and producer No I.D.) managed to make a relic of hip-hop (sampling) feel current and relevant. Both albums were some of each artist’s best work, and so if there were to be a joint album, the two preceding solo albums would certainly set the bar high for the one to come, right? In my mind, absolutely.
I was more a fan of their single “Apes**t” for its aesthetics than its sound. We expect icons like Jay and Bey to be trendsetters, and this song just feels acquiescence to what’s hot in the mainstream right now. I get it as an aggressive show of dominance, but to me, it would have been more advantageous to show that with a fresher sound that (we all know) would be as popular, if not more. “Summertime” is a nice way to start off the album. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s sweet, and I expect some sentimentality between the two after what they’ve overcome to get to this point. I’ll count it as a warmup. Next up is “Apes**t.” I skip it. “Boss” is a fun track, and I like the hook a lot. Jay’s verse is better than Bey’s on this one, where he addresses his entrepreneurship in the following manner:
Hundred million crib, three million watch, all facts/
No cap, false n****, you not a boss, you got a boss/
N***** getting jerked, that s**t hurts, I take it personally/
N***** rather work for the man than to work with me/
Just so they can pretend they on my level, that s**t is irkin’ to me/
Why haven’t more artists flocked to Shawn Carter’s Roc Nation imprint? He’s certainly done a lot for the careers of Jaden Smith, Meek Mill, and most notably, Rihanna, yet one would think he would be have more A-listers (especially in hip-hop) on his roster. It’s a curious thing, but back to the album. “Nice” is a blemish on the record, from the production to the lyrical content. Beyoncè seems to address the Tidal scandal that recently surfaced, accusing the company of falsely reporting streaming numbers for both her and Kanye’s last albums. She says: “Patiently waiting for my demise/’Cause my success can’t be quantified/If I gave two f**ks, two f**ks about streaming numbers/Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify.” It’s good that they wave off the accusations as just that, but no one is at their best on this song, and I’m inclined to hit the next button.
I’m conflicted when listening to “713.” I love the beat, but the song is too many pieces of other songs (with the hook referencing Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre” and Jay’s second verse referencing Common’s “The Light.”) Still, it’s funny that these are the two songs that help build out “713,” since one is about Dr. Dre’s ability to return from a long hiatus with the same musical prowess he’d always had and one is a love song about being together, struggling together, and staying together. In that way, those two songs are apropos, but it’s still not my favorite on the album. “Friends” is another skippable track until Jay starts rapping, and honestly, that’s the most we’ll escape his generally lazy flow on this album. The auto-tune on Beyoncè’s voice is so unnecessary and annoying. This could have been a dope song if the songwriting was more substantial, the mix was less trite, and Jay gave us TWO VERSES!!
Everything Is Love as an album frustrates me to no end. I have so many questions like, “Why are y’all going ‘skrrt, skrrt’ on this album?” So many things feel like attempts to be relevant to the current generation, and I get it from a business standpoint, but from a musical standpoint (and the fact that they’re both icons), it’s nonsense. SET TRENDS, DON’T FOLLOW THEM. And I love the imagery of their black love, their entrepreneurship, their representation of the successful black family – I LOVE ALL OF THAT. But for me, this album will forever live in the shadow of their preceding solo albums as a tremendously missed opportunity for them and for their listeners. I mean… by the time we get to “Black Effect,” it feels like Jay is doing Spoken Word! What is going on? Ultimately, I feel like this is a passion project: love songs to each other, with each other, between each other, and we are just mere onlookers (for a fee). If it’s that… I guess everything is, indeed, love.