There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.
Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.
Beyonce and Jay-Z on stage in France for the 2014 On the Run tour.
Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.
The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.
Artwork for the album Everything is Love by The Carters, aka Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success.
Much like Lemonade and 4:44, Everything is Love is filled with details of Jay-Z's infidelity and the couple's subsequent reconciliation.
"If me and my wife beefing, I don't care if the house on fire, I'm dying … I ain't leaving," Jay-Z raps on 714.
In the album closer, Beyonce offers this meditation on their union: "The ups and downs are worth it/Long way to go but we're working/We're flawed but we're still perfect for each other, yeah yeah/Sometimes I thought we'd never see the light/We went through Hell with Heaven on our side/This beach ain't always been no paradise."
But many of their lyrics are straight-out boasting.
"My success can't be quantified," Beyonce sings on the expletive-laden NICE, adding that if she cared "about streaming numbers, would've put Lemonade up on Spotify." (Interestingly, though, Everything Is Love was briefly released exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service part-owned by the couple. On Monday, it was made available on other platforms, including Spotify).
Jay-Z complains that he didn't win any of the eight Grammys he was nominated for in 2017. But he also raps that he "said no to the Super Bowl/You need me, I don't need you/Every night we in the end zone/Tell the NFL we in stadiums too."
Woven throughout are references to police brutality and systematic racism, such as the chorus of Black Effect: "Get your hands up high like a false arrest/Let me see 'em up high, this is not a test."
Accompanying the album was an opulent music video for the track APESHIT that finds the couple lounging, wandering and finally partying in the Louvre in Paris, alone save for a group of dancers in nude bodysuits.
As the couple delight in their surroundings, the camera wanders to various paintings, most of them featuring white people.
The video is a study in juxtaposition: A juxtaposition between the fluid movements of the couple and the still paintings and statues. A juxtaposition between the black and brown dancers and the white faces lining the walls. A juxtaposition between art and reality.
The Washington Post
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