Everything is Love review: Beyoncé, Jay-Z celebrate their wealth, power, black identity in grand new album

Abhinav Jai Singh

June 23, 2018 17:44:37 IST

Jay-Z and Beyoncé, or rather Beyoncé and Jay-Z, complement each other to near-perfection on their first ever collaborative effort, Everything is Love. The nine track-record is the first time that the power couple, in the truest sense of the word, have opened up about their relationship, marriage, success and ubiquitous influence. Everything is Love is a grand, chic throwback to the times when both Jay-Z and Beyoncé were not the unstoppable global icons they are today. The album simultaneously moves from the couple's past struggles to their current unparalleled world dominance as they rap/sing about being on top of the music industry, having the realest friends, and amassing an unimaginable amount of wealth; all while being black.

Black identity is, obviously, a big part of Everything is Love. Knowing both Jay-Z and Beyoncé, it'll be unwise to think that their racial background does not play a major role on this collaborative effort. On Everything is Love, Jay-Z and Beyoncé keep the conversation around sensitive and controversial topics, like police brutality against minorities, alive. And they do so with such finesse that the message is sent out loud and clear. The music video of the first single from the album, titled 'Apeshit', sees both Jay-Z and Beyoncé at The Louvre. The couple find the perfect way of depicting their success: Standing in the same building that houses some of the most lavish, invaluable symbols of cultural power, wealth and colonialism. In the 'Apeshit' music video, Beyoncé re-contextualizes classical Western art by making herself the aesthetic object; a radical idea coming from a black woman.

A still from 'Apeshit'/Image from YouTube.

A still from 'Apeshit'/Image from YouTube.

Jay-Z, throughout the album, asserts his importance and never-dwindling rap mogul status. On 'Apeshit', Jay-Z confirms turning down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl LII halftime show and raps, "I 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". Jay-Z's cockiness has a newfound edge, much like on his last solo album 4:44. Beyoncé's singing voice is just as commanding and intoxicating as ever, but on Everything is Love, she ends up rapping more than she sings, and in no way is that a drawback. Jay-Z, in some fun, light moments on the album, ends up being Queen Bey's hype-man which is both hilarious and encouraging to hear.

'Summer', the opening track, is a song perfect for a slow dance. There is a sense of lingering sensuality which speaks of forgiveness, love and extravagance. It is a celebration of the victory of love in the face of infidelity, and the proud declaration of finding freedom in making lots and lots of money. On 'Boss', one of the best tracks on the record, the couple once again reflect on their unshakable financial status with some of the wittiest and funniest lines on the record. Here, Beyoncé reaffirms a racist's biggest nightmare that colored people will, in the future, rule the world when she sings, "My great, great, grandchildren already rich / That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list".

Everything is Love album cover/Image from Twitter.

Everything is Love album cover/Image from Twitter.

'Boss' ends with a voice sample of Jay-Z and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy. The track that follows, titled 'Nice', features Pharrell Williams singing the hook along with Beyoncé. The song, which has a super smooth, bass-heavy flow, is about bragging; something Jay-Z is an expert at. The couple unapologetically address their haters with a chorus that acts as a dialogue between The Carters and those who doubt them. 'Nice' has Jay-Z referencing his black identity and how deeply-ingrained the prejudice against his skin color is when he raps, "I play on these planes, y'all catch me in traffic / Y'all drag me in court for that shit, y'all backwards / After all these years of drug trafficking, huh / Time to remind me I'm Black again, huh?".

'713', the fifth track on the record, is about Beyoncé’s love for her hometown of Houston (713 is the area code for Houston). Beyoncé and Jay-Z talk about the love they have for their upbringings; even after attaining all the wealth and success that they have. On '713', Beyoncé parodies the hook from Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg’s song 'Still D.R.E.'; a hook that Jay-Z actually wrote.

On 'Black Effect', the second-last track on the record, Jay-Z raps about the false arrests of black people and also name-drops Trayvon Martin; an unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by a security guard in 2013. In the final track of Everything is Love, titled 'Lovehappy', Beyoncé addresses the past dramas in her relationship with Jay-Z.

Musically, Everything is Love is an underwhelming experience with sparks of the familiar brilliance of Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The vibe of the album is relaxing, and the mood seldom shifts. The beats are masterfully done, but again, there is rarely any variation as the record shifts from one track to the next. Jay-Z's lyrics are just as clever as before. Queen Bey asserts her universally accepted supremacy through carefully crafted raps that does not make her come across as obnoxious or too full of herself. She merely acknowledges her position in the world of music while celebrating how she got there.

The Carters have, in an unjust landscape — where one's chances of being born into poverty, discrimination and injustice, or its exact opposite, depends on their skin colour (or caste in Indian context) — carved out an undying legacy for themselves. "I can't believe we made it", sings Beyoncé in 'Apeshit', and rightly so. If that is not a reason to celebrate, what is?

Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 19:01 PM