As the cultural phenoms they are, Beyoncé and Jay-Z continue to find new ways to get the world eating out of the palms of their hands. On an otherwise quiet summer evening, music lovers flocked to their computers in unison as arguably the most powerful couple in the world dropped a surprise collaborative album that their followers have been demanding for years. How could it possibly live up to the overwhelming weight of the hype placed upon it? Like the Westworld of music, Everything is Love demands to have its lyrics probed and dissected by critics and fans alike, while also gracing them with some tasty summer jams.
For the entirety of their relationship, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have kept their affairs relatively private. That is, until 2016, when the floodgates were opened and a prying window into the intimate details of their marriage was forged. Everything is Love pulls back the curtain even further and paints a vulnerable portrait of both strife and reconciliation. Over the course of three chapters, audiences were gifted the unmistakable accusation on Lemonade (“This is your final warning, you know I give you life / If you try that shit again, you gon’ lose your wife.”), the proposed atonement on 4:44 (“I apologize, often womanized / Took for my child to be born to see through a woman’s eyes.”), and now the prudent resolution on “LOVEHAPPY” (“You did some things to me, boy, you do some things to me / But love is deeper than your pain, and I believe you can change.”).
The cracks in their foundation, although damaging, proved unable to bring the house of Carter tumbling to the ground. The record moves past the turmoil, going all the way back to their spirited courtship on the hip hop throwback “713,” as well as looking toward the future on the lush, soulful beach anthem “SUMMER,” a sultry ode to their enduring passion and a striking counterpoint to Lemonade’s “Sandcastles.” Whether this narrative is simply a pose for the camera is up for debate, but it certainly carries an aura of sincerity.
Everything is Love is primarily a rap album, in which pop icon Queen Bey joins her husband in a realm he helped to define, proving herself to be a viable, alluring rapper. Nowhere are her skills on the mic more prominently displayed than on the addictive, up-tempo lead single “APESHIT,” where she tirelessly spits gripping verses that confirm her skills in any musical arena she enters. Not to be outdone, Hova finds some of his most affecting flows since The Black Album, using his silky bars to cultivate the song’s primate imagery: “I’m a gorilla in the fuckin’ coupe / Finna pull up in the zoo / I’m like Chief Keef meet Rafiki—who been lyin’ “King” to you? / Pocket, watch it, like kangaroos.”
The Carters also use the album as a platform by which to set the record straight about many of their public beefs. The power couple doesn’t pull any punches as they address holding out on utilizing streaming services (“NICE”), disagreements with Kanye West (“FRIENDS”) and Drake (“BOSS”), getting shut out at the Grammys (“APESHIT”), and rumors of Jay-Z’s illegitimate son (“HEARD ABOUT US”). They even go so far as to take a victory lap around any potential foes by continuously boasting the legacy of their unabated dynasty (“My great-great-grandchildren already rich / That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list / Probably lookin’ around my compound on my fortress.”).
Knowing how effortlessly Beyoncé (and Jay-Z, for that matter) has combined artistic ambition with political outrage in the past, it can be a tad bit disappointing that this joint album focuses so much energy on personal grievances at a time when most hip hop fans want something closer to “This Is America.” However, in the midst of the domestic display, Beyoncé and Jay-Z make time for “Black Effect,” tying their brick wall romance into the ways the manage to use their colossal influence to strive for social justice within disenfranchised communities. But even as they balance the unrelenting analysis of a corrupt justice system with a deep appreciation of black culture, they continue to keep their home life in focus. Everything is Love offers a joyous, confident final chapter to the Carters’ public marital drama, as they continue building a lasting partnership out of forgiveness and compromise. As its title would suggest, it is a statement of unshaken love – love for music, love for their community, and, of course, love for each other.