On Everything Is Love, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new album released this past Saturday, a bunch of elements unexpectedly commingle: a line about Napoleon blowing off the Sphinx’s nose, the Migos’ signature adlibs, Malcolm X, joking references to the almost-demise of a marriage, trap acoustics, broom-jumping ceremonies, winky references to the streaming wars.
These are all strange bedfellows, but so, once, were Bey and Jay as a romantic pair. They’ve since gone from an unlikely May-December duo to one of American pop culture’s most rock-solid power couples, married with three small children and several business partnerships. The latest product of their union is a nine-song project, a laboratory that tests out just how well they work together, as artists, and as lovers now primed to reveal more of their mystique to the world after spending the majority of their romance collectively retreating from the public eye.
On the bridge of album standout “Lovehappy,” the couple distills the album’s overriding message: “We’re flawed but we’re still perfect for each other.” This is a meditation on perfection, rendered via a flawlessly orchestrated rollout at the London stop of their On the Run II Tour, over expertly crafted instrumentals, and an ideal concept under the circumstances: a reunited couple’s first extended collaborative project. Fresh off of a vow renewal, they’re in it for the long haul. This album is a symbolic re-exchange of rings, a symphonic take on #blacklove in a moment suffuse with it.
For as long as it’s taken for them to put it together, the collaboration lives up to the hype. Obviously, neither is a stranger to musical partnerships. Beyoncé’s made several albums with Destiny’s Child, and Jay-Z made Watch the Throne (2011) with Kanye West, Best of Both Worlds (2002) with R. Kelly, and a compilation with his old Roc-a-Fella labelmates. But this one makes the most musical sense of all those outside of DC’s discography. Everything Is Love comes roughly one year after Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, the rapper’s response to Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the album she released in May 2016 detailing her heartbreak and healing from his infidelities and other indiscretions. With all of the public confessions and restorative video projects and public appearances, the past two years have threatened to overexpose us to them. When Jay hinted at a joint album in his New York Times interview with Dean Baquet last year, people naturally wondered if the couple would be able to actually do something we haven’t heard before. And would there be anything new to learn? A weird question in retrospect given that they once even refused to admit they were married. My, how things have changed!