The surprise release of their dual album, Everything Is Love, over the weekend cemented the joint reign of Jay-Z and Beyoncé as the undisputed king and queen of self-referential material. Although contemporary music history is crammed full of artists taking a hard look in the mirror — with results ranging from navel-gazing to aggrandizing obsession — it’s hard to find two who have managed to relentlessly draw from their own (admittedly fascinating) day-to-day as this husband-and-wife couple have done.
To their credit, they aren’t afraid of showing their warts. Beyoncé famously fired the first shots with 2016’s scathing Lemonade, an examination of the infidelity in and breakdown of her marriage; it was followed by Jay’s 444, which soaked in atonement. Both releases also took considerable time to muse over their individual experiences outside of the marital relationship. With their joint album, the couple have apparently conquered Marital Issue Mountain and are on the other side, happy and in love, with their three young children.
And, they are continuing to be self-referential, of course. The record is split evenly between confessions about their past problems, reassurance (to themselves, or whoever) that they are now happy, and — because, perhaps, too much discussion of personal issues could get drippy? — a healthy dose of bragging about their immense success. Here are a few of the record’s most buzzy moments to chew on.
Proving that — for these two at least — infidelity is not necessarily a deal-breaker, Bey and Jay take a lighthearted look at what is not a very light subject whatsoever. “We keepin’ it real with these people, right?” observes Bey. She adds, “Lucky I ain’t kill you when I met that b****” to which Jay hastily cuts her off with “aight, aight.”
Jay, for his part, reveals: “To get her back, I had to sweat her” and discusses the family’s move to the West Coast as a result of trying to patch things up.
Overall? They’ve been “through hell with heaven on their side,” and if you don’t believe them? “Fake news, y’all choose. We no lie. No photoshop, just real life.”
‘Heard About Us’
Jay-Z addresses more than his philandering here; he’s had other issues nipping at the heels from premarital days, such as accusations of paternity (most famously, his alleged love child, Rymir Satterthwaite, who has been trying to prove Jay is his father since 2011).
“Billie Jean in his prime/ for the thousandth time, the kid ain’t mine/ Online they call me dad kiddingly/ You’re not supposed to take this dad thing literally,” Jay relates. (For what it’s worth, the lyric is a bit misguided, since the character of “Billie Jean” — from Michael Jackson’s iconic 1983 hit — is a woman.)
Just in case you didn’t have any idea that Beyoncé is a very successful, powerful, and rich woman, these particular two songs are dedicated to making sure you damn well do.
“My great-great-grandchildren already rich/ That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list,” she sagely observes in “Boss.”
Moving on to “Nice,” she spits out: “My success can’t be quantified/ if I gave two f***s about streaming numbers/ Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify.”
Meanwhile, her husband nods along, adding, “I have no fear of anything, do everything well.” Got it.
Jay takes his turn at enumerating his accolades, as well. He assures us that he does not need to perform at the Super Bowl (something his wife has done multiple times). “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.”
That’s pretty good. But he manages to top even that, taking on the institution of the Grammys as well. “Tell the Grammys f*** that zero for eight s***,” he observes, referencing the fact that he went home empty-handed at the 2018 Grammys.
For those who are reeling a bit at the lofty statements — be they about the newly glowing state of a damaged marriage or the hammering detailing of immense success — Everything Is Love does contain a smattering of surprisingly delicate, vulnerable statements.
From a cameo of daughter Blue Ivy shouting out her twin brother and sister, to Bey marveling “I can’t believe we made it,” to Jay observing “In Bel Air, only the nights get cold” — the Carters are actually real people, with real lives, problems, and solutions.
Love them or hate them — or perhaps just be skeptical of them — it’s hard to not sympathize with the struggle they’ve created and surmounted together. “Damn, look at us now,” Bey closes the album. “Pray, pray for the vows.”
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