Naturally in tune with today’s unannounced manner of music released, the Carters— Beyoncé and Jay-Z— released a surprise joint album this past weekend. The record, entitled “Everything is Love” is an accumulation of stories pertaining to the pair’s glorious rise to the top and the marital struggles that almost tore them apart.
The record is a groundbreaking work that gracefully connects Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s musicalities, while also reminding listeners of their status as the top power couple in music. For the Carters, “Everything is Love” is a reconciliation of sorts — a third act following Beyoncé’s impassioned “Lemonade” and Jay-Z’s introspective “4:44” — that provides deeper insight into the couple’s public and private lives.
It all began when the music video for the track “Apesh*t” dropped on Saturday. The Carters, as the album is officially credited to, shot the music video at the Louvre — both a cultural milestone and a power play to flaunt their artistry and ranking.With the injection of black bodies and culture in a museum traditionally filled with Western art, the Carters engage in a fearless dance with the political status quo.
The music video for “Apesh*t” is a tribute to the couple’s power as not only musicians, but also as cultural influencers. In one scene, Beyoncé stands in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, an Ancient Greek statue of the goddess Nike as she stands at the bow of a ship. Dazzling in an all-white dress, Beyoncé vigorously dances and raps, violently shaking her dress to mimic the flapping of wings. “I can’t believe we made it,” she sings, fusing the lyrics to the visual notion of Victory, “this is what we’re thankful for.” Her gratitude lingers on the word “we”— she is talking about their marriage, as well as their success.
Still, the record is built on its political undertones, which celebrates the astronomical success of two black people in a society posed against them.
On “BLACK EFFECT,” Jay-Z raps, “Extra magazine hopped on a jet with my Ebony Chick/Blacker than the Essence fest,” while Beyoncé sings: “I pull up like the Freedom riders, hope out on Rodeo/stunt with your curls, your lips, Sarah Baartman hips.” Despite their portrayal of blackness and success, the pair is hyper-aware of what it means to be black. This is an awareness they are unafraid to share flamboyantly with their listeners.
Although rest of the album’s visuals have not yet been released, its cover art deserves high praise. The artwork negates and redefines the Eurocentric standard of beauty. In front of the Mona Lisa stands two people who have historically been the opposite: a black woman thoughtfully combing a black man’s Afro. This juxtaposition is a reflection of the Carters’ success and their message of diversity and acceptance.
Yet, underneath the grandiose portrayal of their success is the story of betrayal. The final reference to Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity is on the closer “LOVEHAPPY,” which commemorates the struggles they experienced to finally be “happy in love,” a marked change from their earlier declaration track, “Drunk in Love.” In a strikingly sober verse, Beyoncé sings, “But love is deeper than your pain and I believe that you can change.” The line comes across almost as justification: despite the legacy of women’s unjust subordination at the hands of men, Beyoncé once again introduces the notion of trust into her relationship. Moreso, she does it proudly.
“Everything is Love” reinstates the Carters’ position as not only cultural icons, but also the faces of what America needs today: acceptance and celebration of different cultures, paired with trust and acceptance of each other. Each track reminds listeners of their accomplishments and victories. However, “Everything is Love” is much more than just that: the album is a representation of their legacy in music and contemporary culture. And while the Carters continue to shatter records and expectations, the world will be watching as always.