There is a case to be made that the worst part of any trilogy is its conclusion. More often the finale of an epic journey lacks the original surprise of the first entry or the thrilling challenges of the second. It’s the safe entry, the one where the heroes defeat their foes, revel in their glory and perhaps attend an Ewok celebration.
In that way, it should come as no surprise that Everything is Love, the new surprise collaborative release from Beyoncé and Jay-Z, feels as prudent as it does. This isn’t necessarily a negative though. Coming off the heels of the raw emotion that was Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the reflective 4:44 from Jay, Everything’s comfortable vibe is a nice change of pace.
Opener “SUMMER” finds Beyoncé and Jay in a tender embrace, looking back at their collective journey as well as their future together. Interpolating a beat from Jay’s “Beach is Better (Interlude)” the song is a good showcase of the growth of both artists. Lyrically the track is full of sexually charged imagery with Bey asking Jay to “come swim in my ocean” as well as the two of them crooning that they “want to drown in the depths of you.”
And yet, none of it really hits in the way I think was intended. It’s almost like the buildup was better than the actual outcome, or in this case, the fight the preceded the sex was immensely more interesting than the sex itself. This is where having two albums of backstory both help and hurt this album.
Sure there is a lot to the tale of famous hip-hop mogul betrays his equally (if not more) famous wife but most of the interesting tidbits have already been picked apart and now all we’re left with is scraps. It helps that Bey and Jay are both excellent writers, but where their storytelling is strong, musically it doesn’t always work in their favour.
The lead single “APESHIT” finds itself being pulled into multiple corners, each with interesting possible routes but ultimately finding none to travel down. Its Pharrell produced beat has a charming trap flavor and the Quavo adlibs are a nice touch but it suffers in comparison to similar songs from both artists like “SORRY” or “MaNyfaCedGod.”
Lyrically “APESHIT” calls back to Jay’s Watch The Throne era expensive brags about the insane type of wealth the couple has obtained. And while the song does find some thoughtful paths to go with this theme, particularly Beyoncé verses and Jay’s diss towards the NFL, it’s buried under countless references to expensive watches and planes.
The song “713” also falls into this trap. With it’s Houston area code title you’d think Beyoncé would have more to say about her hometown. But once again among a really sweet verse from Jay where he recounts their first meeting and his final verse where he talks about how the love of the women in his life saved him, the song is all about the couples trip to Rome and the high fashion purchases they made there.
Fittingly, the production on the album fits this lavish world painted by the Carters words, but just like “APESHIT” none of it feels particularly special. Which is a shame considering the talents of Boi-1da, Cool & Dre and Mike Dean all have credits on here. Each of them lends their own personal styles to the tracks, but nothing that makes them stand out or above anything they’ve done before.
The album isn’t a complete loss though with some tracks breaking through the mold. “Boss” shows why Beyoncé might just be the best rapper in the game right now with bars like “My great-grandchildren already rich, that’s a lot of brown chi’r’en on your Forbes list” and “I be ridin’ around with my seat reclinin’, droppin’ my daughter off at school every morning.”
“Friends” with it’s brooding beat by Boi-1da and lyrics that seemed to be aimed at a certain blonde Calabasas resident make for one of the more impact moments on the record. And “LOVEHAPPY” ends the record on an appropriately high note with Bey and Jay lovingly joking with one another and remarking upon the struggle to get to that point.
As both artists move into the next decade of their careers it’s tempting to look at Everything like an epilogue of their current journey. And in that way it does its job; putting our heroes in a better place than they were before by highlighting what it took to get them there. While the album is on the low tier for both of these artists’ discographies it’s one that clearly means the world to them. And honestly, after the decade they’ve had, a little happiness isn’t too much to ask for.
Everything is Love is out now.