“Let’s make love in the summertime” Beyonce coos on “Summer,” the opener to her first official joint album with husband Jay-Z, Everything Is Love, and it sounds like it could be a honeymoon. But further inspection of the lyrics yield scars; this is the deep exhale after fighting a war. The beat is reggae-tinged and the strings are lush, and The Carters are sitting in thrones that they created with blood, sweat, and tears. Life is good.
Everything Is Love takes an interesting turn for two artists who have both recently released some of their most personal — and painful — projects. Lemonade found Beyonce taking off her crown and glamour, exposing the the darkest parts of her romantic relationship and her personal history. The project was a brilliant tour de force of sounds and themes that told the story of heartbreak, reflection, and redemption. It was embraced by both the public and the critics as an impressive artistic offering.
Jay-Z’s 4:44 album functioned similarly, even if it was without as much sonic diversity. Jay-Z worked primarily with legendary producer No I.D, and the album finds Hov taking off his crown and swagger on many tracks, confessing to the wrongs inside and outside of his marriage. 4:44, like Lemonade, was lauded for its musical integrity and a type of vulnerability rarely found in music by celebrities that have reached this height of exposure.
But Everything Is Love feels different from both of these projects. I expected a joint project from these two to focus on tragedy and betrayal, not just because the trauma they went through with each other was so public, but because there does feel like there is this creative obligation to make music that feels as dark as the sociopolitical times we’re living in. Even if their wealth insulates them materially from a lot of what the average American music listener is going through right now, there’s this unspoken suggestion that creating music confronting the darkness implies that an artist cares.