The myth of a joint album has surrounded JAY-Z and Beyoncé for years. The project felt possible, but also fan-fiction; especially since no rumor was ever followed by anything official. EVERYTHING IS LOVE isn’t a total surprise, the album has been expected for some time, but the lack of forewarning and the fact that it actually, finally happened does have some shock value.
I wonder why they decided to drop EVERYTHING IS LOVE after the start of their joint On The Run Tour II? That would’ve been expected, though. No one thought on this easy-going Saturday that a JAY-Z and Beyoncé album would suddenly surface. The Carters are masters of capturing the world’s attention when we least expect them to. I have no idea what awaits me. Let’s see if this power couple made an album that can measure up to their solo acclaim.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules here are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
The album art is museum worthy. Beyoncé is the Mona Lisa of pop culture. Who’s voice is this? I don’t immediately recognize it. A sound this lovely should be heard every day. Beyoncé's voice is played in the bedrooms of baby angels. Hov saying “Let It Breath.” Just a background voice for now. I'm really enjoying this groove. It has the elegance of a swimming pool full of mermaids. Live instrumentation can be such a reward. The warmth is truly the feeling of summer personified. Hov rapping. I like the imagery. I can’t believe this is the same guy who made Reasonable Doubt. The family man who is making beach vacation in a foreign country music with his wife. Beyoncé’s dominating presence makes this feel like a solo record with a strong Hov feature. It’s a nice intro. The four-minute length is pleasant. Loving these strings.
The vibe has changed. TRAP BANGER. RAPPING BEYONCE! Quavo doing ad-libs. A nice knock. Why is Beyoncé the greatest trap rapper ever? Her flow is very well delivered. She makes fun, trap music. Banger. I’m so impressed. Like, if she was an unknown artist, this is the kind of song that would get her signed to QC. Okay, Jay’s here. He sounds lively. The Chief Keef and Lion King bars got me hype. Jay is the elder statesman who still has the energy to keep up with the young gunners. I wonder who made this beat? Sorta feels like Mike WiLL, but not quite. I wish it hit a bit harder, but this one is infectious. Beyoncé’s third verse is a crazy double-time flow. She just knocked my glasses off my face. WOO!!!! She took off from the free-throw line. This one is going to be a big performance record. Summer smash. I wish we had a better title than apeshit. Has anyone ever seen an ape take a shit? Not that exciting.
Beyoncé has a very natural swagger. It's so effortless. Nice loop with some decent claps. I love the horn riffs. Beyoncé rapping isn’t what I expected. She is holding her own, though. She's really creating a nice space for herself. Jay’s flow is a little shaky. Production is superb, though. Okay, he found his pocket. “Everybody bosses until it’s time to buy pay for the office.” This is shaping up to be an album of anthems. I can see so many Instagram captions in these bars. Beyoncé dropping Blue Ivy off at school is so insane. What is Beyoncé’s day-to-day like? She is such a mystical person from afar, it’s easy to forget she’s a goddess to the public, but she's actually just another person doing regular people things in private. I like the production more than the lyricism, but I can see it growing on me.
Aww. There was a Blue outro. Who is this singer? Some nice vocals. The beat is a trampoline to bounce on. Jay! Now this is a FLOW! THIS IS A FLOW. He’s doing wheelies on a expensive Harley. YEP! YEP! THIS IS HOV! I’m being uplifted. I could do without Jay’s repetitive bridge. Beyoncé’s melodic flow is a stunt. She’s enjoying herself. This is fun. So much fun. Why is she so good at transforming into a rapper and finding a pocket to pounce on? The Blue freestyle verse nod is smooth. Never seeing a ceiling was really a next level bar. Beyoncé said she’s better than the hype, and that’s a boast very few artists can make. Another anthem for the summer. This is music to rule the world to. Skateboard P! He caught the baton from B and took it home strong. Currently my favorite. Yeah, Jay's repeating pattern isn't terrible, but still a no.
The summer of 2018 has been such a pleasant year for production. The Jigga verse was a swift one, but it wasn’t bad. Beyoncé is representing. I can’t wait to see what the visuals will be like for this record. We know they're coming. Jay’s second verse is so good. This rapping could’ve been on 4:44. The storytelling. The smooth delivery. He's still one of the most exciting rappers when he’s in this mode. Love the way Beyoncé delivers this hook. It’s very throwback. YEP! Another winner. JAY-Z and Beyoncé have found the middle ground. I was never a big fan of their collaborations, but I’m pleasantly surprised by their synergy. They are finding their stride as a union and it’s a sight to see.
Keys. Slow build up. Some trap hi-hats. Beyoncé singing. This feels rather modern. The kind of song Beyoncé would make after listening to Free 6lack. I’m digging this, but I’m not looking forward to this Hov verse; this is not really his sound. Nevermind, he's much better than I thought. Yeah, he’s really putting effort into these verses. I was worried that he wouldn’t be this enthralling after pouring so much out with the last album. I like how these songs sound very carefully crafted. These aren’t a bunch of throwaways. Meek nod. This is a verse! I wish the beat was a little more intense because Jay is letting it all go. That bar about the house being on fire. I have to rewind when I'm done here, but if there is a song with any mention of Kanye, it would come on “FRIENDS.” Shout out to my friend Chance who called during this 1-Listen. Beyoncé is on full solo. She showing off now!
7. "HEARD ABOUT US"
So far, this is quite the enjoyable project. Beyoncé sounds like she drank pure gold before their studio sessions. If there was a steroid to make greater music, she's taking it. The switch from sung vocals to this flow was so seamless. I can hear the wigs being snatched. Hairlines are being pushed back. This is a groove. Beyoncé music could be described as high self-esteem excellence. “For the thousand time that kid ain’t mine” hahaha. Okay, Hov. He responded to that rumor with the swiftness. And it came before Drake. He’s killing it. This album avoided being cheesy. It’s filled with swagger, sauce, and stunting in the most royal way. It’s the music of royalty who are still congregating among the people.
8. "BLACK EFFECT"
A woman is talking about love. She sounds like a wise woman. Very sweet. A sample is playing with soft keys underneath. Hov came in meh; I’m not in love with his delivery. The message is strong, though. Nice nostalgic nod. So many bars. So many names dropped. This is good. “I passed the alphabet boys like an eye test” hahaha. Okay! Beyoncé doing ad-libs is hilarious. “I’m Good!” Beyoncé has so much passion in the raps. She just gave a Shawty Lo shoutout, haha. These two together are something else. Hov came back to deliver more of the real. “I’m good on any MLK Blvd” is a bar, but I wish it was delivered better. The gripes are minor.
Upbeat! Like this knock. Beyoncé and Jay are making happily married music. Ha, Beyoncé just snapped hahahaha. They went from boasting together about their family life to B mentioning having to be remarried. This is really real of them. Life isn't all Kodak moments no matter what your Facebook timeline says. I love how rap brings out Beyoncé's Houston roots. I love this loop. I love the back and forth. The celebration of their love is a great way to conclude this album. Music for when renewing your vows.
EVERYTHING IS LOVE (first listen) closing thoughts:
In the past, my problem with Jay and Beyoncé as a collaborative couple is how together they've sounded cheesy and forced. Their joint records always had the potential to hit, but rarely did the music ever feel striking. EVERYTHING IS LOVE is the opposite. There are touches of modern influence, but the music is far more focused on building songs meant to really enthrall listeners. This is two of the biggest artists of our time making music to be enjoyed beyond the radio and far from clubs. This is life music.
With respect to Hov, Beyoncé is a beast. Across nine tracks, she seamlessly transitions from angelic goddess to Houston rap star and there’s plenty of highlights with the Queen sounding superb in both mediums. Beyoncé has always dabbled with rapping, but on EVERYTHING IS LOVE she truly solidified her rap voice. Don't get it twisted—this is a rap album.
Hov doesn’t quite match Beyoncé’s energy—this feels like a Beyoncé album with a healthy serving of Hov—but there’s life behind each and every bar.
EVERYTHING IS LOVE is nine songs, but plenty of ground is covered. The album is both anthemic and candid; braggadocious yet serene; the kind of music you make with your partner who has spent a lifetime in hip-hop and R&B. On wax, they feel like a happily married couple who just so happen to be wealthy superstars.
Bonnie and Clyde made beautiful music, with a message about love that is certain to fill every heart with joy. They're right—everything is love.