On Saturday 16 June, at the London Stadium in Stratford, Beyoncé and Jay-Z ended their touring show On the Run II a little differently. After their set finished as usual, with the couple duetting Jay-Z’s track “Young Forever”, Beyoncé told the crowd, “Because we love you all so much we have something special for you. We want you guys to be the first to experience this new project,” before promptly leaving the stage. A new video for their collaboration “Apeshit” played on the giant screens, then an even bigger revelation flashed up: “ALBUM OUT NOW.” Their first joint album, Everything is Love, was released on Jay-Z’s streaming platform Tidal that night.
A surprise album might be a trick we’ve seen from Beyoncé before (twice) but it’s no less thrilling now. The “Apeshit” video was filmed in the actual Louvre; no details leaked to the press. It’s a striking film – Beyoncé, Jay-Z and a handful of black models and dancers pose in front of the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, The Coronation of Napoleon and Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait of a Negress, in a powerful re-contextualising of a historically elite, white space. “I can’t believe we made it,” Beyoncé sings. “Tell the Grammys fuck that zero for eight shit,” Jay-Z raps – a reference to the fact that he, Rihanna and Kanye West have all at one point received eight nominations and no wins.
Everything is Love is a mix of gleefully ostentatious power-couple brags (“Boss”, “Nice”, “Heard About Us”) and odes to their friends, roots and black culture (“713”, “Friends”, “Black Effect”), all bookended by soulful love songs “Summer” and “LoveHappy”. It’s not a project with the scope, depth and political reverberations of Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade, but it is a thoughtful, fun portrait of an imperfect, covetable marriage. l
This article appears in the 20 Jun 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Conservatives in crisis