The pairing of Beyonce and Jay-Z has solidified itself in this generations pop-cultural consciousness. Photos of them circulate social media on a regular basis and, despite their marital issues, still represent something of a perfect pairing. And yet, this album which combines two people who, as separate entities, are amazing artists, just doesn’t seem to work. The chemistry between the two is obvious, and yet this album doesn’t feel like there’s anything special to it. In many ways, it feels like I’m supposed to like it BECAUSE it’s Beyonce and Jay-Z, but that’s exactly why I often find myself disappointed.
When “SUMMER” begins, the listener is given a false sense of hope, as Beyonce’s vocals flutter in, making it seem as if the pair are actually playing to their strengths and are about to give us a great album. But then “APESHIT” comes on, and you begin to understand what this album truly is: tour songs. These songs are made specifically to give The Carters something exciting to collaboratively perform during their massive ongoing tour. This is why tracks like “APESHIT” seem more inline with what is currently popular within the genre, rather than what both artists do well. No one asked Beyoncé and Jay-Z to try and rap like Migos, and yet that’s what we have now, the trio themselves contributing ad libs. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with attempting this new style or creating songs that are simply fun to perform, but it just doesn’t feel like what they’re good at. It feels like I’m just supposed to like it because it’s them, but at the same time, it isn’t.
The album isn’t without some highlights, though everything feels like a step back from Lemonade and 4:44. “713” is another moment when the couple combine their individual strengths to create something fitting the intended aesthetic of the album, though the auto tune thrown on Beyoncé’s vocals seems to take more from her than it gives. This becomes a constant problem, as most of the songs here aren’t awful, but even the best tracks have at least one moment or aspect that holds them back. Be it the chorus on “FRIENDS,” Beyoncé’s rapping on “APESHIT,” or the use of auto tune on “BOSS,” the only song on here which seems to be consistent all the way through is “LOVEHAPPY.” However, I feel that what I love so much about this song is how different it is from the rest, and how much it strikes me as a more mature “03’ Bonnie & Clyde.”
This album is just kind of disappointing, but, then again, the listener should respect what this is supposed to be. It’s a decent crop of well produced songs that, sadly, aren’t meant to be as serious as the solo work of the individual artists. Admittedly, it would have been preferable to be given something more serious considering the evolving dynamic of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s relationships, but this expensive feeling album is alright. It’s more a representation of The Carters’ wealth than it is of their talent, and perhaps this is best for the their intended purpose.