Over the past couple of years, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have offered candid insights into their marriage through their music, first with the former’s Lemonade and then the latter’s 4:44. Both albums were invitations to witness the strife and elation of a relationship laid bare. With Everything Is Love, their first collaborative album, the couple offers another invitation, this time allowing listeners to behold two artists flourishing in tandem.
Throughout the album, Beyoncé joins her husband in rapping; at times, Jay-Z even seems like her hype man, crowing endless praise for his wife’s verses. If they seem gassed up, there’s a very good reason. “My great-great-grandchildren already rich/That’s a lot of brown children on your Forbes list,” Beyoncé coolly boasts on “Boss.” The statement is jubilant and potent: In a country that’s plagued by a racial wealth gap, the Carters are beyond secure, having laid the groundwork for a legacy of prosperity.
Evidence of the couple’s status litters “Heard About Us,” from mentions of winter vacations in the Caribbean to their penchant for luxury watches. On “713,” we hear about the Carters’ 24-carat faucets and taste for designer luggage (Louis Vuitton and Goyard, to be precise), but in spite of all that braggadocio, they still make room to pay respect to their comparatively humble origins. Beyoncé salutes her hometown Houston, Texas—“I put it down for the 713, and we still got love for the streets”—and Jay-Z closes the track with praise for the black women who have shown him love.
In the music video for lead single “Apeshit,” the Carters usurp traditionally white-dominated spaces of wealth and status, transforming them into backdrops for their own art. At one point, the couple is seen presiding over the Louvre while dancers, clad in earth-toned leotards, dot the museum’s vaulted halls and majestic stairways. Close-up shots of Veronese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana highlight the painting’s handful of black subjects, all of whom are in servile positions—a striking contrast to the vitality and artistry of the video’s black subjects. The clip’s sumptuousness and the victorious air of the trap beats render the Carters’ influence and clout palpable.
True to the album’s title, though, the most affecting songs here center on love. The arresting “Summer” sees an amorous tête-à-tête between the Carters play out across a beachy summer night. The song’s hypnotic ebb and flow of guitar and piano is a confirmation that the couple is in perfect unison—at least musically. “Summer” is ripe with anticipation, dreamy and exhilarating like summer love, each chorus soaring in exultation: “I wanna drown in the depths of you,” Beyoncé croons as horns reach toward euphoric heights. Jay-Z follows suit with lyrics that are just as adoring, delivering a verse about peach-colored skies and escaping to the hills of Bel-Air with his wife.
The buoyant album closer “Lovehappy” aims to salve the wounds from the betrayal exposed by Lemonade: “Boy, you did some things to me/But love is deeper than your pain and I believe you can change,” Beyoncé belts, her voice gliding over a brassy sample of the 1970s soul song “You Make My Life a Sunny Day.” In the first verse, Bey frankly calls out Jay’s infidelity. “We keepin’ it real with these people, right?” she says, and he quickly concedes. At times an opulent spectacle and at others a full-bodied avowal of devotion, Everything Is Love stands as a monumental testament to keeping it real.