Review: 4:44 by Jay-Z

4:44 by Jay-ZOf course there will be a lot of press around Jay-Z’s new album, 4:44, partly because of its scarcity (it is a Tidal exclusive, for now) and partly because of what came before. The past weekend has been filled with websites breaking down every track, scouring it for meaning. Did Jay-Z’s mother come out as lesbian on “Smile”? What does “Family Feud” have to say about the things his wife Beyoncé’s statements on Lemonade? Does he address those infidelity allegations? I couldn’t get to the album soon enough, so it felt like the non-stop coverage did the job for me – there’s my album review, no need to listen. The hype, while understandable, does not give 4:44 any favors. As much as we want to follow this sort of soap opera, expressed in albums, from one of music’s most powerful couples, it isn’t really the point of the record. 4:44‘s strength lies in its thoughtfulness and contemplation: Shawn Carter assessing his place in the world, talking about his past and present, and perhaps his future, as in the title track, the closest you’ll perhaps get to an acknowledgment of all those rumors, an apology (and nothing more) (perhaps) whose strength arguably lies in its plainness. And then we come in, the mere masses who listen to 4:44 (or read the press, if we cannot be arsed to get Tidal) and assess our place in his world. I think all that hype distracts from the album’s strengths, but then, this is the world we live in now. [NB]4/5

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