Review: Everything Is Love by the Carters

Everything is Love by the CartersSurprise. Again. Hip-hop’s (and pop’s, and, really, music’s) power couple return to cap off what turns out to be a trilogy of surprising – both in release and in how it breaks down the barriers and brings them both down from their heights. Everything Is Love is a victory lap, of sorts, between Beyoncé and Jay-Z, a summation of the themes (and thoughts) explored on Lemonade and 4:44 respectively, and a reaffirming of the two’s love for each other amidst all of this, whatever this is. You have a good view of the dynamic – it’s Bey who really gets to show off here, and Jay-Z plays the awestruck guy, like he’s still in remorse – while acknowledging that, through it all, they’ve gone so far to reach the top. It’s an all right record – light, lean, hard but not too hard, even if you think otherwise of trap. I’m just not sure if we need it. Or maybe I can’t really appreciate the message. Everything Is Love‘s intensely personal predecessors had a reason for being, and provided never-revealed insights. This, on the other hand, can feel like a bit of gloating. They’ve shown vulnerabilities, but fuck that, we’re on top. We know we have problems, but fuck that. The surprise release says it all. But again, all right record. [NB]3/5

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Review: Lemonade by Beyoncé Knowles

Lemonade by Beyoncé KnowlesAnother surprise album drop from Beyoncé, although not as much of a surprise as the last time she did it. Of course, by now we all know what Lemonade is purportedly about – and the context of it being about Jay-Z supposed infidelities has turned the album into some sort of female empowerment symbol. Like Beyoncé often becomes now. Say what you want about it having something more to say than most pop records (and I’m not thinking of “Formation” being tacked on to the end) but Lemonade is an interesting record, if only for the creative decisions she made. Her last album, Beyoncé, played with the minimal R&B that was making a dent on the charts at the time. This album takes on a wider gamut of styles, but without sounding like everything’s thrown in at random. The story it tells is served well by the swerves, suggesting not a confusion over what is really happening, but the haze that happens when one tries to piece together a response. Fury? Forgiveness? It captures everything well. [NB]3/5

Review: Beyoncé by Beyoncé Knowles

Beyoncé by Beyoncé KnowlesThis year seems to be the year of surprise album releases. David Bowie did it, My Bloody Valentine did it, and now, Beyoncé Knowles did it. Her self-titled fifth album benefits from a lack of expectation: add to that her sort of royal status in the music world and you have an album that’s potentially amazing. Granted, Beyoncé is nothing more than your usual slinky alt-electro-R&B prevalent nowadays – a poppier, more lush version of what her sister’s doing at the moment – but, of course, Beyoncé elevates the material with her delivery, her voice, and, well, her being Beyoncé. The album starts off interestingly, reaching an early climax on the fourth track “Blow”, a jittery, curiously brassy romp. A few more anthems swing the extremes of female empowerment – “Flawless” is overtly political; “Rocket” is essentially about her boobs – and you have a record that might be legendary. It’s really just her fifth album, nothing more.  [NB] | 3/5