It was last Saturday, following a performance in London on their joint On The Run II tour when the words ‘Album Out Now’ flashed on a screen, prompting thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. It was the long-rumoured arrival of a Beyoncé and Jay-Z album.
The album provides the third act to the tale of the couple that has been played out in front of the world over the last of their respective albums. It began with Beyonce’s Lemonadealbum where the breakdown of the marriage was laid out, with lyrics of anger, pain and liberation. 4:44 followed, with Jay-Z apologising and atoning for his mistakes. Everything is Love, along with the On The Run II tour, is the beckoning of a new era, one of unity and strength.
So while this new era is one of collaboration, it is Beyoncé who takes centre stage in the album, unsurprisingly. It is the artistry of Beyoncé that is needed in the entertainment arena today. Not only is she unrivalled as a performer and vocalist, she unabashedly and unapologetically involves activism and politics in her music and embraces her stature as a black female role model, instead of running from it.
Speaking on the influence and importance of Beyoncé to black females is an area that I cannot examine or evaluate as I am not one. But at a time when politics is proving harder to run away from, an artist like Beyoncé must be recognised and applauded for including difficult areas in her art in such creative and artistic ways. She doesn’t just put on a performance at Coachella. She makes it meaningful and important and moving while also being wild and fun and energetic.
It may seem tedious to always be trying to link every moment to the current social and political climate. Perhaps, at times, it is a stretch and a long-winded attempt to make something seem more important or significant than it really is. However, this current time is seemingly crazier and more alarming than any normal state of affairs so completely evading social and political topics would, at least for me, lead to a decline in respect for any artist who attempts to do just that.
In her songs, videos and performances, Beyoncé informs her audience of the issues that plague her thoughts and that involve her community. In the music video for the single ‘APESHIT’, The Carters (as they are currently being known as) tackle the black experience within the world of high art thorough the means of a highly stylised shoot in The Louvre, which has subsequently prompted several articles providing a history of art analysis of the video. This is similar to the reaction following Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ video, which lead to a myriad of articles and discussions being had about its significance and symbolism.
Of course there is the strong argument to be made that we should just let entertainment be entertainment. But I am finding myself wanting more videos, more performances, more lyrics that prompt articles unpacking and discussing interpretations of its meaning. Whether deservedly or not, celebrities are afforded the platforms that politicians and activists would love to have, so would it not be irresponsible if they were not being used to the best of their advantage?
More artists should be like Beyoncé, taking their chosen art-form to examine their experience, the experience of others like them and the issues that are particularly troubling to them while prioritising artistry and creativity. So whether you have Tidal or Premium Spotify or just have to wait for the album to leak onto YouTube, Everything is Love is example of where the world of entertainment is heading and we should do the most to welcome that with open arms.