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With no fanfare, Beyoncé and Jay-Z stun fans with a surprise album
BEYONCÉ is back with another world-stopping surprise album - and this time she brought her husband, Jay-Z, along for the ride.
With no advance warning or promotion beyond their ability to grab international headlines with every move, popular culture's first couple - billed here as The Carters - released its long-rumoured and teased collaborative album last Saturday following a concert in London.
In what has become something of a familiar ritual, the sudden release immediately sent fans and the industry into a tizzy.
Everything Is Love, the nine-track joint release, appeared initially only on the streaming service Tidal - owned in part by Jay-Z and Beyoncé - on Saturday evening, about 24 hours after most of this week's new music, once again separating two of pop's power players from the pack.
Beyoncé first posted news of the new music to Instagram and Twitter. As the couple's show at London Stadium concluded Saturday night, a large sign announced: "ALBUM OUT NOW".
The album also came with a video (the song title is unprintable), directed by Ricky Saiz, shot on location at the Louvre in Paris last month, representatives for the couple said.
Beyoncé pioneered this brand of musical ambush on the widest of scales with her 2013 self-titled album, which included videos for each track.
The singer upped the ante in April 2016 with the semi-surprise release of Lemonade, debuting the music via a big-budget, hourlong film that premiered on HBO.
That album, a staggering if carefully orchestrated confession about marital discord and black womanhood, also introduced a new chapter for Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who have increasingly mined public perception (and rumours) about their life together in art and performance.
After Beyoncé revealed tales of cheating and near-ruin on Lemonade, Jay-Z followed last year with 4:44, a self-lacerating mea culpa, earning eight Grammy nominations including for album of the year.
He lost to Bruno Mars' 24K Magic, while Lemonade was defeated by Adele's 25 the year prior; Everything Is Love will be eligible for Grammy Awards at the 2019 show.
Everything Is Love, in many ways, completes the Knowles-Carter conceptual trilogy in an expert, tactical showing of family brand management.
"Let's make love in the summertime. I want to drown in the depths of you," Beyoncé sings on the first track, Summer, introducing the album's overriding message of romantic bliss.
The second track features her singing a triumphant refrain: "I can't believe we made it." Always proponents of maximising business synergy, the parents of three (including twins born in 2017) are on a joint stadium tour, On the Run II, a sequel to their first large-scale concert pairing in 2014.
Last Friday, the couple performed in London, with shows in the US beginning in July and lasting into October. The international tour came on the heels of Beyoncé's headlining performances at Coachella in April, a grand stage show that was critically lauded and featured a cameo from Jay-Z.
Everything Is Love was also immediately notable for its method of delivery.
Like the Lemonade album, released through Beyoncé's company Parkwood and Columbia Records, the new release was at least at first available to stream only on Tidal, the company Jay-Z acquired in 2015.
Meanwhile, Jay-Z's 4:44 was immediately available on Apple, Amazon and Google's streaming services.
As of early 2017, Spotify, the service with the largest user base worldwide, has none of Jay-Z's major albums, and though it hosts most of Beyoncé's discography pre-Lemonade, appeared to be left out of the Everything Is Love moment as well.
Tales of a collaborative album have followed the couple for years, but only recently did the notoriously tight-lipped performers acknowledge the possibility.
Long guests on one another's songs - from the hits Crazy in Love, Déjà Vu and Drunk in Love to the recent DJ Khaled-helmed blips Shining and Top Off - Jay-Z and Beyoncé began working alongside one another amid strife in their marriage.
"We were using our art almost like a therapy session," Jay-Z told The New York Times' executive editor Dean Baquet in 2017. "And we started making music together."
The rapper said that because Lemonade was further along than his own songs, "her album came out as opposed to the joint album that we were working on," but added, "we still have a lot of that music" .
No I.D., the producer behind the entirety of 4:44, said that Beyoncé was involved in the making of that project as well (and her vocals featured on the track Family Feud).
"I always call Bey our de facto A&R," No I.D. said in 2017. "Pillow talk is the strongest conversation on the planet. Every song has to get past her ears, in my eyes."
Jay-Z said that the process of working through emotions together through song could be "very, very uncomfortable", but that he was "really proud of the music she made, and she was really proud of the art I released".
"We were sitting in the eye of that hurricane," he said. "The best place is right in the middle of the pain." NYTimes