Over the weekend, the Carters — Jay Z and Beyoncé — released EVERYTHING IS LOVE, a joint album. It debuted with no warning, as is their custom, exclusively on Tidal, the artist-owned streaming service launched by Jay that has in recent months been accused of inflating its number of streams and subscribers. On “NICE,” a track featuring the rap auteur Pharrell Williams, Beyoncé takes a shot at Spotify: “Patiently waiting for my demise / ‘Cause my success can’t be quantified / If I gave two fucks, two fucks about streaming numbers / Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify,” she raps. Apparently Beyoncé gives more than two fucks about her streaming numbers: after just two days as a Tidal exclusive, EVERYTHING IS LOVE arrived on Spotify Premium and Apple Music today.
While the quick turnover isn’t unprecedented, it is fairly unusual. Up to this point, Bey and Jay have been religious about locking their newest releases into Tidal, the streaming ecosystem they and 13 other artists own. (Kanye West departed Tidal last year amid an argument about money, claiming the company owed him $3 million.) A two-day exclusive doesn’t do much for the company’s bottom line; Sprint’s $200 million, 33 percent stake in the company which brought its valuation to a cool $600 million was undoubtedly far more profitable. Still, it’s not a great sign that two of the biggest artists in the world don’t appear to have much faith that their joint record and their own streaming company are enough to reach a large audience. (Lemonade, it should be noted, remains exclusive to Tidal.)
According to Jay Z, who has a vested interest in his company’s numbers, Tidal has approximately 3 million subscribers. Given the company previously claimed to have streamed The Life Of Pablo 250 million times in the first 10 days after its release — meaning that each subscriber would have to have listened to the album eight times in full per day — it doesn’t seem like their subscriber count is particularly relevant. (The fans making countless versions of the same joke over the weekend about signing up for another free trial with dummy emails, however, might help explain those inflated numbers.)
Conceptually, EVERYTHING IS LOVE is an object lesson in returning to a wellspring; Jay’s cheating brought us the masterpiece that was Beyoncé’s Lemonade (and “Becky with the good hair”), an iconic elevator fight, and his album 4:44. By now, it’s come to define the tone and tenor of the Carters’ public personas — and their music. This latest album is, basically, fine: It does what we need it to, which is to say that it’s dripping with wealth and lush production and is positively obsessed with proclaiming that Jay Z and Beyoncé are just great, thanks for asking. While Jay sounds older than ever, Beyoncé shines — the main takeaway from the album is that Bey can really rap. (The video for “APES**T,” below, is also amazing.)
Nevertheless, the best ways to show that your relationship is healthy don’t involve yelling at the world that you’re both doing well; it’s almost the same as taking shots at Spotify and then releasing an album on Spotify. It’s okay to care.