The Carters: Everything Is Love review Beyonc and Jay-Z celebrate their marriage and magnificence

The duos surprise release, rooted far more in hip-hop than R&B, embraces their romantic bliss and phenomenal wealth as well as highlighting racism in the US

It may seem an odd thing to say about a record thats a guaranteed smash hit, but theres a sense in which Everything Is Love represents a rather dicey undertaking, and not merely because it features Beyonc rapping more heavily than it features Beyonc singing. Its clearly intended as the third part of a trilogy. After Lemonade, her album packed with hell-hath-no-fury revelations of infidelity and emotional ruin, and 4:44, his album of agonised mea-culpa guilt, comes the joint album affirming Beyonc and Jay-Zs renewed romantic bliss. We broke up and got back together, raps the latter on the closing Lovehappy. Now were happy in love, adds his wife.

Its very existence runs the risk of making the two releases that preceded it seem less like urgent, brave exorcisms of pent-up emotions the duos equivalent of Blood on the Tracks or Here, My Dear, albums their authors felt they had to make almost like a therapy session as Jay-Z put it last year than stages in a carefully premeditated plan to wring as much capital out of the couples nuptial discord as possible. It doesnt take away from the musical contents of those preceding records, both artistic highlights in their respective makers oeuvres. But it does make them look a little more obviously calculated, very clearly underlining that the whole business is as much an exercise in brand management as soul-baring artistry.

Imperial … the duo at Hampden Park, Glasgow, 9 June. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images/Parkwood Entertainment

But, even if you tend to a cynical view, its hard not to boggle at the imposing and authoritative way its all been executed: from the sudden arrival of Lemonade, with its deft interweaving of relationship despair and black womanhood, to the joint tour currently packing stadiums around the world. And besides, as Everything Is Love keeps emphasising, Jay-Z and Beyonc dont care what you think. Presumably realising that an album full of them making gooey eyes at each other might be a little sickly, the topic of their patched-up relationship is more or less confined to its opening and closing tracks, where, it has to be said, its dealt with skilfully.

Fuelled by the musicians from New Yorks Daptone label doing their best impersonation of a late-60s soul band, Summertime undercuts its amorous tone Lets make plans to be in each others arms with a rap from Jay-Z in which his romantic reverie is haunted by grim memories of summer nights filled with violence in the Marcy Projects. Meanwhile, on Lovehappy, the pair trade lines in a way thats charming and witty rather than cloying, particularly when the old bete noire of Becky With the Good Hair makes another appearance. Youre lucky I aint kill you when I met that B , raps Beyonc, but the name is cut off by her husband wearily interjecting: All right, all right.

Elsewhere, there are occasional jabs at the racism of the American police and legal system, not least on Black Effect, with its references to Trayvon Martin and the 60s civil rights movement. But, for the most part, Everything Is Love concentrates on hymning the imperial nature of the Carters success, how untouchably prosperous and magnificent they are. An entire song is devoted to emphasising that even their friends are better than your friends. If listening to Jay-Z and Beyonc bragging about their wealth and all-round wonderfulness is substantially less interesting than listening to them pick over the flaws in their relationship, at least its usually done with real wit and spark. And Beyonc turns out to be pretty great at rapping. My great-great-grandchildren already rich, she snaps on Boss. Thats a lot of brown children on your Forbes list.

The Carters: Apeshit video

Similarly, if theres nothing on Everything Is Love that matches the breathtaking sonic experimentation of Lemonades Freedom plus the sound of Beyonc singing through Auto-Tune feels surplus to requirements, serving to diminish one of modern R&Bs true powerhouse voices theres still a lot to like about the music, which is far more rooted in hip-hop than R&B. If you ever longed to hear what Beyonc might sound like making a trap track, then both Apeshit and Friends should satiate your curiosity. Elsewhere, Nice sets a dense, jazzy sequence of piano chords against a sparse beat to hypnotic effect; Boss boasts swirling vocal samples and a spectacular 70s soul horn arrangement; and Heard About Us transforms Biggie Smalls 1994 single Juicy into something approaching glossy yacht rock.

We already know you know about us, sings Beyonc self-assuredly on the latter, which pretty much sums up both Everything Is Love and indeed the pairs recent output. Calculating it may be, but its hard to think of anyone whos turned prurient public interest in their personal lives to their advantage quite as adeptly as the Carters have.

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Marissa SafontThe Carters: Everything Is Love review Beyonc and Jay-Z celebrate their marriage and magnificence

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