Apparently, there’s a lot more riding on the latest project by two of the biggest musical forces on the planet than initially meets the eye.
When Beyoncé and Jay-Z joined forces as the Carters – not in holy matrimony, but as collaborators on the surprise album of the year, Everything Is Love, released this past Saturday, June 16 – it immediately sent Twitter ablaze.
Their fans were instinctively supportive, even worship-ready, as they praised the album for being the royal couple’s victory lap – a nine-track partial celebration of their marriage’s endurance, after each had released solo albums in successive years detailing different perspectives on a marriage that had seen its share of trials and tribulations.
While critics were dissecting the new album’s nine tracks, analyzing each one for its musical and topical merits, those fans with Tidal accounts (the Jay-Z owned service where the album was available exclusively during its first two days of release) instantly streamed and downloaded the set. Most were unanimous in their positive assessments of the album, calling it bold and ambitious, if not singular in its focus about the couple’s saved marriage, their access to material wealth that their minions couldn’t even fathom and the notion that they and many Carter generations well into the 22nd Century are undoubtedly set for life.
Oh, and they also praised the album’s thinly veiled jab at some 21st Century institutions, too; like the Grammys – where Jay-Z was notoriously snubbed this year; and Spotify – whose streaming platform both artists now (attempt to, but can’t) avoid…more on that in a minute.
Indeed, the Carters are as adept at shooting arrows at entities they either don’t like or which have crossed them inappropriately as they are at surprising fans with unannounced album releases. Even former business partner and (Jay-Z) musical collaborator Kanye West, who coincidentally is in the middle of his own ambitious album release blitz campaign, is a target this time.
But there’s an aspect to this Beyoncé/Jay-Z collabo that many have yet to appreciate, and it is glaring in its significance – at least for those keeping track of the Carters’ legacies on the Billboard charts.
It involves two current hot chart streaks that both Jay-Z and Beyoncé are riding, both of which could end when Everything Is Love hits the charts in the next week or so.
It’s a prospect of which Jay-Z and Beyoncé are apparently well aware, as it caused music’s royal couple to abandon their initial plans of making the album available exclusively on their jointly owned streaming service, Tidal, and expand its availability to all the other major streaming and download services (Spotify among them) for wider audience consumption.
That decision was executed on Monday morning, two days after the album’s Tidal release and three days into Billboard’s weekly tracking cycle for determining the nation’s top-selling albums and tracks.
But those three days are not insignificant, and the delay may have placed in serious jeopardy Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s current hot streaks on the Billboard charts.
Here’s what’s on the line…
Beyoncé is enjoying a six-album streak that has seen every one of her solo studio albums début at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, something no other woman in history has done. Her active streak dates back to 2003’s Dangerously In Love and continues all the way through 2016’s Lemonade, the project that unwittingly began the Carters’ trilogy of albums inspired by their relationship’s turbulence.
Jay-Z’s streak is even more impressive. Every studio album (including collaborations) he’s released since 2002’s The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse has reached No. 1, including last year’s 4:44. That’s ten straight albums (out of fourteen total number ones) spanning nearly sixteen years. Jay-Z has four other number one albums that pre-date 2002, but that first streak was broken by his first collaboration with R. Kelly, which topped out at No. 2 in early 2002.
What Jay-Z and Beyoncé have accomplished is truly extraordinary and they need no further evidence than Billboard’s charts to prove their royal status in the music game. Only the Beatles have more No. 1 albums than Jay-Z. And no artist besides Beyoncé has a perfect batting average with at least six albums to his or her name.
In order for both their streaks to continue, though, Everything Is Love would have to reach No. 1, either by entering there on the next chart or by ascending to the top in a later week. Either scenario would almost be a given under normal circumstances, especially given both artists’ track records.
But neither is a guarantee this time. The album is competing with another release for the chart’s top spot, and ironically its NOT the Kanye West-produced Nas album which hit the streets last Friday (when The Carters’ should have), but an album by 5 Seconds of Summer, the Australian rock outfit whose latest release (also out last Friday) is set to début with about 120,000 in album units consumed based on the latest projections.
That’s about the same figure that Everything Is Love was initially projected to have, which is meager by Beyoncé and Jay-Z standards.
Some may ask, why does it matter that the album was only available via Tidal for its first few days? Don’t those numbers count, too?
Well, no, actually. At least not that we know of (unless something has changed in the past few days).
In addition to the fact that fewer people subscribe to Jay-Z’s Tidal than other services like Spotify or Apple Music, Tidal’s streaming figures – for whatever reason – are not reported to Nielsen Music, the firm whose sales data Billboard Magazine uses for its charts. That fact, along with recent accusations of shady bookkeeping in favor of some of Tidal’s artists – like Beyoncé, have cast aspersions on actual streaming numbers for this latest project.
So, for now, it is only Spotify and the other major services whose data will count towards The Carters’ chart figures this week, an interesting circumstance considering Beyoncé’s stated disdain for it (“patiently waiting for my demise ‘cause my success can’t be quantified; if I gave two fucks about streaming numbers, would’ve put Lemonade up on Spotify,” she sings on the new album’s “Nice”).
She and Jay-Z may not care about streaming numbers, but they must have been reminded that not only were they competing with rivals Nas and Kanye (and now the dark horse that is 5 Seconds Of Summer) for chart space this week, but they were also competing with history…their own.
It’s still possible – even likely – that Everything will be Love on the next Billboard chart with The Carters coming out on top and their streaks remaining intact. Beyoncé would then have a perfect seven straight No. 1 albums and Jay-Z would up his total to fifteen chart toppers and further distance himself from challengers like Drake, Eminem and Kanye, all of whom are tied at eight for now.
But it should’ve never been this close in the first place.
Note: News was circulating just before this article was published that original sales projections for Everything Is Love were being retracted. My guess is that the powers-that-be are figuring out a way to get the Tidal numbers included to secure a No. 1 début for the Carters.