Late last month, Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ was aired on HBO as a film and instantly became available to stream on Tidal. The conversation surrounding her eclectic sixth album focussed heavily on the lyrics, which suggested a rift had formed in Jay Z and Beyoncé‘s marriage. The story had Jay cheating on Bey with a girl referred to as ‘Becky with the good hair’, and Beyoncé’s arc went from fury to forgiveness, and ultimately transcendence, culminating in the over-it power pose of ‘Formation’.
That story has now become one of the album’s defining features, a talking point across the globe. So reports that Jay Z is in the studio making a response to ‘Lemonade’ have made some people a bit suspicious. “Jay is working on an album telling his side of things,” an anonymous source told US Weekly for their latest issue. Is he writing about ‘Becky with the good hair’, or is it all a stunt?
Since that news arrived, there have been more than a few comparisons – by the cynical among us – to Eamon and Frankee’s improbable break-up hits, ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)’ and ‘F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)’ – which both hit number one, in 2003 and 2004. It later emerged that Eamon’s team had been involved in auditioning girls for ‘F.U.R.B’ when Eamon’s song was being written, so that they could get licensing to use the song for the follow-up. Is something similar happening here?
Since the release of Jay Z’s last album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ – which hit Number One in the UK and US and went twice platinum in America – Jay Z has led a consortium of musician investors in investing $56m (£40m) in Tidal. So far this year, the streaming service has housed exclusive ‘windowed’ album releases by Kanye West, Rihanna and Beyoncé but still only boasts three million paying subscribers worldwide, compared to Spotify’s 30 million. In March this year, it was revealed that Jay Z’s lawyers had written to the two companies that sold it to them, Verdane and Schibsted, claiming that they ‘significantly’ exaggerated the number of users on the service. Norwegian media reported he was seeking $15m in compensation.
If another Tidal exclusive is what it takes to boost those numbers, then one with a story like ‘Becky with the good hair’ isn’t going to hurt.