Talk of a combined musical effort began during the twosome’s On the Run stadium tour in summer 2014. According to a source, Jay Z and Beyonce had “nearly finished” a record together but never quite did.
“The label wouldn’t agree to the joint album,” says an insider of Beyonce’s longtime home at Columbia Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music. But a Sony source counters that claim, insisting that the company is “open to” partnering with the husband-and-wife team for such a project. (Billboard has reached out to reps for Beyonce; a rep for Jay Z declined to comment.)
Plans for Lemonade, meanwhile, Beyonce’s sixth solo album, released on April 23 in tandem with an HBO special and as a streaming exclusive on Jay Z’s subscription music service Tidal, proceeded with Columbia. The set debut atop the Billboard 200 albums chart (dated May 14) with 653,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 28, according to Nielsen Music, and 485,000 in pure album sales. In addition, all 12 of Lemonade‘s tracks charted on the Billboard Hot 100, making history by surpassing Taylor Swift‘s previous record of 11.
On Wednesday, it was reported that Jay Z is working on his own response to Lemonade, which, in its lyrics, references infidelity and a troubled marriage in no uncertain terms. According to Us Weekly, the album would be “telling his side of things.” No word on who he’s been working with just yet, but longtime collaborator Just Blaze — who worked on nearly every album to come from Jay’s Roc-A-Fella Records from 2000 onward, and recently co-produced Beyonce’s “Freedom” — hinted at more work with Jay moving forward. “Nothing I can speak about right now,” he told Billboard last week, though he noted to Spin he has “at least two albums’ worth of Jay Z material” sitting in his vault. “But stay tuned.”
Jay Z’s last album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail, came out July 4, 2013, with a Samsung partnership that delivered the album free to the first one million people who downloaded its app. Those million albums didn’t count towards its first-week chart numbers, but MC… HG still debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 528,000 copies in its first week. That extended his record for the most No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 for a solo artist to 13.
The rapper is also no stranger to collaborative albums. He’s released two with R. Kelly(2002’s The Best of Both Worlds and 2004’s Unfinished Business), one with Linkin Park(2004’s Collision Course) and Watch The Throne with Kanye West in 2011; all hit No. 1 save Both Worlds, which peaked at No. 2. Watch The Throne, his most recent collaborative effort, debuted at No. 1 with 436,000 sold in its first week out.
Musical couples have long been a staple of country, pop and disco (think: ABBA, members of Fleetwood Mac, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood) — and still are. Look no further than the still-blooming relationship of Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, which will be on full display when they perform a new duet, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” on The Voice on May 9. If Jay and Beyonce were to join the fray, one insider suggests it would be yet another way for the two to control the narrative — as always, on their own terms.