If you didn’t catch Ticketmaster’s accidental slip last week, then, well, surprise: Bey and J will begin a tour, together, at the height of summer.
Last time the pair were at AT&T Stadium, they prefaced the show with a small message, swallowed by the giant canvas of Jumbotron: This is not real life. That was 2014. Writer Vanessa Quilantan hailed the pair as a beacon of lasting love in a review of the performance. “The concepts of true love, monogamy, and romance are not an easy sell to this demographic,” she wrote. “But somehow, over a span of twelve years together, Jay-Z and Beyoncé have more than managed.”
They did, until they almost didn’t. For many of those fans Quilantan was channeling as she watched the show, the record-scratch of infidelity and divorce rumors was a disappointment on another level. They watched closely, enrapt, some enraged, as Beyoncé’s 2016 opus Lemonade implicated Jay-Z. The film was gorgeous, but it was so tied up in a real-life narrative of celebrity romance. It became impossible to truly see or evaluate the work on its merits of texture and tension. Which brings up a troubling possibility: since the pair first united, is it possible their music hasn’t been heard without fans picking through clues that their love might survive the constructs of monogamy? Their love, meaning Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s, sure. But also, the dreams of the fans themselves. For a generation of young, monogamous straight people, especially, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s belief in marriage-til-death and kids as the center of life affirmed their own choices.
So now, with this tour, Bey and J have a chance to appear in person without the frame they once had. Not that they got divorced (they didn’t.) And not that they powered through tough times and kept their rings on. Fans at the Dallas show in 2014 saw the couple’s home movies on that same Jumbotron. But, as Quilantan noted, they also heard Beyoncé interpret Lauryn Hill’s mournful “Ex-Factor” along with then-backup singers The Mamas. Imagine if Hill took on the effusive, deep groove of Beyoncé’s “Love On Top,” for example. The song can stand alone. And so can so much of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint. Whether the two can finally stand alone as artists, together on tour, is yet to be seen.