Do you remember the first time you saw Beyonce and Jay-Z in the same frame together? I do. It was a magazine spread way back in the early 00s, wedged in between other potential celebrity couples as an innocuous piece of gossip that nobody thought would go anywhere. It seemed too good to be true anyway; a rapper at the top of his game, an R&B songstress still shaking off the shackles of her girl group and trying to make it as a bona fide, solo pop star. But somehow, presided over by godfather Kanye West, who produced their first track together (’03 Bonnie & Clyde’) and has recently brought them back together for Watch The Throne‘s choice cut, ‘Lift Off’, the most unlikely celebrity couple in music has prospered. After an eight year relationship – at least on the books- and three years of marriage, they’ve now spawned what will be arguably the most talented child in America. Sure, they managed to keep up with expectations by giving it a ridiculous name, but there’s is a fairytale that I can actually relate to. Two people in love, stay in love, have child. Ain’t that crazy?
My favourite ‘Jayonce’ element isn’t the fact that they’re both superstars or that they’re both rich but the rather novel idea that they feed off each other creatively. Throughout their courtship, Jigga Man and Bey have been all over each others’ records to considerable effect. And while they were setting the harmonic flames simmering with their first collab, it was on Beyonce’s second, ‘Crazy In Love’, that they knocked it out of the park. This was the moment for me when I knew that there was a partnership here that would outlast the hype. In fact, it was probably the first time I’d seen Jay-Z take second fiddle to another artist. Previously, he’d allowed females to sing his hooks but he’d been all over every single verse, asserting his dominance and swagger in equal amounts. But with ‘Crazy In Love’, he joined a rising bunch of hip-hop purveyours who waited for their minute-and-a-half to shine and cleared the floor to make room for top-end talent. It is perhaps in realising that he had met his match in Beyonce that Shawn Carter became as much a musician as a rap legend. Certainly his material since has focused heavily on extending that hook beyond the chorus, even going for a sing or two when he feels like it, an idea taken to the nth degree by his protege Mr West.
Blaring a horn sample from the soul ’70s that ruined many a radio speaker in the Summer/Winter/whatever of 2003, ‘Crazy In Love’ announces itself with similar gravitas as Amerie’s terrifically funky ’1 Thing’. Inescapable as the heat of the season, it was the first of many Beyonce songs that would redefine what pop could do, something she’s managed to do consistently up until today with considerable ease, patently because she is not actually human. The video clip for this song is actually seared into a deep part of my brain; all the sensuality and that dancing and Jay peering out cautiously from under that army cap. But it’s when he enters the scene properly just after 2’16″ and Beyonce shares the frame with him you can see how well their chemistry is working, and foolish we all were to ever think that any of these songs were about anyone else other than them. Rap stars are very good at having beautiful women prostrate themselves before them, but Jay-Z (after setting a Cadillac on fire, of course) is actually dancing with B, both physically and lyrically. We know that he’s the one she’s kicking the fire hydrant over for. We know that he’s playing it down because it’s part of the narrative, but he’s totally falling for her. The electricity of this song, particularly that coming from Beyonce, is indebted to the undeniable fact that she’s actually sure she’s met the man she’s going to marry. Sure, she probably didn’t predict she’d be calling her first baby after a colour or renting out a hospital wing for $1.4 million, but that’s not the point.
The point is we should all be so lucky as to be this crazy in love.
Beyonce ft. Jay-Z – ‘Crazy In Love’