Sunday night, Adele beat Beyoncé in the two headline categories for which both artists were nominated: Record of the Year (“Hello”) and Album of the Year (25). What an upset. Adele herself couldn’t believe it and dedicated much of her Album of the Year acceptance speech to telling her audience that the Recording Academy was bugging; that’s how stacked the odds were in Beyoncé’s favor. Alas. On the verge of midnight immediately following the Grammys, DJ Khaled released “Shining,” a Tidal exclusive, featuring the streaming-music service’s first family (of sorts), Beyoncé and Jay Z. It’s a song about winning — more specifically, about how Beyoncé can’t stop winning. All things considered, the song’s timing is unfortunate.
On musical merits, the song is simply bad. The beat is generic in that special, timeless way that “Shining” might’ve fit right in with urban-contemporary radio programming in 2011 — DJ Khaled’s musical heyday. DJ Khaled is on here cloth-talking all over a Beyoncé hook. Jay Z, in his best stilted rap-dad flow, is taking shots at the young buck Drake (“I know you ain’t out here talkin’ numbers, right? / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ summers, right?”), who sounds better alongside Beyoncé than her husband does, all while Beyoncé is doing Drake-style rap-sung karaoke riffs over the track.
No genre of Beyoncé record divides fans more than the Beyoncé–Jay Z romantic collaboration. “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” “Crazy in Love,” and “Part II (On the Run)” are the best of these songs. There’s “Drunk in Love,” a great Beyoncé song punctuated by 55 seconds of irreparably embarrassing Jay Z sex raps imbued with all the charm of Shaquille O’Neal rapping about Kobe Bryant. At the very bottom, there’s “Hollywood,” “Venus vs Mars,” and “Lift Off” — all songs that, as a matter of the lead artist’s credit, are technically Jay Z’s fault. In this case, Jay and Bey both wisely decided to hang “Shining” on DJ Khaled’s broad shoulders, allowing him the honor of adding a supposedly rare Bey-Jay duet to the top of his résumé while they themselves could shirk any long-term responsibility for the song.
It’s interesting that DJ Khaled would release “Shining” as a single from his own forthcoming album, Grateful — due out later this year — which comes just past Khaled’s prime as a social media celebrity and way past his prime as a producer. Meanwhile, rumor has it there’s a whole, mostly finished Beyoncé–Jay Z duets album, perpetually near completion, for a few years now. Ideally, commercial forces will conspire to keep these ominous recordings under lock and major key.