Many of you have more than likely heard JAY Z's new album, 4:44, with brand new TIDAL subscriptions in tow. With that being said, a good portion of you reading this have already seen the short visual created for the album's title track, and are in the vast majority who are completely confused. I, myself have waited a couple of days to see if anyone was going to take a wack at deciphering the 8 and a half minute video, and still nothing other than a few articles glossing over it to report new content or simply not understanding it. Nonetheless, I haven't really seen anyone take the time to break it down and give answers to the confusion, hence why I have and I'm truly impressed by the work after doing so.
In order to cover the video coherently instead of simply rambling of the symbolism throughout, I'll break down the description of the short into four parts: Part 1-The Backdrop, Part 2-The Crash, Part 3-Realization, and Part 4-Blue. This seems to make the most sense, considering the video itself seems to have shots serving as interludes themselves. I warned you, this breakdown is definitely for the overly analytical…
Part 1 – The Backdrop
Let's start with the beginning of the short as a young black boy beautifully sings Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", the ultimate anthem of rebirth and overcoming. In this case, it feels as if JAY is declaring that he's changed or in the process of changing. With "4:44" speaking exclusively about the wrongs he's done to Beyonce throughout the many years of their relationship, growth seems to be a reoccurring theme in the video. This clip is then followed by another, with the well-known interview by Eartha Kitt as she speaks on her viewpoints about falling in love. What seems to be at complete juxtaposition, follows 2 clips of domestic fights happening in front of liquor stores. These might actually reference JAY Z and Beyonce's hit, "Drunk In Love", and even more literally to their relationship. The song is played later in the short as they're performing it at the On the Run tour, making you wonder if being "drunk in love" isn't simply filled with drunk sex as the hit suggests, but drunk fights as well.
All of this sets up the backdrop of the film and what it claims to be about: JAY Z's change, love and relationships, and how that relationship went completely south. This theory is solidified after a quick clip from Beyonce's short film, "Lemonade", where she's submerged in water before her song "Hold Up". It's then followed by seemingly violent clips of a woman beating on a man and a boy who repeatedly asks his friend if he might have, "spit in his cup", which seems like it almost ends in an altercation. These shots, although seem out of place, are in answer to the "Lemonade" shot, speaking on the fights and trust issues within the couple. Multiple clips of men and women walking and searching in the dark interlude this first part into a shot actually filmed by JAY's team. A shot of two dancers served to symbolize JAY Z and Beyonce.
Part 2 – The Crash
Two dancers fill the next couple of shots, and although they don't look at all like Bey or JAY, their mannerisms seem to give away the representations. You can't help but picture JAY Z as the male dancer throws up the Dynasty sign, while wearing a New York Yankees fitted and pays special attention to his chain. The woman symbolizes Beyonce, but is at odds emotionally with the other dancer. She always seems contemplative and worried. It's most important to pay attention to the song lyrics during these portions though, as they give insight as to why the next montages are played. In this particular one, the shot has two moments that make sense of the "worldstar compilations" that follow. At one point when JAY Z says, "I fall short", a blue filter fills the screen for only a moment, perhaps referencing falling short when it comes to Blue as he mentions later in the song. Right before the montage is the line, "Thinkin' of all the time, you wasted it on all this basic shit. So I apologize.", which is directed to Beyonce and all she's dealt with regarding their relationship. All of this could be the reasoning behind the Worldstar videos that follow, with the symbolism to the fact that Worldstar is know for making "basic shit" go viral. Regardless, each clip holds meaning.
The first clip featured of the viral sensation "I'm legally blind", has more context when you hear what she's actually saying. "I'm an innocent bystander. They say I drove the getaway car. But I cannot see, I'm legally blind." This could be another reference to Beyonce, regarding their relationship and his infidelity (being blind to it) or being a bystander when her sister, Solange, came at JAY in the infamous elevator video. The second clip features a newscast of people, who with cameras and binoculars have come out to see something up in a tree, which according to one witness is "a leprechaun". This may represent the overseers and paparazzi that constantly revolve around their relationship. They not only look, but also make fun and comment. The third clip is of a Crip walking Santa, which points to a later line that speaks on Blue growing up and finding out Santa Claus isn't real. This is a metaphor of JAY's fear of Blue growing up and finding out all of her dad's secrets because of the Internet. This fear is furthered by clips of police brutality and men going to prison, more truths Blue and her siblings will one day face. Finally, the montage is ended with a huge car crash, a symbol of their worlds crashing.
Part 3 – Realization
The next portion of the video falls into another dance interlude, with a verse speaking on JAY's emotional unavailability. The next two scenes seem to be in response to this verse. The first being a clip from one of Basquiat's interviews where he answers a question unemotionally and blank with, "I'm sure it's fun in some ways. Yeah." This could be his response to being in a committed relationship and his past unemotional attachment to the idea. An interview with a robot who seems to be having an existential crisis follows. Is JAY this robot? Is he, after all this time, realizing his mortality?
After this thought is a shot of Beyonce and himself at the On the Run Tour performing, as Al Green's "Judy" plays. Everything seems slower and quieter, how'd you expect a shot to be when looking at the one you love. It's then interrupted by a huge crowd singing the verse to "Drunk In Love". Quite literally this represents how their love is interrupted by the rest of world, who feels as if they're a part of the relationship. This is even proven true recently as the "Bee-Hive" have been tweeting at JAY Z their anger in not receiving the video they were expecting regarding his apology to Beyonce in "4:44". Unfortunately, their anger is misdirected. As this is exactly the video that not only has an apology, but analyzes his wrongs. He's not simply apologizing for that one Becky, he's apologizing for not ever being the man Bey should've had, and analyzing where he went wrong in those situations.
Part 4 – Blue
The end of the video fades out into Blue, both literally in color and also into clips of Blue Ivy as a baby. The chorus' line, "I'm never gonna treat you like I should", isn't only towards Bey, but Blue and her siblings as well. These scenes represent Blue being the end all be all to JAY wanting to change and fix the issues that he's caused, hence these clips being the last of the short film.
"4:44" the short film, may not have at all been what we were thinking would be the music video for the album's title track, but 4:44 the album is also not the album we were expecting from JAY Z period. The short is personal, symbolic, ignorant, raw, and beautiful, all in one. This is what makes it so perfect, you have to actually analyze and process the information, just as JAY is himself. He meant for it to go over everyone's heads, to see who was actually paying attention and who was just a bystander, "legally blind" to the real meaning. We can only wonder what will be his next visual for the album.
Until then, you can watch the short film above, but can only access it through logging in on TIDAL.