May 22, 2015


The Week in Tidal: Beyoncé & Nicki Win Everything, Jay Bodies Spotify


Welcome back to the Week in Tidal, a feature we're running as long as Jay Z's potentially exciting, intensely maligned streaming service keeps making #waves. Last time we looked at Prince's Tidal-affiliated Dance Rally 4 Peace in Baltimore, the constant stream of celebrity comments, and whether Ziggy Stardust sounded any better on the service that prides itself on its audio quality.

Three stars dominated Tidal and all Tidal-oriented commentary and bloggery this week: Nicki Minaj, her new best friendBeyoncé, and her new best friend’s husband, renowned Tidal-peddler Jay Z. The Jay stuff is great—his B-sides shows went down in New York City, and we’ll break that down, thoroughly, shortly. There’s just no way to bury the Tidal lede this week, which was, is, and always will be “FEELING MYSELF,” capitals added for non-negotiable emphasis.

The video, for one of the standout cuts on Nicki’s December LP The Pinkprint, debuted exclusively on Tidal and became readily available, internet-wide, through illicit channels…like the second people knew it had premiered. It’s getting kind of embarrassing for Tidal, not because they’re failing to protect their exclusive content—that's just not possible, and never has been—but because Tidal's been maligned as a wannabe luxury brand and there's a Robin Hood–ish vibe behind the nonsclusives going wide every time. But it is a bummer, because the Tidal that Tidal envisions for itself could be a cool place full of fan-club-style content for the fans that care enough to have ponied up a not-insane monthly fee to join the club. Maybe they’ll figure this out in time. Maybe not.

Before Cash Money started sending takedown requests, we spent an enchanting day watching and rewatching "FEELING MYSELF," where Bey and Onika eat burgers, shoot squirt guns and just have the best time ever. Fortunately we got a bunch of dazzling screenshots to keep in our special-things box:

So Jay Z’s B-sides show. The first one happened Friday at Terminal 5; the second, the night after. This was the event where you won a pair of tickets by making a dope enough playlist. At the 3,000-person venue, Jay confessed he’d been cooking up this idea for at least seven years.

And it showed. 100 percent. The two-act, two-hour performance burned through more than 40 smashes that were only smashes depending how far back you go with Mr. Carter. Heavily represented albums included his 1996 debut/instant classic, Reasonable Doubt, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, The Blueprint and 2007's American Gangster, Jay's second post-retirement album, the one that's commonly viewed as far superior to the low point that was Kingdom Come. I’m going to keep breaking down this show, but first, here’s the entire concert via YouTube, which is not Tidal, the Jay Z–affiliated streaming service which hoped to be the sole purveyor of the #JAYZxTIDAL concert experience…

If you’re short on time, jump to the 1:23:15 mark and just listen to the whole family shout “CAN I LIVE??!” on the Reasonable Doubt cut. That “rather die enormous than live dormant” line still goes unreasonably hard, two decades later. Other highlights include: Jay Electronica’s appearance for “Exhibit C” and the “We Made It” remix (Jay disses Drake hard, name-checks Lupita Nyong'o, etc.); the bruising hook from Future’s current smash “Fuck Up Some Commas” making its way into “Imaginary Players”; some “Blueprint (Momma Loves Me”) bars A CAPPELLA; Memphis Bleek and the whole Roc-a-Fella family showing up for like 10 solid minutes (they stuck around for “Clique,” which was interesting).

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation

After “Feeling Myself” and the B-sides show, the week’s biggest Tidal headline was a specific moment from Jay’s show: The freestyle he dropped shortly after the get-go, the one he intro’d with, "So I'm the bad guy now, I hear." It went on to slam YouTube ("them n----s pay you a tenth of what you supposed to get") and Google, talked about the murders of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray and Mike Brown, and questioned the racial element behind the Tidal smear campaigns bubbling all around the internest. A few days after the show, Tidal released (as another “exclusive) a behind-the-scenes video about the freestyle. It’s got Jay rehearsing the verse in full while we see scenes of the show being set up. Highly recommended, although, the constant problem, you have to have Tidal! Stream the live version below, and sample a few choice bars—the ones that build to a "why you bashing Tidal and loving on Spotify?" conclusion—here:

You know I came in this game independent right?
Tidal, my own label, same difference
Oh n----s is skeptical as their own shit
You bought 9 iPhones and Steve Jobs is rich
Phil Knight worth trillions, you still bought those kicks
Spotify is 9 billion they ain't say shit

The Week in Tidal Official Album Test, Vol. 3: 
Jay Z, Jay-Z: Unplugged (2001)

Hov’s self-proclaimed poetry reading—backed by the Roots and featuring Mary J. Blige—is perfect. It’s the type of album that should still, to this day, convince low-blow haters to fall back before pushing TWEET on their new weaksauce jab.

Whatever though. We've all (hopefully) done the 10,000 hours with this album. So it got the Tidal Test. And…it sounded great. But it’s always sounded great. I’m never going to be able to tell if an album sounds better on Tidal than it does on Spotify, I don’t think. I probably won’t bring the feature back last week. I’m pushing the eject button on this idea. We had fun!

Celebrity Weighs in on Tidal Pt. 611:

"A streaming service owned by artists is the first step, it’s not about the rich getting richer. it takes artists that can get peoples attention to be able to make a scenario possible for those artists that don't have a voice to get in a position where they aren’t struggling, and believe me third man records is full of artists the mainstream’s never heard of and have no voice or power in the system. have you heard of Rachelle Garnier? what about the Smoke Fairies? Drakar Sauna? Pujol? The Gories? Those are just some of the up and coming artists on third man that try to make a living in music. And if you stream their songs… they get paid for it. And they get to LIVE and not take second jobs….and make MORE music! I support keeping musicians you love in business. We want a full third man roster page on tidal that you can stream hundreds of records on, and each time that artist gets something. that’s a beautiful thing.And also… do we tell Steven Spielberg we don't need to pay him anymore to watch his movies? He’s made enough off of us right? He should show his new films for free right? haha"
Jack White

The White Stripes frontman took to his website for a long Q&A with fans, addressing all things Tidal. Above is a response to a fan who with "0 interest in making JayZ more money." The rest of the illuminating post deals with White's deep desire to help boost up-and-comers like "the punk band that has 50k hits on Youtube and doesn't see a dime" as well as how White's Third Man Records fits into Tidal. It's worth a read.

In news that's not about Tidal but directly affects Tidal: "the new Spotify" was unveiled this week, and it'll feature video content from partners like MTV, Disney, NBC and ESPN, plus podcasts and more. It's a crazily ambitious future for what's already a top-tier streaming app. No word on sound quality or bringing up new artists, though, which are Tidal's hopeful claims to fame.

Tidal sent out a couple special emails this week, first offering Made in America Festival tickets for free for the first Tidal kids to hit Ticketmaster with the #secretpassword, and then offering a two-for-one ticket deal. I tried both times and failed both times. Happy holidays to whoever won those motherfuckers. I wanna go to Made in America :(

Tidal also had an ad during the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, the show that embarrassingly censored the shit out of Kanye.