Jon Pareles, New York Times:
It’s telling that Jay-Z — who boasts regularly about his millions of sales — and Samsung didn’t simply trust fans to post or tweet on their own. Sure, Jay-Z probably isn’t the only one offering apps that treat personal relationships as mandatory marketing tools. But with more than half a million downloads, that’s a lot of artificial status updates.
Since the record is being given to Samsung smartphone owners for free,1 I’d suspect that many people wouldn’t see it as morally wrong to simply stream the songs on YouTube or wherever. I’d wager that’s what people would do anyway.
The album itself is frustrating, if you’re interested. The production on some tracks (“Tom Ford”, “BBC”, and “Holy Grail”) is absolutely stunning, but it’s often a lyrically weak album. There are far too many retreads of the same concepts of previous records — “Part II (On the Run)” is like a weaker version of The Blueprint’s “Ain’t No Love”; similarly, “Picasso Baby” offers the same ambitious plot as The Black Album’s “Public Service Announcement” without the magnificent arrangement.
When Magna Carta is good, it’s really good — “Oceans” is a masterful achievement. It simply lacks the conviction of previous Jay-Z records. He’s powerful, and he knows he can phone one in.
In shitty 160 kbps MP3s, I’ll have you know. ↩︎