The release of Jay-Z's new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, was drowned out by all the talk about his deal with Samsung that forced fans to reconsider commercialism and made the record industry rewrite its rules. But after a not-so-smooth holiday release, it's time to talk about, you know, the actual music. The critics are chiming in after a full day's worth of listening around the planet, and while there are certainly raves, the response is often chilly, with some saying Magna Carta is no Yeezus and others simply concluding that the record doesn't quite come together.
Jon Pareles at The New York Times, for instance, writes that "though Timbaland's productions always hold some sly surprises, 'Magna Carta ... Holy Grail' comes across largely as a transitional album, as if Jay-Z has tired of pop but hasn't found a reliable alternative." But, of course, the business is also part of the review, as Pareles notes: "A million sales are in his pocket; he can keep searching." That not-quite-revolutionary tone returns in Jeff Rosenthal's assessment at Billboard. "As an event, it's good, it's great, it's disappointing and back again," he writes. "As an album, though, it tends to be safe." As part of Spin's "impulsive reviews," Rob Harvilla has a harsher take: "This is a reoccurring problem: Rich dad rap is still dad rap, and Jay-Z will never not sound like a bored first-class denizen on his fourth Bloody Mary ordering opulent, au courant, marvelously vapid beats out of a SkyMall catalog."