Jay-Z is a perfectionist. If you've heard 4:44, you know this to be true. Every lyric, every vocal, every snare and every freaking breath is precise. According to Jay, his perfectionism is the cause of his decision to cancel multiple shows during his current 4:44 tour.
This is not uncommon. Drake has cancelled shows due to “technical problems” too. Even Queen Beyoncé has done it. Katy Perry postponed her whole tour earlier this year because of “production delays.” These artists are putting on stadium shows in different cities and different venues every night. They have a standard they want to uphold. It makes sense. But what all of these artists have in common is that each time they tried to blame technical difficulties on their cancelled or delayed shows, people weren’t buying it. For Drake, fans cried unprofessionalism and guessed that he was just hungover. For Queen Bey, it was when the Holy Twins pregnancy rumours began. For Katy, the theory was that she was trying to save face after low ticket sales. This is probably the only time I will ever put Katy Perry and Jay-Z in the same sentence but the backlash to their cancelled shows has been similar. In Katy’s case, however,
the “production delays” probably were a smokescreen to cover the fact that nobody wanted to watch her dab awkwardly along to Swish Swish live.
Despite rumours that Jay’s 4:44 tour is struggling and that’s the reason he cancelled shows in Fresno and Nebraska, Billboard reported earlier this month that this tour is already Jay’s highest grossing solo tour ever. Basically, the strategy was to make the good seats crazy expensive and so even if the upper bowl tickets didn’t sell out, he’d still walk away with a W. It sounds like an effective business strategy but it’s one that cost me – a Jay-Z superfan— to miss his Toronto shows. When I wrote about Janet, I mentioned that I’m an irresponsible adult who could barely pull it together financially to get to that show. Well, it’s the holidays and my choices were either to give my friends and family Kathleen hand-me-downs for Christmas and go see Jay in concert or to stay at home with the worst FOMO but be able to show my face on Christmas morning. I chose the former. I regretted it instantly. According to my friends who went to the show, it was a spectacular display of Jay’s artistry with production quality that may or may not have been influenced by Jay-Z’s better half. Based on every YouTube video I can find of the shows, the stage and screen setup does look elaborate enough that I believe Fresno and Nebraska couldn’t keep up. If Jay’s team walked into those venues and demanded the quality worthy of the King of Hip-hop, I’m not mad at that. I would expect nothing less. If you dropped hundreds of dollars on a Jay-Z concert, wouldn’t you want his best? The problem here is that his team should probably should have scoped out the venues far enough in advance of the shows so they wouldn’t be in this position at all.
Since the lower bowl tickets haven’t been selling out, there have been a lot of tweets after every show about Jay’s low sales. So no, he’s not selling out venues but he’s making sh-t tons of money and getting great reviews. But word of mouth goes a long way. These cancelled shows aren’t helping the public perception of how well this tour is going. For someone who has shown excellent work throughout this entire 4:44 era, this is all surprisingly sloppy.