Song Analysis – Jay Z – “Holy Grail” ft. Justin Timberlake
Writers – Justin Timberlake, Shawn Carter, Terius “The Dream” Nash, Timothy Mosley, Jerome Harmon, Ernest Wilson, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic
Producer – The Dream, Timbaland, Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, No I.D.
But I still don’t know why, why I love it so much.
This song is a great example of a lot of really effective rhythmic contrasts while still keeping a melodic hook, both vocally and instrumentally, that keeps your interest throughout the whole song.
The most obvious and effective hook is Justin’s Chorus where he sings
And baby, it’s amazing Im in this maze with you
I just can’t crack your code
One day you screaming me love you loud
The next day you’re so cold
One day you’re heree, one day you’re there
one day you care
You’re so unfair, sipping from your cup til it runneth over Holy Grail
Right from the beginning, it just grabs you and forces you to listen to the rest of what the song is about. And what is the song about?
The theme of the song is about Jay Z’s and Justin’s love/hate relationship with fame. The Holy Grail being a symbol of accomplishment and audacity. The hubris of being so famous.
Blue told me remind you niggas
Fuck that shit y’all talking bout, Im the nigga
Caught up in all these lights and cameras
But look what that shit did to Hammer
Goddamn I like it
Jay Z is saying, my baby girl reminds me that Im the greatest to ever do this. I mean look what happened to Hammer, but forget all that. I like it.
And a lot of these references to fame and how abusive it can be is peppered throughout the song.
The Nirvana sample adds to that motif as well.
Now I got tattoos on my body, psycho bitches in my lobby
I got haters in the paper, photo shoots with paparazzi
Can’t even take my daughter for a walk, see em by the corner store
I feel like I’m cornered off enough is enough, I’m calling this off.
Who the fuck Im kidding though, Im getting high, sitting low
One subtle instrument that is used really well is that piano, especially in the beginning and during Jay Z’s verses. Listen to how it just peppers the track, yet it really adds a very interesting flavor.
Pay attention to how the drums switch up for the different parts of the song. During Jay Z’s verse, they’re a lot harder and more confrontational. While in Justin’s hook, they take a backseat to the melody.
The ending with the choir adds a really epic feel to the track that helps solidify that “Hey you’re listening to a Jay Z and Justin Timberlake!” track.
If any of the things I’ve written have helped you, feel free to donate as that money helps feed me and pays for gas so I can play shows !