I wondered last week if we were clowning ourselves because where Beyoncé is concerned, well, we clown ourselves a lot. But this was not a false alarm. The Queen of Culture was indeed planning a Super Bowl takeover – we are blessed with new music, a new album, and the beginning of act ii!
As I said in my post from Thursday, the buzz had been building for days. Verizon’s Super Bowl ad reportedly cost $30 million dollars, and given their previous association with Her Majesty, and the teaser with the lemons etc that was released a few days prior, the speculation was that Beyoncé was planning an announcement.
Right after Usher’s halftime, Verizon spent even more money on a teaser that promised that what we were about to see would break the internet. Sure, enough, midway into the third quarter, “Can’t B Broken” happened during commercial break. Here’s the full length version:
Look, we were already well-fed up to until the end. The looks? Slayoncé (yes she’s on Twitch now)? BOTUS? Beyonc-AI is genius. And, LOL, I would really love to deep-dive on her reaction to “BarBey”:
BeyoncÃ© sees Barbey, but is a bit disappointed pic.twitter.com/GfdMBviz7J— 1/1. #1. The only 1 ðš (@OohBeyhive) February 12, 2024
Dozens of think pieces on that “hm” are now being produced. In the meantime, Queen, give us a minute to appreciate how snatched you look in every single shot! But no, she keeps her foot on our necks with the mic drop at the end:
“OK, they ready, drop the new music.”
Are we ever ready though?!
The timeline was in hysterics – WHERE?! WHERE IS IT?!?
That’s when the Super Bowl stopped mattering to me, and the rest of the Hive, as we started frantically trying to follow where Beyoncé is taking us. She would soon explain:
It’s long been rumoured that act ii after renaissance would be a country album – and Beyoncé has confirmed that “Daddy Lessons” was just prelude, a full country album is coming on March 29, with the first two tracks, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES”, dropping last night. With visualisers!
Both tracks are now streaming on all platforms and, as always, each track is both fun and food, because Beyoncé is always operating at the highest level. As so many others have said so many times, Beyoncé requires scholarship, because she herself is a student, the best student, the most hard-working student. As she sings near the end of “16 CARRIAGES”, one of her most personal songs to date, because what is country music if not storytelling the regret, disappointment, and resilience of one person and also a community:
“The legacy, if it's the last thing I do
You'll remember me 'cause we got somethin' to prove
In your memory, on a highway to truth
Still see your faces when you close your eyes”
When she refers to “legacy” it’s not necessarily just her own – it is her place as part of a tradition that began with Black pioneers. So to go back to the study of her music, this is Beyoncé paying tribute to country music’s Black roots after a century of erasure, aka whitewashing. It’s what she did with renaissance – reclaiming dance, disco, and pop by honouring the Black women and the Black queer trailblazers who found safety and belonging in dance and ballroom culture.
Beyoncé, the greatest artist of this generation, is coming to take back credit for what was stolen, illuminating a history that was buried, in the second phase of what music scholars will be unpacking for decades to come.
â€œMy hypothesis that part two of renaissance will be BeyoncÃ©â€™s long awaited country album. she is coming back for everything â€œtheyâ€ (the modern day country industry) stole from Black people (@taylorcrumpton, March 2023.)â€— taylor crumpton (@taylorcrumpton) February 12, 2024
A RENAISSANCE IS ALSO A RECLAMATION. https://t.co/h1Npalvhz5
It hasn’t even been 24 hours, the album is still six weeks away, and already she’s making an impact.
ðŸš¨ BeyoncÃ© is the FIRST black female artist to reach the top of Apple Music US Country chart in history.— BeyoncÃ© Press. (@beyoncepress) February 12, 2024
She is also the first female black artist to occupy the first and second position on the chart simultaneously. pic.twitter.com/5eb775MpUt
People who don’t typically f-ck with country (me) are streaming the sh-t out of these two deep country jams. And, more importantly, interested and engaged in the conversation that Beyoncé is reigniting; she didn’t start it, but with her platform she is elevating it. This is how she is choosing to use her cultural capital, and this is what she promised to do with her cultural capital. Beyoncé’s country songs are blowing up on TikTok right now and in those viral moments, little by little, maybe just maybe, people will start interrogating what they know about this artform, who gets to make it, who gets to experience it, who gets to be identified by it. And she’s not doing it alone.
Credits are out. I cannot stress to you just how massive it is that BeyoncÃ© has Rhiannon Giddens playing banjo and viola on Texas Hold â€˜Em.— Elamin Abdelmahmoud (@elamin88) February 12, 2024
Rhiannon in 2021: â€œIt takes something like BeyoncÃ© going, â€˜I'm going to get this black banjo player to be on my next record.â€™ I could release 10 records and it wouldn't make a drop of difference compared with what BeyoncÃ© could do.â€— Elamin Abdelmahmoud (@elamin88) February 12, 2024
Beyonce was listening. https://t.co/m06rl8n5KN pic.twitter.com/4Y6AHDVyGH
Another example of how Beyoncé leads by listening. Some might say listening is a musicians most important skill. This is why Beyoncé is peerless, why she is considered by so many artists to be the standard – she creates with intention, motivated by purpose over popularity. And this path was set a long time ago.
When renaissance came out she talked about how it was the first of three acts that she developed over two years. She has decided that she is ready to take us into the middle even though we still don’t yet know what it’s called.
If act i was renaissance, is act ii, as Taylor Crumpton said above, a reclamation?
And what comes after?
My mind goes to Tracy Chapman who we saw just a week ago, triumphant at the Grammys, performing her hit “Fast Car” and the yearlong conversation/debate about how the song, after being covered by Luke Combs, was recognised by the country music industry, which has not created space for queer Black women like Tracy.
“Fast Car” was released as part of Tracy’s debut self-titled album in 1988. And there was another song on the album that was super popular: “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”.
I know act ii has barely started and it’s way too early to get into what act iii is all about and also stupid to even bother trying to get inside Beyoncé’s mind, but I’ve been thinking about this all night after Kathleen sent me this tweet:
Act 3 is going to be Rock and Roll. Sheâ€™s claiming all the music that was once created by Black artist. Sheâ€™s reminding everyone, we did that shit first.— Caroline Renard (@carolinerenard_) February 12, 2024
Rock and roll is often referred to as a “revolution” for how it changed popular music. And like so many genres of music before and after it, rock and roll was invented by Black musicians and appropriated by white people. “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, but will Beyoncé complete her three-act opus with a revolution?
I repeat, I do not presume to know Her Majesty’s vision, so I’ll stop with the speculation and get back to studying. It is Black History Month, and the learning is not limited to Black people. Beyoncé has declared that class is in session!