Over the last few weeks, there’s been discussion about the word “genius” - who gets to be called a genius and why we may need to stop calling them geniuses. There are many, many problematic geniuses. Most, if not all, are men. Women aren’t as quickly labelled geniuses, if ever. Run a search of how often Kanye West is referred to as a genius vs how often Beyoncé is. Pretty sure the count would reflect a much higher score on the Kanye side.
Last year, when Jay-Z’s 4:44 was released, his producer No ID talked about Beyoncé’s “genius-level” input on the album. She basically told them what needed improving, how to make it better. Everything had to pass her standard - and Jay-Z and No ID aren’t exactly new at this. It’s not like she was out here mentoring an amateur. Start any conversation with “Beyoncé is a genius”, however, as productive and prolific as she is, and someone will try to undermine your position. They’ll mansplain this, that, or the other reason why Beyoncé isn’t as great as the “real” geniuses. And, as we’ve just established, most if not all widely-accepted geniuses are men. We can debate for hours and hours about whether or not Kanye is a genius, Donald Glover too, but that same conversation about Beyoncé gets shut down realllllll fast.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what Beyoncé has done just in the last year. As established, she was behind-the-scenes on Jay’s 4:44. Oh and she gave birth to twins. In the last three months alone, she gave two of the greatest live performances of all time at Beychella, then she immediately began rehearsals on the On the Run 2 tour, while finishing Everything Is Love, which has evidently been in progress for at least a couple of years, which includes a secret video shot at the Louvre. And none of any of that was mediocre. All of it has been upper percentile. All of it has been exceptional. And remember, we’re only talking about the past 12 months. After Lemonade. Which had already met genius qualification.
Beyoncé deniers long ago ran out of ways to dismiss her genius, attributing it to the other professionals surrounding her, like she was only good because people made her good, like she had no hand in her success. It’s now become impossible to not acknowledge that she has all the hands in her success and, perhaps more importantly, that’s the reason why professionals have surrounded her – because SHE is the one who brings out their best work. Not unlike, say, someone like Steve Jobs, who everyone called a genius.
That’s also explains the secrets and how Beyoncé is able to, time and again, ensure that when she wants something to be a surprise, it’s a f-cking a surprise, no sellouts, no leaks, no Markles. Yes, her NDA game is tight. But you know what we don’t talk enough about? The dancers and the designers and the hundreds of people who would have been involved at the Louvre, keeping the project secret, like sure, they all signed the NDA, fine. But they’re not signing it because they’re being forced to. They’re signing it because they want to be part of excellence. They’re signing it because they know the kind of work they get to be a part of and the kind of work they themselves will be capable of when they’re invited to participate in a Beyoncé experience. And they want to keep doing and delivering that kind of work going forward.
Anyone who cares about work – you, me, all of us – understands this motivation. This is what she doesn’t get enough credit for. By being great at her job, BY BEING THE BEST AT HER JOB, everyone else is better at their jobs. Like any visionary – be it a company or an individual, it’s a fundamental condition of successful and effective leadership. I want to work there, they say. Only in their case, the “there” just happens to be Beyoncé, an artist but also now, indisputably, a standard. For the creative class, it’s the equivalent of graduating from Harvard, interning at Apple. This is what Beyoncé is building out of herself – and when one woman can turn herself into an Institution, doesn’t that make her a f-cking genius?