Last night, the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a narrow victory over the San Francisco 49ers to clinch their second consecutive Super Bowl win as Taylor Swift, surrounded by fellow celebrity friends, cheered jubilantly for her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, from the sidelines. The viewership numbers will almost certainly reflect that a new record-setting amount of people tuned in to watch America’s star couple do their respective things, representing just the latest summit in Swift’s career.
Which is why Beyoncé’s brilliant decision to surprise-announce a new album, Part II, during a commercial break last night was so strategically effective, reinforcing the fact that the Renaissance songstress remains our most reliably surprising pop star.
Her rollout came in stages. As America watched, expecting that Swift would be the night’s biggest story, pop culture-wise, suddenly Bey appeared, demanding your attention; and in a goofy Verizon commercial, no less.
In the commercial, Beyoncé and Veep star Tony Hale run through a number of potential strategies for breaking the internet. They consider sending Bey to the moon, or announcing her intent to run for president, before deciding against both options. In the final seconds of the spot, Beyoncé intones, “OK, they ready! Drop the new music.”
The internet lost its shit.
Minutes later, the pop star’s website and socials proclaimed that her country-flavored new record—notably the genre that first made Swift a star—a follow-up to her triumphant, dance-pop centric album Renaissance, will drop on March 29.
As of Monday morning, Beyoncé’s two new tracks, “16 CARRIAGES” and “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM,” are occupying the two top spots on the US iTunes charts.
Just last week, Swift won Album of the Year for Midnights at the Grammys, as well as the accolade for Best Pop Album. During her acceptance speech for the latter, she surprise-announced that her forthcoming new album, The Tortured Poets Department, would arrive on April 19, delighting many who assumed that she’d plug the re-release of Reputation. In other words, Swift had a surprise up her sleeve, but we weren’t completely stunned: She’s used acceptance speeches to plug forthcoming new work in the past.
By choosing Super Bowl Sunday as her platform, and in claiming her moment, Beyoncé not only shocked viewers, but reminded us that when it comes to surprise-releases, she was innovating long before anyone else ever picked up the thread.
Beyoncé changed the music industry forever when she surprise-dropped her self-titled album, Beyoncé, on a Friday in December 2013, releasing all 14 songs at once alongside an array of gorgeous music videos. The record quickly went No. 1 in more than 100 countries and soon became the fastest selling ever on iTunes, prompting scores of other artist to echo her strategy in the years following.
It’s hard to find new ways to surprise your audience when you’ve already pulled off one of the greatest pop music stunts of all time, but last night, Beyoncé successfully proved that when it comes to being genuinely, thrillingly unpredictable, she has many more tricks up her sleeve.