Beyoncé and Taylor Swift raise timing questions following Super Bowl and Grammy stunts

Beyoncé and Taylor Swift raise timing questions following Super Bowl and Grammy stunts

Superstars at the Superbowl

Beyoncé found herself embroiled in a similar controversy to fellow megastar Taylor Swift, just a week earlier, after using the Super Bowl extravaganza to drop new music.

As millions tuned in to witness the clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, the event's halftime show, celebrity attendees, and the highly anticipated commercials shared the spotlight with the game itself. However, it was Beyoncé's unexpected announcement of new music, announced during her Verizon advert during the lucrative commercial break, that ignited a firestorm of opinions and reactions.

The 1.30 advert, by Ogilvy, sees Beyonce attempt several increasingly elaborate reinventions in an attempt to ‘break the internet’, and stall Verizon’s network capability. These grasps at the limelight, overseen by Tony Hale, of ‘Veep’ fame, include opening a lemonade stand, playing the saxophone, becoming an ‘e-girl’ style gamer, introducing an A.I. version of herself and turning into “BarBey” in an attempt to jump on the Barbie trend. Undeterred, Beyoncé attempts to upstage herself twice more: announcing her candidacy as “Beyoncé of the United States,” before going into space to perform.

The advert concludes with a reveal, as she announces that new music is to drop. And, true to her word, the superstar promptly popped up on social media after the advert’s debut to reveal that “Act II” will come out on 29th March, with two new singles, the country-inspired "Texas Holdem" and "16 Carriages," available on streaming service Tidal. 

Critics were quick to accuse Beyoncé of overshadowing Usher's halftime performance at the event, which had just concluded. Social media platforms buzzed with commentary, with users expressing varying degrees of outrage, disappointment, and amusement.

The stunt echoed Taylor Swift’s shenanigans at the 2024 GRAMMYs, where similar accusations of ‘upstaging’ were levelled at the ‘Midnights’ singer, who used her on stage appearance to announce her new album ‘Tortured Poet’s Society’.

The moves proved divisive, with some fans arguing that there’s room for multiple star spotlights at an event, and others deeming the announcements in poor taste, given the stars’ stratospheric levels of fame were bound to monopolise the majority of the social media comment market share.

Our take

While our initial instinct is to stand in the defence of smaller artists, who may feel overshadowed by Beyonce and Taylor's stunts, there’s a more complicated macro picture: it’s also important to preserve the prestige and hype surrounding major events that serve to fuel the culture and the economy. Album announcements from two of pop’s biggest stars certainly fulfil that tick box.

While big events provide a major spike in exposure for both big and small artists, it’s not clear whether a big artist’s gains (both financially and in terms of social media exposure) come at the expense of smaller artists.

The question then, is whether award show announcements are a zero-sum game? We welcome more research in this area.

Meanwhile, we live in a time when small artists are struggling financially, with big artists gaining the lion’s share of streaming sales: with algorithms only serving to boost their takings to the detriment of homespun acts. This is played out in the spate of legacy acts we see headlining festivals, and the corresponding lack of new acts.

From a creative perspective, however: where there is attention, there is opportunity. Famously, the Japanese word for a ‘crisis’, is also the word for an ‘opportunity’. In this case, then, some witty, reactionary viral and social posts could widen the spotlight for Usher and the GRAMMY nominees and winners.

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