How Beyoncé Owns the Moment
Beyoncé understands the power of the moment.
The digital economy is built one moment at a time. We crave seconds of fleeting engagement on our TikTok and Instagram feeds. Most of us skip songs on Spotify unless they capture our attention within 10 seconds. For people who create anything — photos, videos, songs, essays, you name it — unless we make impressions count, our hard work goes unnoticed.
Even one of the world’s most popular musicians understands this reality. Despite having millions of followers on her socials, Beyoncé hustles like and up-and-comer. She knows she’s always competing for our attention. She also knows how to use moments to create a narrative as opposed to publishing random content to see what sticks.
Which brings us to the flurry of moments Beyoncé unleashed the weeks of June 20 and 26.
Beyoncé has a new album dropping on July 29, Renaissance. In advance of that date, she’s priming the pump with internet-stopping moments. On June 20, she dropped an evocative song, “Break My Soul,” which immediately set the digital world on fire with its anthemic lyrics and sound that tapped into the spirit of the self-liberation amid the Great Resignation.
Then on June 29, she published the jaw-dropping album cover art for Renaissance, which got the internet buzzing with comparisons to John Collier’s 19th Century painting Lady Godiva.
On July 1, she collaborated with British Vogue to release a video snippet on her Instagram that went behind the scenes of her photo shoot (set to “Break My Soul”) for the July cover of the magazine.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Just like that, Beyoncé owned the summer.
Going into the weekend, she was dominating conversations on social and enjoying massive coverage with influencers and news media. The Break My Soul hashtag had accumulated 112 million views on TikTok a d 24.4 million posts on Instagram (and counting). Google searches for Beyoncé spiked. (So did Google searches for Lady Godiva.)
Those moments have ripple effects beyond Beyoncé, too. “Break My Soul” sampled an influential dance song “Show Me Love,” which had been become a hit for Robin S. in 1993. The song and the artist began to trend big time on social media.
Beyoncé’s moments are so impactful that they create impressions that stay in our minds and become even bigger over time. Recently I was recalling her stunning turn as a headliner during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2016. But when I replayed her performance on YouTube, I realized I had misremembered what happened. She was not the headliner. She’d had the stage to herself for only 90 seconds before being joined by Bruno Mars and Chris Martin. But she’d stolen the show. Six years later, I didn’t remember anyone else performing during the halftime show until I looked it up. Now that’s what I call a long-lasting impression.
As Beyoncé’s star was rising in the early 2000s, Malcolm Gladwell described the power of the moment in his book Blink. He said people use limited information from a very narrow period of experience to arrive at a conclusion. He called this phenomenon thin-slicing. Mind you, he analyzed the power of snap judgments before the emergence of the smart phone and apps. Beyoncé understands thin-slicing.
We can debate all we want about the downsides of forming snap judgments about artists in the digital age. Beyoncé doesn’t have time for debates. She’s busy expanding her empire built on moments.