whatami

There is plenty of talk today about the pos­sib­il­ity that Mariah Carey might beyoncé her new album, and the act of Doing A Beyoncé will become increas­ingly common as pop — like it always does — pushes forward in new and exciting ways.

While we appre­ci­ate the excite­ment sur­round­ing any global superstar except U2's new album release, it's important at this stage to establish what, exactly, made Beyoncé's release so exciting.

We all think we know what a beyoncé is, but it's vital that we do not assign beyoncé status to every album release that breaks with estab­lished release patterns. If we do misuse the term,  we risk devaluing the purity of Beyoncé's original 'BEYONCÉ' beyoncé.

Here are six different vari­ations of bey­on­céing, each relevant and worthy in its own way, but each with its own nuances.

FULL BEYONCÉ

A Full Beyoncé must contain ALL these elements.

  • This must be a full album, ideally but not neces­sar­ily con­tain­ing a larger than average number of tracks.
  • Tracks on the album must be accom­pan­ied by videos.
  • The artist must be a global superstar, a multi-platinum act in at least one major territory, or an artist with a huge/deranged online fanbase.
  • Trickily, it must be common knowledge that the artist has been working on new material — but the release must still also, somehow, be a surprise.
  • There must have been no legit­im­ate leaked inform­a­tion about the nature of the release in advance of the release. A beyoncéd album that has been trailed by an interview regarding its release could poten­tially be regarded as little more than a con­ven­tional album release with a shorter pro­mo­tional window.
  • There must be no con­ven­tion­ally promoted single leading into the album's release.
  • It must be a stan­dalone album release — it can't just be an addition to a previous album campaign, a deluxe edition or any sort of repackage.
  • By its nature this album will almost certainly be released digitally first — it's impossible to send CDs into pro­duc­tion then get them to retail without news leaking. (If an album does indeed make it to stores with literally no warning before, say, shops open at 9am, it will be permitted as a full beyoncé.)
  • The nature of the release must be con­vin­cingly presented as an artistic statement or creative choice, rather than being a trans­par­ent attempt to drum up interest in an album campaign that hasn't been working out properly.
  • Total bey­on­céged­don must be achieved across all social networks for at least 24 hours.

Strictly optional factors include instantly iconic but basically shit artwork, a Sia track, and songs about bonking.

Who could pull off a full beyoncé?
Adele, U2, Rihanna, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift.

PARTIAL BEYONCÉ

A release which fulfills at least three, but not all, factors required of a full beyoncé.

The release of the new Mariah Carey album, for instance, has been flagged in advance (inten­tion­ally or otherwise) by Billboard, so can't qualify for full beyoncé status, but it could still be a partial beyoncé. Lady Gaga's 'ARTPOP — ACT 2' album could also suddenly appear, but she too has already discussed its future release. Additionally, if only in title, it is an addition to the existing 'ARTPOP' campaign.

Who could execute a partial beyoncé?
Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Lana Del Rey, Calvin Harris, Kate Bush, Sia.

FAUXONCÉ

A release that delib­er­ately attempts to create beyoncé or partial beyoncé-level hysteria while in fact only ful­filling one or two of the criteria for a full beyoncé.

Who could fauxoncé an album?
Mutya Keisha Siobhan, Mariah Carey.

BOWANCIÉ

A bowanciéd album is one that has more in common with David Bowie's 'The Next Day' release, which hinged not on an instant release but on total, genuine surprise that it existed at all, from a high profile artist many feared had com­pletely retired. (Nobody was under the impres­sion Beyoncé had retired, so while her album was a surprise because of the way it appeared, it wasn't a surprised that it had actually been recorded.)

In the instance of the 'The Next Day' campaign it was the album's lead single, which did appear on sale instantly with an accom­pa­ny­ing video, that was in a sense beyoncéd into the mar­ket­place. For this reason bow­an­ciéing can refer to an album that's suddenly announced but not imme­di­ately on sale, or to a single release that ticks most of the boxes of a full beyoncé.

Additionally, as with Bowie's album being produced by Tony Visconti, keep an eye out for the presence of a producer or song­writer with whom the artist has pre­vi­ously been very closely asso­ci­ated. Janet Jackson's new material, then, could have been eligible for bowancié status as Jimmy Jam seems to be involved, but the fact that Jam himself has been dis­cuss­ing the sessions actually means that Janet's album cannot be seen as a bowanciéd release. Janet could, however, still pull off a full beyoncé.

The size of the artist is also important here: a bow­an­ciéing artist should ideally have achieved at least platinum sales with at least three different albums in three of the world's major music ter­rit­or­ies, but this rule is flexible in order for Girls Aloud to qualify.

Who could bowancié an album tomorrow morning?
Abba, Girls Aloud.

BEYTWICÉ

This will occur when an artist releases a brand new album for no apparent reason halfway through a broadly suc­cess­ful campaign for another album.

Who could beytwicé a new album?
Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue.

FAILED BEYONCÉ

A release which attempts a full beyoncé, a partial beyoncé, a fauxoncé or a bowancié but fails to generate an appro­pri­ate level of online hysteria.

Who could pull off a failed beyoncé?
Sarah Harding.

IN CONCLUSION

Beyoncéing albums is an exciting aspect of modern pop and with any luck this attempt to clarify and classify different levels of bey­on­céing will become increas­ingly useful as time goes by. We'll revisit this article if any further vari­ations on bey­on­céing appear, but if any occur to you please feel free to add them in the comments below.