Beyoncé won the Super Bowl
OPINION: Several Super Bowl ads featured prominent stars from hip-hop, but Beyoncé made the most of her Verizon commercial by dropping new music to promote her new country album, "Act II."
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Outside of the game, the story of the Super Bowl was Beyoncé. People went into the game fearing that Taylor Swift would steal the spotlight, but instead, at least for Black people, the cultural story of game day was all about Beyoncé.
Queen Bey brilliantly flipped a Verizon ad into a Beyoncé ad. The ad showcased Beyoncé’s aesthetic fluidity — it showed that she could inhabit any environment she wanted, from suburban lemonade stand owner to futuristic robot to Barbie (excuse me, BarBey) to astronaut to faux presidential candidate — she’s declaring her candidacy for the “Beyoncé of the United States.”
The ad was saying Verizon is unbreakable, but the message I got was Beyoncé is unbreakable. Beyoncé is indefatigable. She cannot be stopped. The question was can Verizon keep up with her? And just when I thought, OK, great ad, she tagged it with the announcement of new music. She ended the ad — which simulated a stress test of Verizon’s network — by saying “OK, they ready. Drop the new music.” Like, the ad was a test of Verizon making sure they were up to Beyoncé’s standard. It’s not Beyoncé proving how much she loves Verizon, it’s Verizon proving that they can keep up with Beyoncé.
Moments after the commercial ended, she dropped two new songs on streaming apps and announced that her next album, “Act II,” arrives on March 29. The timing was exquisite. If the game was not so good, I would have spiraled off into a Beyoncé rabbit hole.
That hole could be deep because we know “Renaissance” was about house and disco, sounds that were a big part of her childhood. In her concert film, “Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé,” she talked about how her beloved Uncle Johnny brought that music into her childhood home and how it influenced her. Now, our beloved R&B/soul goddess is dropping … a country album. Or at least, her version of a country album. Surely, country is also part of her musical core memory — she grew up in Texas — so once again, she’s working with the sounds that meant the most to her youth. Makes me wonder what Act III will be about. Perhaps … gospel?
There were other Black cultural things bubbling around the Super Bowl broadcast. I couldn’t help but notice how much hip-hop was a huge part of what Madison Avenue created. It was part of so many ads. Ice Spice starred in an ad for Starry, a year-old soda brand that used to be Sierra Mist. Ice Spice is one of the hottest figures in the culture right now and yet she still feels like a new star so pairing her and Starry establishes Starry as both new and hot.
In other ads, we saw LL Cool J as a train conductor in a Coors Light spot, Lil Wayne in an ad for Homes.com, Cardi B my NYX makeup, and Fat Joe in a cameo in a hilarious Dunkin Donuts ad. (Yes, Jack Harlow was also in that ad, and yes, Jack Harlow is technically a rapper, but no we ain’t talkin’ about no Jack Harlow today. It’s Black History Month.) It all just reminded me how hip-hop remains central to American culture and how rappers are great at communicating to people what they should buy or wear. Rappers create and move culture like no one else. Rappers, as a group, are still the coolest people in America and that’s why Madison Ave loves them. On a normal TV day, we’ll say Megan Thee Stallion in an ad for Planet Fitness or a Sprite ad featuring GloRilla because all sorts of rappers are cool enough, authentic enough and aspirational enough to pitch for all sorts of products.
Kanye surely had the weirdest commercial of this year’s Super Bowl. It didn’t air in all markets so there’s a chance you didn’t see it on the broadcast. In a world where ads are heavily imagined and carefully shot and sculpted, Kanye went in the opposite direction. It appears that he shot the ad using a cellphone to talk directly to the camera. No artifice, no tech, just lo-fi Ye in a car talking directly to people, sending them to his site to buy his clothes. I know some laughed at this, but in a world filled with artifice where we all feel like we’re drowning in tech, it’s possible that Kanye is right in the sense that less can be more. In a world that’s overwhelmed by bells and whistles, using no bells and whistles can, sometimes, stand out even more.
But the real story was Beyoncé. I love her new song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and I’m ready to ride into Beyoncé’s vision of country music. In the past, for me, country music has, at times, made me uncomfortable because it seemed like the kind of music that would be loved by people who might attend a lynching for fun. So for Beyoncé to beckon me into country and for me to want to go says a lot about how much I trust her and how much I love her. But, hey, it’s Beyoncé’s world and we’re just in it.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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