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How Drake and Beyoncé Drop New Music

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After a massive week inside the music industry, I had to bring Wall Street Journal music and entertainment reporter Neil Shah onto Trapital for an emergence podcast on Drake’s surprise “Honestly, Nevermind” album drop and Beyonce’s own announcement for her first album in six years, “Resistance.”

For Drake, he once again switched it up — not only his hairstyle (cornrows this time), but his musical style. Drake is known to experiment with different sounds and flows, but “Honestly, Nevermind” is a complete 180-degree turn for hip-hop’s biggest star. It’s a dance album and actual rapping from Drake is mostly absent, which not surprisingly, has led to a mostly lukewarm response.

Drake’s musical output has always been high, but “Honestly, Nevermind” ironically comes shortly after signing a new $400m deal with Universal Music Group. With a fresh contract and the economics of the streaming industry as a whole, Drake is incentivized for consistent music rather than “classics.” And whether fans and critics “catch up” to Drake’s new sound or not, he’s getting paid big-time from new releases either way.

And then there’s Beyonce. Details about her next album are slim besides its drop date, July 29. Announcing an album in advance runs contrary to her last release, “Lemonade”, which was surprise dropped in 2016 — a completely different era in streaming when exclusives were still a thing (Lemonade was on TIDAL only). Even for a star the size of Beyonce, one has to wonder what kind of pull she has in today’s streaming era.

Neil and I covered all things Drake and Beyonce albums in this episode of Trapital. Here’s all our talking points:

[2:31] First Reaction To Drake’s Surprise Album Announcement

[7:12] Drake’s First Album Post-UMG $400 Million Deal

[10:56] Significance Of Drake’s Pivot To Dance Music

[13:25] Is Drake’s Popularity Losing Steam?

[19:20] Did Beyonce’s Album Announcement Affect Drake’s Release?

[23:06] Music Industry’s Evolution Since Beyonce’s Previous Album Drop

[30:21] Will Beyonce’s Renaissance Album Be A Multi-Release?

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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guests: Neil Shah, @NeilShahWSJ

 

Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital

 

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TRANSCRIPTION

[00:00:00] Neil Shah: There’s a possibility that these two releases are linked and Drake is trying to get going so that he has a, like, market share in, in this summer. It is, you know, it’s a routine thing. It’s worth mentioning in this context that we’re talking about two label empires. So with Beyoncé as far as I know, while she runs her own business with Parkwood, we’re talking about a Sony relationship.

[00:00:21] Neil Shah: And then of course, with Drake, we’re talking about a Universal Music relationship. So there presumably, in theory, would be less discussion between them. 

[00:00:29] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. 

[00:00:56] Dan Runcie: This is a podcast about Honestly, Nevermind. And this is a podcast about Renaissance (act i). We went deep on the latest releases and upcoming releases from Drake and Beyoncé, and I was joined by Neil Shah, who is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal who covers music and entertainment. Definitely check out his work if you haven’t already.

[00:01:17] Dan Runcie: And we talked about Drake releasing a surprise album with no notice within nine months of Certified Lover Boy. So we talked about the release for Honestly, Nevermind, Drake’s recent deal that he signed with Universal Music Group, and how some of the other artists on Republic Records have released music, and what that means for him himself.

[00:01:36] Dan Runcie: And we talked about whether or not Beyoncé’s upcoming release has anything to do with this. Beyoncé announced her upcoming album, her lead single, and there was high expectations as always. We talk about how much has changed since Beyoncé released Lemonade, how artists are releasing music, and how stars like Beyoncé and Drake dominated in the 2010s, dominated in the 2000s, and how they can continue to dominate in the 2020s. So before we dive in, if you’re not already make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast, make sure you rate the podcast, leave a review and share with a friend. That’s how we spread the word. Here’s my conversation with Neil Shah on Drake and Beyoncé. Hope you enjoy it. All right. Today, we’re joined by Neil Shah from The Wall Street Journal, and we are gonna talk all about Drake. And Neil, I gotta ask, when you first saw the news that Drake was releasing yet another album, Honestly, Nevermind, what was your first reaction? 

[00:02:31] Neil Shah: Can I cuss? Because my first response was oh crap. I was basically outta my apartment. It was evening. I think probably maybe six o’clock Eastern, and I’m basically walking to the subway to drop off my daughter somewhere and to head to, you know, the bottom of Manhattan for a Pusha T show. So I’m on the way out and naturally Drake affected my plans that night. So yeah, I was surprised.

[00:03:00] Dan Runcie: Same here. I saw the announcement and at first, I thought, okay, maybe this is a mixtape. Drake normally likes to have his summer where he has something that he puts out there just to keep the fire going and keep people on top of things. I thought it was gonna be another one of these like Scary Hours type of releases, but then I see, no, this is a whole new studio album. I did pause to be like, wait what? So then, of course, Googling to make sure that what I see on Twitter is actually accurate, right? And then I was like, wow, he’s going for it. We are less than nine months from Certified Lover Boy and boom, here we are. 

[00:03:36] Neil Shah: I had the same response where I kind of didn’t believe it at first. I then scrolled down my Twitter feed and Universal Music Group is also pushing the album with a tweet. And also there were, whether it was Drizzy himself or whether it was UMG, there was kind of a line of, Hey, this is for real and he’s calling it a studio album, which is very different, Scary Hours, or, you know, his mixtapes and whatnot.

[00:04:01] Neil Shah: So, yeah, definitely surprised. You know, to some extent we’ve been expecting something. I mean, and maybe more hardcore Drake fans, maybe not the casual fan, but hardcore Drake fans would know that like post Certified Lover Boy, he did, you know, he did share some snippets on social media about being in a recording studio.

[00:04:24] Neil Shah: So we knew that he was active. We’ve also been talking about, you know, his somewhat recent Universal Music Group deal. So like, it’s not a complete surprise, but I mean, it definitely woke people up. Yeah. 

[00:04:36] Dan Runcie: We should have known when the hairstyle changed ’cause every Drake release is tied with some type of hairstyle. Once he came in with these corn rows, it should have been like, okay, there’s a new project coming. We no longer have the heart carved into the line.

[00:04:49] Neil Shah: It’s true. He was definitely priming us in that way, too. It is nine months, about nine months after Certified Lover Boy. That is pretty quick. You know, one thing that occurs to me that is relevant in this context is that Certified Lover Boy, if I remember correctly, was slightly delayed because of his, I believe, foot injury, so, on one hand, look, the way it felt as music fans just recently was that it was surprising. And nine months isn’t a long time.

[00:05:20] Neil Shah: But if you, in your mind, think, well, when was Certified Lover Boy probably supposed to come out? Which probably likely would be like January, February 2021. If you think of it that way, then maybe it’s a more standard gap between these two studio albums for Drake. 

[00:05:38] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I’m trying to think when the initial announcement was for Certified Lover Boy because I think it does date back to either sometime in 2020, or maybe even as early, as like late 2019.

[00:05:49] Dan Runcie: I’m trying to remember exactly when it was, but there were a few delays. One of them was because of the injury. And then I had heard some things from sources that there was an early version of the album that people didn’t necessarily like, and that he went back into the studio to then release what he had, which was then September 2021.

[00:06:08] Dan Runcie: And then people thought that him and Kanye were trying to line things up. So there is something there where there could be a lot lined up. But I think part of. And you mentioned this earlier is where I think the key piece of it is this Universal Music deal. And ever since Scorpion, Drake has been out of his deal and he has been one of these artists that signed to Republic and got one of these similar type of deals to what Taylor swift has where it’s a licensing term out. And, but then he then owns the masters for what he has moving forward. So, I think with that and given the new terms for this deal that he has, he likely wants to be able to either release music himself to the fulfill things or there may be a push from the record label as well to be like, Hey, you saw how well you did in 2021. Your music was streamed more than everything made pre-1980. One out of every 131 songs that was streamed in 2021 was one of yours, hit people with another one and see what happens. 

[00:07:12] Neil Shah: Right. He’s always been a gusher of content. So, you know, like, think about, I mean, 2020, Dark Lane Demo Tapes, 2019, the Care Package, and then Scorpion. So he, the Scary Hours. And by the way, he’s, I think indicated on he’s indicated publicly that we could get another installment of Scary Hours, basically, which, I mean, coming up. So he’s always been a gusher of content and Drake is so dominant on streaming as you’ve noted over the past decade in part, because of his nonstop releases.

[00:07:48] Neil Shah: At the same time, it’s true that this mega UMG distro deal, which is much more than that, because it also encompasses merchandise in other revenue streams. It’s not just music. This deal does incentivize him to potentially become even more prodigious. It tends to for artists. I mean, I don’t know to what extent it’s affected The Weeknd. Dawn FM did come pretty fast in January of this year. You can see it clearly with Taylor Swift when she signed her Republic, Universal Music Group deal, you saw a clear uptick in the frequency of her output in this Folklore, Evermore, et cetera era. And the logic here, just being really simple. I mean, these artists with these license deals now own their music.

[00:08:34] Neil Shah: They’re incentivized to release more. And it’s definitely notable that an artist that historically like Taylor swift, not to get too much on her, but she has been guarded, careful, precious with her output. And then you have this UMG deal and then suddenly she’s like opening the floodgates and we’re getting like, you know, we’re getting Folklore and then albums that some could see as a little bit leftovers from the original session. So I think a lot of artists are doing that when they have these, these, these crazy good deals. 

[00:09:03] Dan Runcie: Yeah. That’s a great point on Taylor. If I’m thinking about the timeline, there was five years from Red, 1989, and then Reputation, a five-year gap. And then between Lover, Folklore, and Evermore, a year? Like, I mean, maybe a year and a half between the three of those? I mean, it’s, yeah. And I think you’re right about the frequency of it. And I think with Drake, specifically, even though it’s clear that it isn’t just him, I think that he gets a lot of the rap for this ’cause I think part of what I’ve heard more on the artistic side of the music is that yes, this is a house music album and he’s definitely shifted a bit more to those things, but there is still some of that Drake that we normally see and people have talked about the formulaic nature of a Drake release. And in some ways, he kind of reminds me almost that someone like a Tom Cruise, if you will. He’s like a Tom Cruise of hip-hop in a sense because could Drake have continue to try to release these albums like a Nothing Was the Same that tries to be this classic? Sure. 

[00:10:05] Dan Runcie: He could have done that, but he realized exactly what tools he needs to tweak in order to have that annual release that can just crank out and make sure that the money’s right. And maybe there are some filler tracks. Maybe he could have cut some things, but the economics of the deals he’s signing and just the industry we’re in incentivizes him to do exactly what he’s doing. 

[00:10:27] Neil Shah: There is a feeling like, to your point, that this is kind of formulaic. Or that he’s on cruise control in the sense of the release is not, I’m not a music critic, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of music, critics, and fans might be slightly underwhelmed, if not unhappy, about the album, as you can see from some of the backlash online. There is a sense in which this is just another Drake release in a way befitting someone who’s pumping out product for the deal.

[00:10:56] Neil Shah: But you know, to dig into that a little bit, I have mixed feelings. I think it’s kind of striking that Drake basically took a pretty sharp turn here. Yes, this is club music. This is house music. It’s a dance album. He took a pretty sharp turn aesthetically, and that is to be lauded. If I were being extremely charitable or like, sorry, if I were being charitable, and you could see it as a moment, similar to Kanye, 808s & Heartbreak. Let’s say that he’s on to something and the world is not going in the Afrobeats direction, but it’s going in the house club music direction. Let’s just say that that’s what he’s seeming to imply with his responses to some of the backlash in over the past day or so. Hey, you’re just not getting it yet. If music were to veer in this direction, then we could look back and say, Hey, it was good that Drake didn’t rap that much on this album, except for basically two tracks, Sticky and the last track.

[00:11:58] Neil Shah: Maybe he was onto something to go this more dance-y vibe-oriented route. So I think that’s the charitable way of looking at it. The less charitable way of looking at it is that Drake may be kind of outsourcing his music. When I listen to the album, again, I’m not a music critic, but when I listen to the album, I kind of enjoy the house music, but that’s the producers, including 40, Drake’s a long-time collaborator, but a lot of other people like Black Coffee, the South African house music DJ.

[00:12:26] Neil Shah: A lot of what’s great about this album, I think, personally as a music fan is the house music, which is not Drake. And so there’s a way in which Drake is less present on this album, in a way that might remind people a little bit of that thing he called a playlist, which is basically a mixtape, More Life, from a few years ago. It’s different. That was like R&B, dancehall, grime, Afrobeats. I’m not saying it sounds the same. Totally different music styles, but there was a sense where he was taking a secondary position to the music. So that the charitable way of looking at it is maybe is ahead of the curve. The less charitable way I think is like, we’re getting less Drake and that’s symbolized in the fact that he’s only rapping on a few tracks.

[00:13:08] Neil Shah: I mean, he’s always blurred singing and rapping as everyone knows. That’s one of the ways in which he’s changed pop over the last 10 years, but here he’s basically barely rapping, which I think is part of the reason that people are turned off. So some people may see it as a bunch of sinking on fairly general house beats.

[00:13:25] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I do think that the charitable impression of it is something I’ve heard from people before. And it’s obviously what Drake is trying to push himself. I will say, it’s not the first time Drake has used the line of like, oh, you know, people catch up to my albums. He tried to say something similar about Views in the interview that I’d heard a while back.

[00:13:43] Dan Runcie: I think that was with Elliott Wilson. And I was just like, okay, all right. You know, you can own it. But I do think that there is a case to be made about this album and, yeah, you’re right. If he’s able to catch this wave, then we can look back and see, okay, this is where things are heading. But in the same way that you can see a generation spawn from 808s, I think we would, like, we need to see, okay, is this next wave of hip-hop going to look back and, you know, herald this in the same way and who knows? I think that definitely could happen. I think it definitely could happen. 

[00:14:13] Neil Shah: It could happen. It could happen. That’s one route we could go. The other route is more negative, which would be the route of how much is Drake losing steam. This album definitely doesn’t put to rest a perennial question, at least perennial for the last five years or so, which is, like, how much steam is Drake losing? How much is he on cruise control? How much is Drake over? It’s, you know, look, I’m not talking commercially. Like, you know, he puts up a single and, obviously it’s gonna take over streaming, and Certified Lover Boy, by the way, on streaming has done pretty good.

[00:14:47] Neil Shah: It’s had a long tail, which people kind of don’t often noticed. It’s done pretty well. But you know, there is this question of how far along into his career is Drake. I’ve been thinking about it, obviously, since, not obviously, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since, like, you know, Drake was booed off the stage at a Tyler, The Creator curated festival.

[00:15:07] Neil Shah: And so this album doesn’t put that to rest. It does keep that question alive just how fertile is his career. And maybe that’s okay. I mean, on one hand, as music fans, we expect a ton out of Drake albums. We treat him like he’s an album artist. And as we see project after project do well commercially and yet not meet collective expectations for what we want out of him.

[00:15:34] Neil Shah: I know as a music fan, I want him to just make another Take Care. And it doesn’t happen over and over. I mean, I’m talking to a music critic here, but it’s possible that the right way to see trick is, as a consummate singles artist, the way we saw Rihanna before Anti and, you know, with pumping out a God’s Plan, pumping out a, you know, Falling Back and then the albums can be so-so.

[00:15:56] Neil Shah: If we see him as a singles artist and relieve him of the expectations of having to be an album artist, it kind of changes how you look at things and then it doesn’t seem like, oh, he’s fallen off, et cetera. 

[00:16:07] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think just given what we’ve seen in his career can create so many definitions of what is considered success, what is not considered or what is considered your peak relevance? Because I posed the question a few times to people, when, if you had to pick one year that Drake was at his peak, what year would you pick and why? And if you’re going from a commercial perspective, you could easily pick 2018, or you could even pick 2021 given the streaming results that he’s had.

[00:16:35] Dan Runcie: If you’re going from an artistic perspective of what he’s actually created, you could pick 2011 with Take Care. You could even pick 2013 with Nothing Was the Same. But if you’re kind of looking for a combination of all those, maybe it’s 2015, where he has Hotline Bling. He has the What a Time to be Alive and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtapes and the Back to Back diss with Meek Mill. And I feel like there’s so many things that you can point to with that, which makes it an interesting piece with him, because I think just given where he is, especially with streaming relative to everyone else, there’s always going to be an argument to be made that he is the most quote-unquote, you know, successful artist that we have from that perspective.

[00:17:19] Dan Runcie: But even that may have some nuance because, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the early predictions for how this album will do. I think I saw some and they’re predicting it’ll be right in the, you know, low to mid 200,000 album-equivalent units for this. But I think that’s becoming a bit of a tougher metric to use to try to measure the relevance and importance of an album, because one, it’s hard to compare that to something like even Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers or something that had, you know, more than a months worth of notice and build-up leading towards it. And it’s even harder to compare that to something like a Harry styles album, which technically speaking is the highest-selling album of the year.

[00:18:00] Dan Runcie: But that’s largely because of the physical albums that were made available, specifically vinyl, and this is a completely digital release for Drake. So we don’t necessarily know, you know, what would happen if there were 200,000 vinyl copies available of Honestly, Nevermind. And how that would shift things.

[00:18:21] Neil Shah: These two releases that you’re mentioning are diametrically opposed. That’s a really good point. You have Harry styles with a, you know, a stellar week and surprisingly driven so much by vinyl, single-handedly by vinyl. And then you have Drake surprise dropping an album with six hours advance notice.

[00:18:39] Neil Shah: And of course, any kind of physical releases are, would be to come so they wouldn’t help the numbers. Yeah, there’s a feeling in which, I think you’re getting at this, that maybe that what we could see in terms of his first week numbers, they could be slightly underwhelming for a major like studio album from Drake, as opposed to a mixtape.

[00:19:01] Neil Shah: That’s you know, something in the two hundreds is not barn burning, you know, it’s just not compared to what, what Drake is capable of. So it will be an interesting question just how far does this lag do his numbers for that first week lag behind some of the other releases in the past? That’ll be an interesting thing to watch.

[00:19:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. And to your point earlier, just about some of the other Republic artists, maybe there’s a trend here. Dawn FM, what was that, a day or two notice before that? And even with Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore, very short notice before as well. Granted, those had the physical copies released with them, but we’ll see on that front, I think the other interesting thing, the elephant in the room that some people were wondering is, did Beyoncé’s announcement of Renaissance coming impact Drake releasing this, how he did, or when he did, or him wanting to try to get in front, to still get a slice of the summer before hearing that? Because if I’m remembering the week correctly, Beyoncé deletes her profile pictures on social media, maybe on like Tuesday of that week or somewhere around there. And then it’s Thursday morning that we see that Drake’s like, oh, I have an album dropping at midnight. So if you know that Beyoncé’s dropping at the end of July, do you wanna be able to have some runway.

[00:20:20] Neil Shah: I think if, I mean, we can fact check this, but like, I think Beyoncé changed her socials on a Friday. 

[00:20:27] Dan Runcie: Okay. You’re right. 

[00:20:28] Neil Shah: I think it was the 10th. To your point that there was a significant time for Drake to maneuver if he then knew that Beyoncé was going into album mode. Even if the two camps weren’t talking, Beyoncé changes her socials, fans go berserk, and then a few phone calls are made and then Drake can figure it out.

[00:20:49] Neil Shah: So there’s a possibility that these two releases are linked and Drake is trying to get going so that he has a, like, market share in, in this summer. It is, you know, it’s a routine thing. It’s worth mentioning in this context that we’re talking about two label empires. So with Beyoncé as far as I know, while she runs her own business with Parkwood, we’re talking about a Sony relationship.

[00:21:10] Neil Shah: And then of course, with Drake, we’re talking about a Universal Music relationship. So there presumably, in theory, would be less discussion between them. When you’re talking about the same label company, let’s say if you’re talking just Universal Music Group labels, you know, I’m sure there’s even more coordination than there normally is.

[00:21:29] Neil Shah: I’ll give you an example. Another frankly, Taylor example. I think Taylor did move an album of hers for Paul McCartney. And in that case, you’re talking about Taylor, Republic, Paul McCartney, Capitol.

[00:21:41] Dan Runcie: True. Taylor did move hers for, she moved Red up a week for Adele’s 30, right? And Adele was Sony. 

[00:21:48] Neil Shah: Those are different label houses, yeah. So, my guess is that, you know, in the business, whether it’s the same label house or not, these discussions are had, because it’s to everybody’s benefit that they’re talking. I don’t know how much of a big deal it would be though. You know, I think, I think Beyoncé and Drake can coexist in the summer and they’re obviously taking different release approaches and, you know, we have had Kendrick. 

[00:22:17] Neil Shah: And now Frank Ocean is increasingly going to be in the frame since he’s gonna be a Coachella headliner. So I think the bigger issue than a Beyoncé-Drake friction because of the proximity of the releases is just things have amped up and gotten busier. We had a lull in terms of new releases, which everybody felt, I mean, in the post-Adele in the winter. And then the early part of this year was very dull, basically. And then all at once, we seem to be getting you know, Jack Harlow, Harry Styles, Kendrick, this stuff. We’re getting a lot. So I think there’s a lot for fans to digest. 

[00:22:52] Neil Shah: We don’t have a lot of information about Beyoncé’s album, but it, too, there are hints that it too could have a dance orientation. And so it’ll be interesting if they’re both trying to create this nice mellow summer vibe. 

[00:23:06] Dan Runcie: I know. I saw that news, too, about her potentially having a new sound or being able to introduce something completely new with this album and even just thinking about it. It was a completely different era that Lemonade was released into. So thinking about, that was exclusive to Tidal. Or you had to watch it on HBO, like straight-up HBO before they even had like HBO, you know, Now, or Max, or any of the iterations they had after that. I mean, it’s a completely different world, so I’m sure I’ll need to think about it a bit.

[00:23:38] Dan Runcie: But when you hit me up for a prediction on how she’ll do, I’ll have to let you know about that one. I was pretty close with the Adele one. I was pretty close with the Adele one, so. 

[00:23:46] Neil Shah: You were, and the Beyoncé release raises a similar question as with Adele, as you’re pointing out,. We are talking about a moment where one wonders how this will do. It was an entirely different era.

[00:23:59] Neil Shah: In 2016, with Lemonade, we were in this mini era, micro era of exclusives, which went by the wayside for music. It still exists for video projects and whatnot. Yeah, it was exclusive to Tidal. She teased the HBO special. With the week in advance, she didn’t tease an album. If you remember, we were wondering, what are we getting? Presumably, we’re getting music, but we didn’t even know that. 

[00:24:21] Dan Runcie: Right. 

[00:24:21] Neil Shah: It’s part of the package that night. And then we get the album. So totally different era. And it did blockbuster numbers, not as big as an Adele because Beyoncé works a little differently in terms of online streaming.

[00:24:33] Neil Shah: And then also her wings were clipped by the fact that it was an exclusive on Tidal. Her numbers were never, initially, so her numbers were never that big, but it raises the question similar to Adele in late 2021 of how these marquee blockbuster releases, how are they doing?

[00:24:52] Neil Shah: Are they able to generate the same numbers in terms of streams and sales? And barring that, even if you agree, which I think we would both agree, that numbers increasingly like that are not the best barometer of success. Let’s take another yardstick, which is just mind share. How much do we talk about an album?

[00:25:10] Neil Shah: And I’m wondering about it with Beyoncé because at least myself as a music fan, I think about just how much of our time and attention did Adele’s 30 get? Beyoncé Was a very successful single it had a great hook, this nice descending vocal hook that is still in my head. Easy on Me was not a Hello.

[00:25:33] Neil Shah: It was kind of a very, very mini Hello. It did have an impression. I’m not saying it did not, but not only was it not a Hello. A lot of the other material on the album hasn’t really taken off in a way that has kept us talking about the Adele album. You then also have Kendrick dropping his release. We can debate the merits of the album, like another time, but it’s been relatively quiet for a Kendrick release.

[00:25:58] Neil Shah: And so, you know, I’m just wondering. What the response will be to Beyoncé in 2022. And how long will she be in the news? How long will these, you know, how long will her singles starting with, I guess, Break My Soul tonight. 

[00:26:11] Dan Runcie: It’s a great question. And I think there’s legitimacy behind it because it’s so tough. Even if you are the biggest star in the world to maintain, even what these mega stars had in the mid 2010s, it’s very hard to be able to do that. I do think that Beyoncé does have the benefit of, yes, this is probably the first release we’ve seen her be able to do in a while where her wings won’t be clipped, where I assume it will be available widely on all streaming services.

[00:26:39] Dan Runcie: But I also think that part of the attraction of Lemonade was it happened, that album was released not too shortly after the elevator incident with Jay-Z and Solange, and everyone looking at this to hear, what is Beyoncé gonna say? Is she gonna give us a little bit more than that line that she did in that Nicki Minaj, the song with Nicky Minaj on the Flawless remix? You know, the one like, “When it’s a billion dollars on an elevator, of course sometimes shit go down”. People wanted to hear more than that. That’s what she gave them on this album. So that album was also caught up in something else that was capturing the mind share of people.

[00:27:14] Dan Runcie: But there’s less public drama, much to Beyoncé́’s advantage, in her public life. But when that’s not there, you know, how do those things necessarily impact the album? And I know that’s a frustrating, you know, argument to even pose, but it does highlight where attention does go in this. I do think the fact that people are already excited, she’s gonna have buildup. It’s great.

[00:27:37] Dan Runcie: She has a lead single that’s gonna be released today on June 20th. Wait, what’s the name? Break My Soul, that’s the name of the song. So, you know, she’ll have a week in a or a month in advance for that one, but we’ll see it. 

[00:27:49] Neil Shah: It’s true that you know, it’s not a good thing, I guess, but drama does help feed the beast. And you have an artist, one of the biggest artists of our time, like, the Michael Jackson of our time openly confronting, you know, her anger, her shame, you know, in infidelity and her partner is also one of the biggest stars of our time. So that is a soap opera with the capital S, whether you like Beyoncé or not. And so yes, that drove a significant amount of interest. And then, yeah, historically, the story gets less sexy when things are good and everyone’s gotten back together. It’s like Paradise Lost. Everyone likes the, the early parts of it. And then things get kind of boring near the end. And so one wonders what the themes of this album will be and will they be compelling enough? you have Beyoncé, you know, Jay-Z had his own album, 4:44, and you have EVERYTHING IS LOVE, which kind of acts as a mini-chapter after Lemonade.

[00:28:47] Neil Shah: If there’s a narrative unfolding, post Lemonade, EVERYTHING IS LOVE is kind of a stop-gap, which is, it has a more positive vibe. And then now you have this. I would expect her to use this, to continue the Lemonade narrative. And since it follows EVERYTHING IS LOVE, I’ve just been wondering, you know, it’s called Renaissance.

[00:29:04] Neil Shah: And so I would imagine it to be like a victory lap, a very positive, feel good album. That’s what it seems like it could be, and it seems like maybe that’s what she’s signaling. And then the question that arises is, you know yeah, all things considered, all things being equal, will that generate the same amount of controversy? 

[00:29:23] Dan Runcie: Definitely. And I think the other piece I think about too is the past two albums have had a visual element to them. Of course, self-titled Beyoncé videos for every album, full visual album on HBO for Lemonade. And with this album, I’m almost expecting to see, are we gonna see the continuation of Beyoncé’s partnership with Netflix?

[00:29:43] Dan Runcie: Because when that first documentary was announced, the reported numbers were 60 million deal for three projects. And that Lemonade documentary was the first of three that we would see. So if Renaissances (act i), is there a chance that we gotta act ii and act iii as a continuation? Not sure. 

[00:30:03] Neil Shah: Right. Lemonade, you then have the, the Homecoming Coachella performance as I believe another Netflix product. Yeah. I think people are expecting a huge video component to this, and I feel like it’s being hinted at, and, gosh, the Netflix-Beyoncé relationship has gotta be a very strong, strong one.

[00:30:21] Neil Shah: So I imagine that there would be a lot more product on that front and that would definitely help the album. Maybe play the role of, you know, Adele’s concert special to some extent and help propel this. So I’m sure that there’ll be a strong video component. And another thing I’m wondering about is that whether we’ll see a multi-part saga here. One thing that we don’t have an answer to is why there is a seeming subtitle.

[00:30:45] Neil Shah: act i next to Renaissance, which suggests that maybe what we could get is more than we bargain for. Like, one way historically to fend off, I mean, maybe I’m just seeing this, but I feel like there are examples in the past where when expectations are pretty high and you’re coming off a high point in a pop career and you kind of, you want a big bang from the next project, but the expectations are stacked against you.

[00:31:11] Neil Shah: One way to diffuse that bomb is through quantity. I’m not saying the quality has to lapse, but you can go real big. And so one possibility when I see act i is that we’re gonna be expecting this other moment where we could get something that endures over time. And that could be a way, especially with it getting hard for the likes of you know, even The Weeknd’s and Taylor’s to an Adele’s and Kendrick’s to hold our attention compared to the mid-2010s.

[00:31:39] Neil Shah: Why not have a campaign that goes on for longer? I mean, that’s one way in which I interpret, I don’t think she’s intentionally doing this, but Taylor’s rerecorded albums effectively keep her in the conversation and dominate news headlines indefinitely, basically. And. I don’t think that’s its purpose, but that’s one thing that does help keep her front of mind.

[00:32:00] Neil Shah: And so that might be a smart strategy. If that’s what happens, to kind of keep Beyoncé in the frame for a longer period of time compared to basically what Adele has done.

[00:32:09] Dan Runcie: Right. Because yeah, especially now you’re releasing things one week and then boom. It’s gone. You may be able to capture it then, but it’s harder to stay on top of it. And you’re seeing similar things happening in video streaming where it’s, that never ending debate of, do you do the Netflix binge model or do you serialize it out and, you know, break it out week by week where you may see a bit more commonly from HBO and even Netflix is experimenting more with the breaking up week by week. So this could be music’s opportunity, especially for the superstars, while I don’t expect them to ever do like a song-by-song album release every week. Having some type of boom here is act one, get ready for the next one. And people’s anticipation of when that could be and talking about when that could be will ultimately keep you in the conversation.

[00:32:55] Neil Shah: I mean, I’m looking forward to the visuals and hopefully there’s a lot of it. I mean, Lemonade, the HBO special was just beautiful. And she’s already introducing a new aesthetic, a new like series of like, a new set of paint brushes with the British Vogue feature that was timed for her album announcement just a few days ago. I mean, there was a distinct aesthetic there that’s I think, fresh and new, it resembles kind of something like a retro-futurism with like outdated things like horses and then more futuristic elements, which, you know, probably has a relationship to Afrofuturism, but it, it was beautiful. And so I imagine that that aesthetic will play a big role in what we see. And I think it’s really a rich vein to tap. 

[00:33:41] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Yeah. Those visuals are impressive. I think I bet she’s on a few stuff with British Vogue now, but yeah, those, those visuals have been good. I think this one specifically stuck out to me, so I’m excited. I’m excited. Yeah. I know you are too. Neil, any more closing thoughts on Beyoncé’s release before we wrap up. 

[00:33:56] Neil Shah: No, I think, I think that’s good. Just, I mean, one other thing, I’ll just note, just as a factoid. We’re getting this single Break My Soul tonight, midnight, June 20th. It’s worth noting that.

[00:34:09] Neil Shah: I mean, it’s coming on the heels of Juneteenth and that does obviously have significance for Beyoncé who had released BLACK PARADE that 2020 single on Juneteenth. Juneteenth, too. So that could be partly what’s behind, I’m just theorizing, but that could be behind the timing of this single. 

[00:34:26] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I had a similar thought, too. I had a similar thought. I’m expecting something along those lines, and it’ll be fun to see. I’m excited, like anything, you know, watching the clock until midnight. Well, it’ll be a little earlier for me. That’s one thing I can say I like a little bit about the West Coast, I can get those releases at 9:00 PM before I go to bed.

[00:34:45] Neil Shah: Yeah. I’m always trying to figure out what’s the right way to cover this stuff because it does come at an opportune time. It’s a source of consternation that these releases come out the way they do on Thursday night. , mean, I almost wanted to, I almost wanted to thank Beyoncé for being kind to the music writers out there by making, having her announcement roll out at a reasonable time. So thank you, Beyoncé. I can now plan for coverage for until, what, July 29th. And I do appreciate that.

[00:35:16] Dan Runcie: Right? It’s not like Drake making you scramble when you would just think you’re gonna have a nice Friday. You could have just showed out. You could have got to bed at a decent hour, but no, Honestly, Nevermind. Boom. Well, Neil, thanks so much for coming on. This was great. And yeah, we’ll have to touch base again after these album drops to see how our predictions shaped out, how this conversation shaped, and ultimately, I think this is gonna be ongoing. There’s gonna be so many more superstars dropping albums now that things have opened back up, now that they can go on tour. So I’m excited. 

[00:35:47] Neil Shah: Yeah, it’ll be great, let’s definitely, it’d be fun to reconvene and see how, you know, how things ended up come late July.

[00:35:54] Dan Runcie: All right, sounds good. Thanks again, Neil.

[00:35:56] Dan Runcie: Okay, thanks.

[00:35:59] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share with a friend, copy the link, text it to a friend posted in your group chat, post it in your slack groups, wherever you and your people talk. Spread the word. That’s how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcasts, go ahead, rate the podcast, give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you like the podcast that helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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