How Beyoncé became the internet’s biggest and best artist

Smile – you broke the internet.

Need to Know

If you were anywhere near a computer, television, smartphone, or person under the age of 50 this weekend, you know about Lemonade, a 60-minute “visual album” that debuted on HBO on Saturday and a 12-track album streaming on Tidal.

We’ll let the experts parse the Rachel Roy, Rachel Ray, and Jay Z drama; identify the samples that were used; and investigate the Illuminati messages embedded in the videos.

(Just one note – you can impress friends and strangers by pointing out Beyonce’s direct quotation of video artist Pipilotti Rist’s 1997 installation “Ever is Over All”.)

We’re more concerned with the big question – how does she do it?

In an era where musicians are increasingly incapable of making money from their work, and just as quickly chewed up and spit out by the internet’s nanosecond attention span, somehow Queen Bey has managed to not only remain one of the industry’s few superstars, but also thrive for almost 20 years.

The struggling Tidal streaming service was immediately buoyed by her exclusive launch on the service – the app quickly hit the top of the App Store’s charts. Unfortunately for Jay Z and co. the honeymoon won’t last long – the album is now available on iTunes, and the videos will stream exclusively on Tidal only until a CD/DVD is released on May 6.

The veil of secrecy that Beyoncé maintains has certainly helped. The star doesn’t court overexposure or market saturation – instead she’s managed to drop not one, but two albums, as a complete surprise. And if there’s one thing the internet still freaks out for, it’s a sense of genuine shock.

In December 2013, a cryptic Instagram posting was the only hint that her fifth studio album Beyoncé was being released; it promptly went to number 1 in 90 countries on the iTunes charts.

Then there was the surprise release of the single “Formation”, just ahead of her Super Bowl performance.

While the release of Lemonade wasn’t quite so obscure – there’s an Instagram photo of Beyoncé holding a lemon from 8 months ago – the specifics had fans guessing up to the 11th hour.

Of course, it helps that Beyoncé is just that good. As The New Yorker notes, “‘Lemonade’ is a revelation of spirit.”