Like everyone else, when I was made aware of yesterday's video teaser promising a huger-than-Mothra-and-Antarctica-combined online announcement from Beyoncé at 9 a.m. ET this morning, I cleared my calendar. Deadlines were postponed. Appointments were abandoned. The kid was passed off to the neighbors, or at least a couple wandering around our cul-de-sac who probably live somewhere in the general vicinity. After Beyoncé's disappearance from the public eye - it seemed as if a full four days had passed since she'd last been sighted - I was ready. It was time.
On fan boards, the Beyoncé cognoscenti speculated that she'd be announcing an upcoming world tour. Others countered that it would be a sibling for Blue Ivy; an energy drink; an imminent run for political office; a multimedia collaboration of some sort, either with a Marilyn Monroe hologram or an actual flesh-and-blood being; or a new line of inflatable lawn furniture. We agreed only that it was wonderful to have her back after so long. Time slowed as we neared 9 a.m., but we passed the hours with a frank, collegial discussion about the import of gelatinous-sandwich-spread metaphor in "Bootylicious." And finally the clock arrived at the appointed hour, and finally the big reveal was… a new Pepsi commercial?
And thus for the 400th time in 2013 alone, we were forced to recalibrate our definition of a buzzworthy online event. Apparently we now celebrate teaser videos that celebrate commercials that celebrate soda. If it were ever in doubt, it isn't anymore: The viral-video bar hasn't been lowered so much as it's been submerged.
The clip represents the latest addition to Pepsi's "Be More Now-y/Own Your Now-ness/Now Is the New Anti-Later" canon of extended-online-version ads. In them, music and soda and coolly unstyled young people with shiny teeth conspire to elevate drab corporate outings into totally rockin' shindigs. It's testament to Beyoncé's star wattage that, at least in this clip, she is entrusted to execute that transformation by herself. Last time around, Nicki Minaj needed both a street gang of backup dancers and a slow-motion tomato fight.
The clip is precisely what one would expect from both its star and brand benefactor. In it, Beyoncé takes a Pepsi break while rehearsing in her poorly lit industrial loft of a dance studio. When she cracks open the can, the studio's mirrors are magically transformed into, like, past-life-channeling supermirrors. Peering into them with what might be best described as a look of quizzical disdain, Beyoncé sees her style iterations from video hits of yesteryear reflecting back at her. Naturally, these iterations dance and pout in concert with current-day Bey.
As the volume is turned up on her tuneless new single, the mirrors shatter. See, Beyoncé is breaking with her past, but in the now-iest way possible. Nonetheless, for those who lack the intellectual potency to grasp a metaphor of this sublime subtlety, the voiceover fills in the gaps: "Embrace your past, but live for now." Another sip, a sly smile, and we're done.
I don't have much else to add, to be honest. Pepsi isn't going to abandon its we-are-the-chosen-libation-of-comely-young-America positioning anytime soon, so it's pointless to comment further on the stubborn redundancy of its recent marketing efforts. Similarly, Beyoncé is one of the few artists whose new music will get heard with or without corporate partnership, so her appearance here plays like a sweaty insurance policy. The pre-clip/clip combo earns high marks for creative hype-generation, but the payoff is borderline depressing. Everyone associated with it has done better.