Is Beyoncé Breaking New Ground by Debuting Her Songs in Commercials?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
April 25 2013 5:46 PM

Is Beyoncé Breaking New Ground by Debuting Her Songs in Commercials?

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Beyoncé in a new ad for H&M.

This week, Beyoncé fans were treated to a snippet of “Standing on the Sun,” a new song with tropical beats off of the widely beloved diva’s upcoming album. It even came with a music video—sort of. “Mrs. Carter in H&M,” the 90-second cut featuring Beyoncé singing and rolling around on the beach—shades of “Baby Boy”—is actually an ad for the clothing retailer’s swimsuit line. This is the second time in a few weeks that the singer has debuted a new song via a commercial: Previously, the presumed first single off her next album, “Grown Woman,” was teased in a Pepsi ad. (Beyoncé performed the song for the first time yesterday in Paris.)

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

This looks like a shrewd, Internet-era move by these companies, ensuring that fans who want to hear even a little of these new songs need to watch their ads (again and again, I suspect). It also seems pretty unusual. How often have pop stars premiered new songs in commercials?

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It’s quite rare. During this year’s Super Bowl, The Flaming Lips brought out “Sun Blows Up Today” for a Hyundai commercial—but unlike Beyoncé, the public had a chance to listen to the entire track on Rolling Stone’s website the week before. The group also penned the song specifically for the car company, much as the Spice Girls’ “Move Over (Generation Next)” was written for a Pepsi ad (and later included on their album Spiceworld). Justin Timberlake and McDonald’s similarly collaborated on the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign in 2003. (Timberlake later extended the tune and added it to the re-release of his album Justified.) As far as we can tell, Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” and “Standing on the Sun” were conceived for her album first, not the Pepsi and H&M commercials.

X Factor winner Tate Stevens has done something a bit more similar to the Beyoncé approach, premiering a new song with a 3-minute long Pepsi ad that doubled as a music video. But this was part of his prize package, and very much in keeping with the big corporate tie-ins of such reality shows.

The only example I have found that matches Beyoncé’s maneuver more or less exactly is Will.i.am’s commercial for car company Lancia. The song “Mona Lisa Smile” was intended for his latest solo album—which was long delayed—and premiered in an ad last year. Will.i.am retitled the song “Smile Mona Lisa” when the album, #Willpower, was finally released this month.

Know of any other examples? Let me know in the comments.