New York Times Magazine’s Jenna Wortham has a Case of Beyoncé-itis

The writer weighs in on the mystique of Queen Bey

The following is an excerpt from a wide-ranging conversation between Jenna and Om, as published on Pico. Read the full conversation here.

Om: Let’s talk about Beyonce.

Jenna: Oh, my gosh. What do you want to know?

Om: Everything. When did you become obsessed with her? When she was in the group, or was it more recent?

Jenna: More recently. Last year I wrote a piece for the Nieman Journalism Lab about the future of news, and I said the future of news is Sasha Fierce. Beyonce had released an album that everybody had bought, her visual album. People signed up for iTunes, which I hadn’t used in a year. I don’t know if I’d ever bought an album with iTunes, but I bought that album the second it came out.

She created a totally new visual diary. It was such a crazy thing. It was a premium product. It was more money than I’d spent on music in years. It was totally worth it. I still think that’s something we should all be paying attention to: how she commands attention. Because you know it’s going to be worthwhile. She always does something new and innovative. She’s interesting to me because I think now she’s more a visual artist than a musical artist. She’s not even someone who uses the internet. She creates a new language through her videos and through the sets she designs. I like her music fine, but I love her visuals.

I’m impressed with how much she continues to innovate, how much she continues to redefine what it means to be a pop star. Not to take this metaphor too far, but this is as old as the media business. She’s constantly reinventing what it means to make money and how to be profitable in what is essentially a dying industry. That continued makeover is fascinating, because a lot of artists aren’t able to pull it off. I’m in awe of her and how she seems to have managed to figure it out.

She’s like a meme artist. She has a spectacular team around her, and I think it’s all her too. She is good at understanding how to get things to go viral. When Sasha Fierce came out, even if you weren’t a Beyonce fan — she’s so good at getting her base level of fans to talk about her. Excerpt parts of her video are used, GIFs of her or whatever, so you can’t help but get curious about her. That kind of ambient prevalence is powerful. That’s even what got me into Beyonce, because I kept hearing about her. I finally said, “Why is everyone so obsessed with Beyonce?” Then I got Beyonce-itis. I was like, “Oh, I get it now.”

Read the full Pico conversation here.

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