During the last several months, the collective wait for Beyoncé's next album hummed loudly in the background of the music-minded Internet. Remember, she dropped her last album by surprise in December 2013, an event so seismic that surprise releases are now called "pulling a Beyoncé." (Sorry, Radiohead.) Her fervent fanbase and the media's need for new content made speculation about what she might do next run wild—vague announcements fueled manic tweeting from fans, hasty exchanges between writers and editors. In recent weeks, those teases only foreshadowed Beyoncé's mesh-heavy fitness line and a release by Schoolboy Q. At last, on Saturday, she issued the bold, sprawling Lemonade in conjunction with an HBO special and through Tidal, the digital distribution system she co-owns. Now that's a power play.
The tour preview she delivered at the Super Bowl gave tongue-waggers plenty of advance notice that she and her phalanx of musicians and dancers will deliver military-grade precision when they take the stage. Beyoncé is one of the best live performers working right now, full stop; her seemingly endless charisma means that she can turn stadiums into sweaty clubs and make attendees feel like she's beaming right at them. Her voice remains impeccable, keeping up with her guitar-god-like flights of melismatic fancy. While her perfect façade can be frustrating for those who like their pop stars a little messier and a little more human, her live shows can convert even the most stalwart cynic into a buzzing member of the Beyhive.