If I say anything negative I’ll instantly become a pariah, I’ll be inundated with hate on social media and…

“How can there be 24 writers on a song?

Diane Warren tweeted this about a Beyoncé track four days ago.

And was instantly labeled a racist. It was said she didn’t understand African-American culture, one of collaboration, and then she APOLOGIZED! (And disappeared from Twitter for a few days.)

Is Diane Warren a racist? I’ve never seen evidence of this. Diane will work with anybody who can make one of her songs a hit. FURTHERMORE, Diane has previously worked with Beyoncé!

Now let’s say you make your living as a songwriter. Things are tough enough already, unless you have a hit you’re struggling. Used to be even an album track paid serious dividends, assuming it was on a hit LP in the physical era. But today, even though music is released as albums, they’re cherry-picked by the audience. And if you’re super-lucky, more than one track will break out. The rest of them have far fewer streams. And if you’re the writer of one of those…you might need to keep your day job.

Also, how do you write a song with 24 people?

Oh, we know, you sample this and you sample that, everybody in the room where it happens wants a piece and…the truth is Beyoncé has so many income streams that she’s willing to sacrifice some publishing money. But really… 24 writers?

I believe it’s reasonable to question that number, which appears laughable on the surface. I won’t go any further, talk about the craft of writing songs, in both the Black and White worlds…


There are white acts that have a plethora of writers on their songs.

And there are black acts that only have one or two.


But you can’t say that.

I’ve been tracking the success of Beyoncé’s new album “Renaissance” since its release last Friday. To see if streams were commensurate with hype. And although initially the album peppered the upper echelons of the U.S. Spotify Top 50…

And then yesterday afternoon I saw a tweet by Om Malik, presently a VC. Linking to a piece on his blog:

“In Beyoncé we trust?”:

Om said:

“I have been listening to the album — on Spotify. Unlike the critics and reviewers, I am not having an eargasm. Except for two songs, Church Girl and Move, the album left me underwhelmed. She has done better work and will do better work in the future.”

This is the first negative word I’ve read about “Renaissance.” The hosannas in mainstream media have been overwhelming. It’s as if the Beatles got back together and released a record every bit as good as “Sgt. Pepper,” even better!

Now I’m a student of the game. One thing I keep noticing and hammering is most people don’t care. About Beyoncé, about ANYTHING! We no longer live in a monoculture, we live in a niche culture. You can promote it, but that does not mean people will consume it. And the rollout of “Renaissance” is the best ever in the streaming era, it was everywhere. Is it successful?

Om goes on:

“Still, I appreciate Beyoncé bringing attention to house music and its legends. As someone who has been a house music fan since the earliest days, this made me happy. But that doesn’t mean I will go ga-ga over the album, which is a bit ho-hum, at least to my ears. My reaction is very different from that of critics and reviewers. According to Metacritic, it scored 93, and 19 out of 19 reviews are positive. Fans gave it 9.4. I understand that taste is subjective, and not everyone likes the same thing.”

And then quotes “The Economist”: 

“Many superstars enjoy unquestioning critical veneration. This is driven by a number of factors—chief among them journalists’ fear of a social-media backlash. There is also the fact that the biggest stars rarely let their records go to reviewers before release, resulting in articles written on the fly, in which no one wants to be the person out of step.”

Now there’s the truth. This is not the sixties or seventies, where music criticism is an art form. Now it’s all positive all the time. I get “Relix,” the reviews are worthless, THEY’RE ALL POSITIVE!

And seemingly everything in “Rolling Stone” gets three stars. How do you tell the difference? Assuming you even see “Rolling Stone,” since it’s behind a paywall.

But if you go against trend, against the grain, be prepared, you’re going to be criticized, ostracized… One thing I like about Diane Warren is she has edges, she has an opinion, and sometimes it’s negative about herself. She’s 3-D. But if you’re 3-D in today’s world you’re gonna ultimately cross somebody whose goal is to have the world conform to their perception. Other opinions? NO!

So music criticism at large is passé. Because what “The Economist” says is true. Reviewers no longer get free product, there are no press junkets, being flown to a gig like in the old days, today the only thing you get is access, and if you say something negative, anything at all, you’re shut out.

So let’s go to where the rubber meets the road, Beyoncé’s streaming performance. And let me make this clear, Spotify is the only platform that matters. Apple and Amazon have many fewer subscribers who stream less and they both skew older. They don’t represent the cutting edge. And if you quote sales numbers, at iTunes, that’s absolutely ridiculous. If you’re buying tracks today… You get poor quality and if you like ownership…do you really believe the format is forevermore? You’ll be able to play vinyl. MP3s, AACs? How about WMA? The standard in the Windows world twenty years ago, history today.

So on Spotify, the highest charting Beyoncé track is “Break My Soul,” at #8. But this was the advance single, released six weeks ago.

Then you get “Alien Superstar,” on the way down, at #13.

“Cuff It” at #23 on the way down.

“Energy” on the way down at #27.

“Summer Renaissance” at #31 on the way down.

“Church Girl” at #34 on the way down.

“I’m That Girl” at #44 on the way down.

And finally “Cozy” at #45 on the way down.

Eight tracks in the Spotify Top 50, that’s PHENOMENAL! But other than “Break My Soul” they all have that red triangle, representing downward movement. As in people are checking out the album because it’s new, but the newness is wearing off and most people are really just only interested in the hit. There could be another hit down the line, but right now no track is jumping out.

But like I said, Beyoncé’s highest charting track, “Break My Soul,” is at #8 with 772,806 streams a day.

HOWEVER, #1 is Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” with over twice that number, 1,657,720.

And next comes Harry Styles’s “As It Was,” with 1,070,951. Harry’s a superstar. Not that he gets anywhere near the ink that Beyoncé does. Then again, does he have the same cultural impact?

#3 is Bad Bunny’s “Me Porton Bonito,” with 1,045,427 streams a day.

And this is where it becomes interesting. Not only is Bad Bunny #3, he’s also #5, #11, #19, #25, #29, #36 and #48. That’s also eight tracks in the Top 50. But Bad Bunny’s album came out May 6th. And six of Bad Bunny’s tracks, all except #5 and #48, have green triangles, showing they’re on the way up.

So I ask you, who is bigger, Bad Bunny or Beyoncé?

Not that it’s a competition. Yet it is, because streams are where all the money is. As for cultural impact, ultimately that’s unquantifiable, and they’re both not on the road and… Shouldn’t there be a lot of ink about Bad Bunny? Sure, there’s been a good amount, but are we going to say the media is racist by underrepresenting the Latin market?

Interesting question.

#4 is Kate Bush’s “Stranger Things” phenomenon. It’s going down with a red triangle but it still has 1,019,995 streams a day.

And then comes a Drake track. And then a Joji track. And then finally you hit Beyoncé.

If Beyoncé is so big, shouldn’t she have the #1 record, or close?

But it turns out the media is out of touch with the listeners. For all the over the top ink, turns out people would rather listen to something else.

But Bob, you say. Bad Bunny is an international act. It’s unfair to compare his success to that of Beyoncé’s, it’s a different market. But is it really? Those Bad Bunny numbers above are U.S. ONLY!

So let’s look at the Global numbers.

“Break My Soul” is at #16 with a downward red triangle.

“Alien Superstar” is #42 with a red triangle.

And “Cuff It” is #50 with a red triangle.

As for Bad Bunny, he’s at #3, #5, #8, #9, #11, #20, #25, #35 and #47.

And I won’t even bother to recount the fifteen tracks ahead of “Break My Soul” on the Global chart.

Is it racist for me to print the above numbers?

Is it racist for me to question the public’s acceptance of Beyoncé’s new work?

This is business. Have we gotten to the point where we can’t analyze the numbers for fear of offending someone? Not only the act’s superfans, but those in the media, in the business, in the…

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with “Renaissance” in the future. Will the label be able to break another hit? One thing is for sure, with almost all albums, after the hysteria of the initial release, after the multitude of tracks disappear from the Spotify Top 50, they don’t reappear en masse, usually only one at a time, or two. So what about the rest of the tracks on the album? Were they even necessary? Check the Spotify numbers, as you go down the track listing you see ever fewer plays, unless a deeper track was a single. Which is exactly what is happening with “Renaissance.” The first five tracks have between twelve and fifteen million streams. Tracks 9-15 all have single digit millions. In some cases, less than half of numbers 1-5.

Has Beyoncé aged out? Has it been too long between records? Is it better to constantly release new music to keep yourself in the public eye, to keep your hand in the game?  Is the media trustworthy?

These are all viable questions. And really, they’ve got very little to do with Beyoncé herself. This is not character assassination, this is business evaluation. What is going on in the market?

One thing I’ll tell you is happening is nobody’s a guaranteed success. Even Drake’s new album put up less than stellar streaming numbers. The new and different is what appeals to people most. And their judgment of what is good may be completely different from the media’s and the gatekeepers’.

And really, on streaming services, there are no gatekeepers.

It’s not about being discovered on playlists when it comes to superstars. It’s about raw acceptance. Is everybody starting from scratch every time they release music? Or in a much less advantageous position than perceived? Does the public actually want an entire album? Is there a quality issue, I mean look at the Kate Bush numbers. Or is it just simply the song was in “Stranger Things” and that cuts across exposure lines better than anything else in media, print, social or playlists.

The world changes. To keep up with it you have to keep asking questions.

I’m asking questions about “Renaissance.”

That’s taboo.

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