By Jo Constantz
Beyonce’s new single sounds like a power anthem for the Great Resignation.
The lyrics on her latest track, “Break My Soul,” speak to the millions of Americans who have left their jobs over the past year looking for better opportunities with unemployment at a record low. In April, 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in the U.S. even as fears of recession grow.
The first verse spells out the impulses many Americans are acting on: “Now I just fell in love / And I just quit my job / I’m gonna find new drive / Damn they work me so damn hard / Work by nine / Then off past five / And they work my nerves / That’s why I cannot sleep at night.”
The song, which debuted Monday, is part of her new album, “Renaissance: Act 1,” that’s due to be released on July 29.
More than two years into the global pandemic, the labor market is still in turmoil. Today, 10,000 London Underground workers went on strike in the UK for better pay and higher wages, forcing more than 1 million London commuters to work from home. In the US, efforts to unionize at major corporations are on the rise and workers are expressing outrage and strategizing for better pay and benefits in places like Reddit’s AntiWork forum, with 2 million subscribers.
Beyonce’s lyrics may resonate particularly with women. A Deloitte study found they’re especially prone to burn out after shouldering child care responsibilities in addition to work during the pandemic shutdowns. The song also likely rings true globally: One in five workers around the world are likely to seek new jobs in the next year, according to PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears survey. The biggest motivator? Higher pay.
The single evokes themes of the 1970s disco era, when dance anthems — like Michael Jackson’s “Workin’ Day and Night” and “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees — appealed to the frustration working people felt in an economy beset by stagflation, encouraging them to dance the night away. A mid-track rap by Big Freedia highlights the frustrations of today’s workers grappling with low pay, long hours and rising inflation that make it hard to get by: “Release ya anger, release ya mind / Release ya job, release the time / Release ya trade, release the stress / Release the love, forget the rest.”
The song’s second verse nods to entrepreneurship: “Motivation / I’m looking for a new foundation, yeah / And I’m on that new vibration / I’m building my own foundation.” More people are looking to become their own bosses since the pandemic disrupted work and life. In 2021, Americans filed applications for 5.4 million new businesses, according to a White House report – more than 20% higher than any year on record.
With economists and billionaires alike signaling the US economy may be headed for recession, Beyonce is still a good bet, according to Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chief Investment Officer of Public Equity Katie Koch. Consumers continue to spend selectively during recessions, especially on experiences, rendering popular artists like Beyonce — and the event venues where she tours — virtually recession-proof, she said.
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