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Great Beyxpectations

HBO
HBO

Tonight, Beyoncé will release, uh … something called Lemonade. That’s all we know from the trailer she released last week — a mysterious, minute-long clip that features Queen Bey shrouded in fur and whispering late-period Terrence Malick–isms like “Think of lovers … as trees … ” Whatever Lemonade is, it will premiere on HBO from 9 to 10 p.m. ET, right in the middle of the channel’s free preview weekend. Debuting something in prime time on a Saturday night is characteristically audacious, and so Beyoncé. It is her way of saying, “Of course I am just as important as Game of Thrones. I am my own episode, no, season of Saturday Night Live. When a presidential debate was scheduled on a Saturday night, you were confused and annoyed. When I schedule something, you cancel your plans.”

Beyoncé loves to hijack people’s weekends — she’s done it three times since the release of her game-changing self-titled surprise album in 2013. On August 2, 2014, she and Nicki Minaj dropped the “Flawless” remix out of nowhere, bestowing upon the world the timeless wisdom that “of course sometimes shit go down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator.” Then on the night of Friday, November 21, 2014, she gave us the surprise video “7/11,” which remains the Platonic ideal of a GoPro upload. Most recently, the afternoon before Super Bowl Sunday, she released the masterful “Formation,” a politically minded clip that somehow doubled as both an act of protest and a high-budget commercial for her upcoming world tour. With each of these subsequent surprises, the internet has reacted more and more like the audience in an “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode. Words fail. Only the fire alarm emoji can suffice.

But is there a breaking point? How many surprise birthdays can you throw your friend before they just start to … expect it? Lemonade marks the first time we’ve had a full week (which is roughly 37 years in internet time) to mount expectations about whatever Beyoncé has in store for us. Some people think Lemonade will be a long concept video for the titular song; others think it will be an entire visual album. But if it’s anything less than what we’re expecting, could this be the moment the Beyoncé surprise bubble bursts? The first inkling that this was even possible came last month, when she participated in a countdown to what many fans assumed would be a new album, but turned out to be the debut of her athletic wear line, Ivy Park. (Or, you know, that time she teased an appearance on Good Morning America to announce to the world that … she was vegan?) Like a friend expecting a surprise rager but instead being treated to a nice, intimate dinner at Benihana, the internet collectively went, “Oh.”

The best way to avoid disappointment, of course, is to keep your expectations low. Which is why I am choosing to believe that Lemonade will be an hourlong, Joy Mangano–type infomercial advertising Beyoncé’s new low-calorie soft drink. I have spent the past few days accepting this as fact. Come tonight, I think I will be pleasantly surprised.

This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on April 23, 2016.