Eight ways Beyoncé can stay pop's Queen B
As birthday bombshells go, Beyoncé's MTV Awards newsflash will take some trumping.
Mere weeks after her electrifying Oxegen performance, pop's Queen B announced she was going to be a mother, thus sending the world's showbiz media into its biggest collective meltdown since Lady Gaga showed up at a premiere in a skirt made out of lamb-chops (in a tired stab at one-upmanship Gaga arrived at the MTV shindig dressed as a man).
"I want you to feel the love growing inside of me," said Beyoncé, singing her new single 'Love on Top'. As the song ended, she ditched the mike and opened her jacket, revealing the distinct beginnings of a bump.
The announcement was doubly significant for Beyoncé, who hits the big three-zero this Sunday. In interviews, the singer, whose husband is hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, has made no secret of her desire to be with child by her 30th birthday.
Even if she wasn't expecting, of course, reaching her fourth decade would be a milestone of tremendous significance for -- sorry, Jedward -- the world's biggest pop star.
In an ever more image-obsessed entertainment industry, age is everything. For female artists in particular, your 30s usually mark the point at which you are expected to take your final bows, shuffle off stage and make retirement plans.
Considering the incredible focus with which she has managed her career to date, there is, however, little reason to believe Beyoncé has any intention of changing jobs just because she's getting slightly older.
Ultimately, of course, whether she holds on to her position as supreme chart diva isn't up to her. The decision rests with the fickle entity that is the music-consuming public.
But like Kylie and Madonna before her, you suspect Beyoncé has the smarts and the sass to trump pop's embedded ageism and, let's just say it, horrendous sexism.
You wouldn't bet on Katy Perry, Rihanna and -- ooh, controversial -- Lady Gaga being around a decade from now.
Beyoncé is another story entirely. Below are the steps she needs to take to ensure uber-diva longevity.
1 Extend the Brand
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Gwyneth Paltrow was once merely an actress. Thanks to her Goop website, Gwynie is nowadays almost better-known as a first-rank lifestyle guru, a sort of Nigella Lawson / Martha Stewart for the minted yummy mummy classes.
In infamously ageist Hollywood, middle age is the time when actresses stop being cast in juicy roles -- last we heard, Winona Ryder (now an ancient 39) was playing Spock's mother in Star Trek.
Canny Paltrow has ensured she will still have a money-spinning career long after her spell in the Tinseltown limelight is at an end.
2 Broaden Your Range
When Kylie performed in Dublin last March, she was able to leave out practically all of her early hits, even 'I Should Be So Lucky'.
That's because, with her days as a teen idol drawing to a close, she was clever enough to re-position herself as the thinking person's chart diva in the mid-90s.
A hook-up with Nick Cave garnered the grudging admiration of 'real' music fans. Then she started hanging out with the Pet Shop Boys, the Manic Street Preachers, and, later, Calvin Harris. Result: overnight cred and another 15 years of hits.
Beyoncé has already hinted at a similar rebranding, inviting the underground duo Howling Bells to contribute material to her last record (which ultimately did not make the cut). She needs to continue pushing in this direction.
If the tastemakers love you, everyone else will come around too.
3 Move Next Door to the Gym
Nothing spells out Madonna's determination to stay at the forefront of pop quite like the bulging pecs she's been sporting in photo-shoots since the end of the '90s.
Though in an unkind light this can give her the unfortunate aspect of an Eastern Bloc weightlifter, it also underlines her resolve to see off all challengers.
She applies the same ball-breaking single- mindedness to her music, sniffing out the hippest new producers to ensure her sound stays fresh (David Guetta must be wondering when the phone is going to ring).
Ultimately, however, it's the biceps bulge that remind us Madge, now a hard-boiled 53, is in it for the long haul.
4 Declare War on the Music Industry
In the mid-'90s, Prince's mercurial genius had seemingly deserted him and the quality of his music was on the slide. But he stayed in the public eye thanks to a drawn-out spat with his record label, which had the gall to insist that the singer apply some rigor to the material he released.
The way Prince saw it, he was entitled to put out whatever amount of music he saw fit. When the label objected, he took to scrawling the word 'Slave' on his face.
While it didn't do much for the quality of his music, the hoo-haa did maintain brand awareness. Something to think about should you find your current high standards hard to live up to, Beyoncé!
5 Slum It
Mariah Carey pushed back on her diva image with a sensitive, understated cameo in 2009's Oscar-nominated ghetto drama Precious.
Cast as a frustrated social worker, it was almost literally a warts-and-all turn as Carey, recently turned 38, appeared without make-up, looking far more like a human being than anyone might have imagined possible. There was even a groundswell for her to be nominated for best supporting actress.
The lesson for Beyoncé is clear. To generate cred, turning up at a movie set looking like you've been up for three days straight living off vodka and crisps is a can't-fail strategy.
6 Hit the Reunion Treadmill
Remember when Gwen Stefani was the last word in yummy mummy-dom -- gorgeous, successful and with a lucrative sideline as a fashion guru with her Lamb clothing range? Erm... nope... neither do we.
So quickly did interest in Stefani fade, you could be forgiven for thinking she'd retired to spend more time with her billions. With her profile plummeting, she took the fateful decision to reform her first band, No Doubt.
Cue: lashings of media buzz and a slew of sell-out concerts across America.
Beyoncé's former Destiny's Child chum Kelly Rowland may be just finding her way in her new job as X Factor judge. But we're guessing that, if the fateful call ever came, she'd be squeezed into a cat-suit and belting out the chorus to 'Bootylicious' faster than you could say 'ker-ching!'
7 Have a Gazillion Kids
The world's best-paid actress, Angelina Jolie, brought home a tidy $300m last year, making her officially a higher earner than husband Brad Pitt.
Some of this was unquestionably down to her chops as an action hero (can you imagine any other actress kicking butt as emphatically as Angie does in Salt?).
For all her on-screen prowess, however, the truth is her bankability, to an overwhelming degree, is a spin-off of her very distinctive brand of mega-fame.
Which, in turn, has a great deal to do with her well-publicised adventures in child-rearing. The mother of six kids (three adopted), Jolie shows us that the bigger your brood, the heftier your pay cheque.
8 Keep Flogging That Horse
The second-highest paid actress in 2010 was Sarah Jessica Parker, aka Sex In The City's Carrie Bradshaw.
Far from moving on after the end of SATC in February 2004, she owes her present lucre-generating powers to her refusal/inability to leave Carrie Bradshaw behind.
The vast bulk of her earnings last year flowed from the success of Sex and the City II, which she starred in and produced (despite being mauled by critics, the movie made $300m).
Almost everyone else on the planet would agree SATC's day's of cultural relevance are long over. But SJP's assiduous barrel-scraping delivered the mother of all pay-days, which shows what we know.
Beyoncé, are you paying attention?