Motherhood obviously need not mean the end of Beyoncé's career, but what will it do to her music?
Beyoncé must avoid mawkish mummy mode
How much is the world in thrall to Beyoncé? Let us count the ways. When the wife of the rapper Jay-Z announced her pregnancy at last week's MTV Video Music Awards show in Los Angeles, she broke a Twitter record - the news spread around the globe at the staggering rate of 8,868 tweets per second. Just to put that in perspective, that's about the same as the death of Osama bin Laden and the Japanese earthquake. Put together.
So should Beyoncé's armies of tweeting fans be happy for one of their generation's finest pop stars, or concerned that future albums will be full of cloying paeans to her wondrous offspring? After all, history tells us that new motherhood is rarely the fuel for interesting pop. Ray of Light may have been one of Madonna's more interesting albums but it was slightly tarnished by Little Star, in which she was in full-on Earth Mother mode. Lauryn Hill's debut solo album is something of a modern classic, and To Zion is a lovely tune, but we could have done without Hill using ridiculously self-important, quasi-biblical language to tell the story of her son's entrance into the world.
At least Kelis's last album Flesh Tone - her much vaunted ode to motherhood - didn't worry about waking the baby: it was full of Euro club bangers. Nevertheless, "Before you, my whole life was a cappella/ Now a symphony's the only song to sing", is just a little trite.
It will be refreshing indeed if Beyoncé can avoid such pitfalls - if only because some commentators appear to be prematurely writing her entire career off on the basis of one pregnancy. In the UK, The Independent newspaper ran a story with the headline "Is the show over for Beyoncé?" A recent interview in US Style magazine had Beyoncé suggesting: "Now I'm a woman, and because I gave it my all, I can focus on my marriage. I can decide I want to have kids. I can be the mother I want to be and dedicate myself to my children." It was published before last week's news but has since been ammunition for those who say music and motherhood don't mix.
Giving up her pop superstardom for the children is unlikely - not to say just a little sexist. Beyoncé will no doubt take time off, but it's not as if having children has to get in the way of future albums and world tours. One would imagine that, between them, Mr and Mrs Z could possibly stretch to a little help around the home.
It's Beyoncé's status as one of the more likeable, down-to-earth megastars - despite her millions - which is the real reason her particular show will never be over. Everyone, from the schoolchildren who practise the Single Ladies dance to the indie kids at her triumphant headlining slot at this year's Glastonbury Festival, has been suckered by her thumpingly good pop.
But there was one other telling moment on that memorable night in June. After belting out Crazy In Love, she came to the front of the stage for the first time to breathe in the wild appreciation from a huge crowd. She beamed the kind of shy smile that could only have come from someone who couldn't quite believe what she'd achieved. When she said, "I want you to know you're witnessing my dream … I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," it felt natural rather than the rehearsed line of a manufactured pop star.
That performance, combined with the album release the next day and now the news of her impending motherhood, does make 2011 feel a little like the end of one chapter in her incredible career thus far. A career which has seen her go from lead singer in Destiny's Child - in its own right one of the most important girl groups of the past 15 years - to fully fledged, multi-award-winning solo star.
But it doesn't have to be the last chapter. Last week, her current album, 4, shot back into the iTunes top 10 in the UK and US - and the American music industry magazine Billboard predicted a 40 per cent increase in sales - for no other reason than that she had just announced she was pregnant. No doubt the same will happen when she's pictured with her child for the first time.
In the end, that's how much we're in thrall to Beyoncé. She can sell records simply by offering us some happy news about a baby. Let's just hope she doesn't feel the need to write an album about it in nine months' time.