Queen Bey isn’t one to follow the rules, and so a few minutes before midnight on Thursday, the songstress released her fifth, self-titled album—a project kept completely under wraps until the late night reveal on Facebook and iTunes.
With no preview, drum roll, advertising or marketing, the megastar is calling it a “visual album” that features 14 songs and 17 videos, not to mention some high-level collaborations including husband JayZ, Drake and Frank Ocean. The album notably includes an ode to daughter Blue Ivy, appropriately titled, “Blue.”
“I see music,” Beyoncé said in her video announcement on Facebook. “It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”[more]
But Bey’s surprising move wasn’t exactly groundbreaking. Back in January, David Bowie—also a Columbia Records client—released his first single in a decade online to the surprise of fans, along with a video.
“It’s quite raw,” said BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney of Beyonce’s visual album. “I quite like the DIY sense of it all. It feels like some [of the videos] are home videos. She’s on holiday, she’s singing about her husband, being drunk in love. It’s important to stay ahead of the game, always. If you are in the music industry, it’s changing all the time, so it’s important to communicate [with fans] in this way.”
But the surprise release isn’t a tactic that all artists should take up. “She’s one of the biggest stars on the planet,” Peter Robinson, editor of music website Popjustice, told the BBC. “I’m not sure the same method would work for a new Pixie Lott album,” but added, “I think in three years it will be quite normal for artists to release albums as soon as they’re finished.”
Beyoncé has been putting work in on this album for quite some time, the Los Angeles Times points out. “Recording began when the singer and her camp of writers and producers lived together in the Hamptons last summer. And the videos were lensed in places like Houston, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Paris as she toured.”
iTunes has a week-long exclusive on the album, with retail release scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 21.
Here’s a sample of the 17 videos included on the album: