Beyonce released a self-titled “visual” album exclusively on iTunes Thursday night, to the surprise of essentially everyone not named “Carter.”
The studio album, Beyonce’s fifth, contains a combination of traditional audio tracks with accompanying video versions. Fans can now buy the virtually unannounced 32 “track” offering — 14 songs and 17 videos — for $15.99, or wait a week to purchase songs individually. Manufacturing of physical albums begins today, and the double disc CD/DVD will be available at retail in time for the holidays.
“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyonce said in a press release, explaining the total lack of promotion or even awareness. “I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”
The pop star’s latest album contains collaborations with Jay Z, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland and more. Daughter Blue Ivy is even involved on “Beyonce,” featured in the aptly titled song and video, “Blue.”
The videos — some which were directed by the singer — were shot primarily during her “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.” Those were shrouded in secrecy as well, though they were filmed in open places. The clips offer much international flavor, set against the backdrops of New York City, Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.
Beyonce recorded the new album all across the world over the course of a year-and-a-half, the release said, but the initial recording began in The Hamptons, New York, where the entire writing and producing team gathered in the summer of 2012 to live and work together. That group did an exceptional job of maintaining the project’s secrecy, clearly.
Amazingly, Beyonce’s elaborate plan to avoid leaks actually worked — an incredible rarity in the current music climate, especially given her stature. The main problem plaguing music business sales is its leaks, which tends to happen in the same way most of the time: a physical album being prepared for its debut-week shipment is ripped along the line and uploaded to the web, where its content files are illegally shared. That’s not going to happen this time, the pop star’s team assured.
Earlier this week, Columbia Records Chairman Rob Stringer strongly — yet carefully — hinted that Beyonce’s new record would drop next year, while discussing the label’s 2014 lineup. His exact words “at some point” make more sense given the current context. Stringer (now correctly) predicted that whenever it did come out, it would be “monumental.” Well played, sir.
The new album promises a “provocative, unguarded artistic statement — revealing a side of the icon previously unknown to fans and cementing her status as a pop visionary,” the iTunes Editors’ Notes tout.
On the decision to make a visual album, Beyonce noted the following: “I see music. 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.”
Shortly following its rollout on iTunes, Beyonce’s website was updated, taking browsers through quick cuts promoting her surprise offering.
The announcement was first made on Facebook: