At precisely midnight on Friday the 13th (of December 2013), Beyonce dropped her fifth studio album, self-titled, and it was a total surprise. The album is available exclusively through iTunes through Dec. 20, when it will then be available as individual tracks. Beyonce said that CD copies will be available by Christmas.
And that sound of your Twitter feed blowing up is because it’s insane. And kind of a genius move. Below are my initial thoughts on why:
1. Beyonce’s husband Jay Z imparted unto the world “Magna Carta Holy Grail” amid much hype this summer — the noise was not because of the strength of the songs (seriously, not in the least), but because of his groundbreaking deal with Samsung, offering the set as a free download to Samsung users who downloaded its app. No doubt, Beyonce’s hype cycle is undeniably, erm, shorter, but it’s a huge get for Apple who is — you guessed it — a competitor to Samsung, in the mobile market. His album featured Beyonce, and hers features Hov. His app downloads couldn’t be counted toward the Billboard 200. Hers will. Adorable. Maddening.
2. Sure, Grammy Awards, go ahead and have your enormously slow Friday night to post your nominations last week. Beyonce is using the slow late-night hours, but her name will be dominating headlines all of Friday. You know what else she’ll be dominating? The Grammy Awards, come January. Just as Justin Timberlake had no real reason to overtake the 2013 Grammys ceremony except to promote his new set, Beyonce just got herself a ticket (even though we know Beyonce will never be in want for Grammys tickets, ever). Jay Z’s “Part II (On the Run)” featuring his wife is also up for an award, maybe she’ll drag him up for her performance for once?
3. Sony certainly is having a wild night: not only is Bey’s label home drinking champagne on her behalf, but also decided that Thursday night is a good night to push some fresh, new Spider-Man spinoff news to the world. It’s like while everyone else in the world is figuring out how to re-gift this summer’s blockbusters on DVD, Sony’s still playing Santa Claus. Eggnog for everyone.
4. Kanye West spent pre-album promotion talking all about his methodology of not pushing a radio single and still selling enough copies of “Yeezus” for the No. 1 spot. After he topped the Billboard 200, he then he spent the weeks that followed that mulling “Yeezus'” painful second-week slide and — you guessed it — pushing a radio single. Depending on the news cycle between now and the New Year, Beyonce’s starpower and staying power may be the echo to West’s rebel yell. And she may do it better.
5. I’ll bet Rihanna‘s glad she didn’t try to rush yet another in-time-for-Christmas album as she’s done with the previous four. She’d have been trampled.
6. Yes, “Beyonce” qualifies for the charts. This b-bomb of news will certainly help in the three days left in the sales week, and could help her easily take the top next week since there are no new or old titles that will sell more than, say, 140,000 copies. The added bonus of 17 (17!) videos makes the $16 price tag look like a steal compared to this week’s chart-topper, Garth Brooks’ Walmart exclusive boxed set priced at $25-$30. Individual songs go up for sale on Dec. 20. Physical will be ready in time for stocking stuffers, but she’s pissed off brick & mortar stores (including big boxes like Best Buy and Target) something awful. Beyonce could be looking at least three weeks at the top since One Direction, Britney Spears and various Christmas albums no longer seem like a threat, but she can’t expect a big push from other retailers since her love affair is squarely with iTunes.
7. What’s insane is that everyone involved kept mum. Literally every outlet I’ve heard from got one or two hours max heads up time on this release. Drake hasn’t posted to Twitter in a couple of days. Beyonce’s been on tour and you’re like, Yeah, of course you’re stone-cold. Nobody’s talked to Frank Ocean lately because Frank’s not talking. It feels almost like a betrayal. What fun.
8. No countdowns to a music video release, no video teasers, no behind-the-scenes prequels. Beyonce has her career partially on the strength of her videos, and she’s released 17 all at once. It’s a lot to behold, which may effect each visuals’ staying power. But again, Beyonce is trying to challenge the status quo and the listening experience. Who knows if that Terry Richardson joint will get lost in the fray, but his last outing was with Miley Cyrus and we all know how that went. Video is Beyonce’s painterly medium, and “Beyonce” is a “Visual Album.” Just remember there’s a “clean” version download for the faint of heart.
9. Tonight was Queen B’s 100th concert on her Mrs. Carter Tour. Every show’s special, right?
10. A few other big surprise albums come to mind from 2013: David Bowie’s “The Next Day” and My Bloody Valentines’ “m b v” were from fairly dormant artists but enjoyed their news and critical cycles. Sleigh Bells and Four Tet are much smaller scale and the surprise didn’t seem to benefit them much. Jay Z and Kanye had their surprise announcement but still had some promo time. Radiohead is still the gold standard as far as surprise album drops go, and they’re the same headlining, A-list scale as Beyonce — different genres. Will fans take to it like Radiohead or Bowie fans did to those bands’ experiments?
11. I pity the long leads. Many a critic have already made up their top 10 lists, many are posted, many are about to appear in print or other intricate, well-thought-out form of featured gray matter. Beyonce doesn’t care about your top 10 list. Beyonce has 14 songs on her list and their all hers.
Bonus: Her rapping on “Drunk in Love” (feat. Jay Z) makes my head herrrt. “Haunted” is dope.
Here’s the tracklist for” Beyoncé”:
1. Pretty Hurts
3. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
5. No Angel
9. Mine (feat. Drake)
11. Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
12. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
14. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)