A screenshot of Beyonce's new album on iTunes.
Beyonce dropped a new album Thursday night, and sorry Spotify — it’s an iTunes exclusive thus far.
Bey dropped the self-titled album on iTunes by surprise last night, sending Twitter into a frenzy and music journalists ripping up their 2013 top 10 lists as everyone came to terms with the unannounced album. The other surprise: Each of the 14 tracks has its own music video, plus there are three bonus videos on top of that — four if you count the credits video because yes, this is an album so epic it needs credits.
She made the album announcement through social media teases, including this Instagram video with snippets of the new videos:
And this Facebook post with Beyonce monologuing about art, vision and why this was released as a “visual album” with the accompanying videos:
“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,” Beyonce says in the Facebook video. “I wanted people to hear the songs with the story that’s in my head.”
The post calls this “part 1” of her self-titled album; is this simply a pretentious nothing, or part of a bigger plan that means well bet more Beyonce before we know it? Justin Timberlake surprised twice this year with a new album and a part 2, so maybe the ex-child of destiny is doing likewise.
The seeds may already be laid for more — Beyonce reportedly scrapped 50 songs and looked to start over on the album earlier this year. Surely not all of those are actually duds, right? Take some of those and more from Beyonce’s latter recording sessions, and you’ve got yourself a part 2 in the making.
It’s Beyonce’s fifth album, with collaborators including husband Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, little sister Solange and her ex-Destiny’s Child teammates Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland. One track even features the sounds of her 1-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy. (Perhaps this is an early birthday present? Blue Ivy turns 2 on Jan. 7.)
It’s an old school full album model. They aren’t even selling any of the individual songs or videos individually for a week, so if you want a piece of this now, it’s all or nothing until Dec. 20 — you have to cough up your $15.99.
It’s a big gamble, but could be the right play if she wants a hit album to follow up previous release “4,” which while it sold 1.4 million copies, was still her least successful album thus far.
“I felt like right now, people experience music differently,” Beyonce says in her Facebook video. “I remember seeing ‘Thriller’ on TV with my family. It was an event. We all sat around the TV, and I’m now looking back — I’m so lucky I was born around that time. I miss that immersive experience. Now people only listen to a few seconds of a song on their iPods. They don’t really invest in a whole album. It’s all about the single, and the hype.”
Let’s not ignore the ambition of the video part of this too. She’s being even more of a tease with the online presence; the videos are part of the album, not mere promotional tools, so instead of putting those on her official YouTube VEVO channel, she released 30 second teases to show you the breadth of the videos.
Watch the video teases in this playlist put together by the Verge:
“I felt like, I don’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready,” Beyonce says in her Facebook video. She says that when she told her team she wanted to shoot a video for every song and put them out together, “Everyone thought I was crazy, but we’re actually doing it. It’s happening.”
The king of ’90s hip-hop videos Hype Williams is still around, and he directs both “Drunk In Love” and “Blow.” Beyonce even does some of her own directing. The iTunes album description notes were shot in New York, Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. It’s a regular Carmen Sandiego of options. You've even got an appearance by Harvey Keitel.
Hitfix also notes that the album release coincides with the 100th concert on Beyonce’s current tour — in case you’re into Beyonce numerology. (Aren’t we all?) Friday also happens to be Taylor Swift's 24th birthday; maybe her 25th birthday will be the chance for her own surprise album.
Here’s the full “Beyonce” track listing:
- Pretty Hurts
- Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
- No Angel
- Mine (feat. Drake)
- ***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
- Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
- Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)
Plus the videos portion, which includes the additions of “Ghost,” “Yoncé,” “Grown Woman” and the credits:
15. Pretty Hurts
16. Ghost [Extra video]
18. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
20. No Angel
21. Yoncé [Extra video]
25. Mine (feat. Drake)
27. ***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
28. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
30. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)
31. Grown Woman (Bonus Video)
32. Credits (Video)