Singer's fifth album drops as a surprise, after months of rumours of scrapped songs and delays
Beyoncé has released her fifth solo album, with no warning, straight to iTunes. The album – called Beyoncé – was announced on the morning of Friday 13 December, along with the news that it was already available.
"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," the singer said. "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."
In the statement announcing the album's release, some bold claims were made: that this was "an unprecedented strategic move", and that this was music "stripped of gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns". In fact, the surprise release of music has become in recent years the gimmick of choice of pop's superstar class. In 2007, Radiohead gave just 10 days' warning of the release of their album In Rainbows, for which fans could pay what they wanted. The following year, Jack White's Raconteurs project announced their second album, Consolers of the Lonely, with just a week's notice. And this year has seen surprise releases from David Bowie – who premiered a new single to the complete shock of the music world, following it with the album The Next Day – and My Bloody Valentine.
Beyoncé's album is a little different in that it comes as a multimedia package, with 14 songs and 17 videos. It's also got a credits list longer than the average Hollywood blockbuster, involving songwriters, producers and video directors including Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Drake, The-Dream, Sia, Ryan Tedder, Miguel, Frank Ocean, Hit Boy, Ammo, Boots, Detail, Jake Nava, Hype Williams, Terry Richardson, Melina Matsoukas, Jonas Åkerlund, Ricky Saiz, Pierre Debusschere, @lilinternet, Noah "40" Shebib, Francesco Carrozzini, Caroline Polachek, Ed Burke, Bill Kirstein and Todd Tourso. A physical version will be released, inevitably, in time for people to buy it as a Christmas present, though no date has been specified yet.
The album has been much delayed, and subject to intense speculation. Though she had dribbled out some music during the course of the year – notably Grown Women, used to soundtrack a Pepsi ad – rumours abounded that sessions had not been going well. In July, the producer Diplo revealed two songs he'd been working on with her had been ditched. The Hollywood Reporter said she had been working on 50 songs for the album, but had scrapped them all, dashing the hopes of her label, Sony/Columbia, for a spring release. Her management insisted, though, that no release date had ever been set, and that talk of delays was unfounded.
Nevertheless, the level of Beyoncé's activity across the year – which has included performing at the Super Bowl half-time show, a self-produced documentary about herself, a performance at Barack Obama's second inauguration, a world tour (normally something used to promote an album, rather than something taking place months before its release), new songs appearing on Soundcloud, teaser videos and song clips, plus regular updates from her collaborators – had led many fans to believe the album would be out sooner, rather than later, and so speculation about the time it was taking was inevitable.
The full tracklisting for Beyoncé is:
Drunk in Love (featuring Jay Z)
Mine (featuring Drake)
Flawless (featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
Superpower (featuring Frank Ocean)
Blue (featuring Blue Ivy)
The full video listing is:
Pretty Hurts (directed by Melina Matsoukas)
Ghost (directed by Pierre Debusschere)
Haunted (directed by Jonas Åkerlund)
Drunk in Love (directed by Hype Williams)
Blow (directed by Hype Williams)
Angel (directed by @lilinternet)
Yoncé (directed by Ricky Saiz)
Partition (directed by Jake Nava)
Jealous (directed by Beyoncé, Francesco Carrozzini & Todd Tourso)
Rocket (directed by Beyoncé, Ed Burke & Bill Kirstein)
Mine (directed by Pierre Debusschere)
XO (directed by Terry Richardson)
Flawless (directed by Jake Nava)
Superpower (directed by Jonas Åkerlund)
Heaven (directed by Beyoncé & Todd Tourso)
Blue (directed by Beyoncé, Ed Burke & Bill Kirstein)
Grown Woman (directed by Jake Nava)
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