The internet (and the MadameNoire office) absolutely lost its mind over the news that Beyonce released an entire album — complete with a music video for each of its 14 songs — unexpectedly and without notice.
Her fifth and self-titled album was made available in the middle of the night after months of speculation about when new material would be complete, and months of howling from fans about the long lull between albums. (Her last record, “4,” came out in 2011.) For $16, you can head over to iTunes and quench that Queen Bey thirst now.
While we thought she was just touring and vacationing around the world, Beyonce was actually hard at work — collaborating with hubby Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Drake, even her little one Blue Ivy. Commenting in a video clip that accompanied the release, Bey says:
It’s so much that gets between the music and the art and the fans. I felt like, I don’t want anybody to get 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.
According to Billboard, there were hints that an album would be coming before year’s end, but no definites. At a time when we hear news from around the world within seconds, that one of the most famous women in the world could keep a secret this huge until the album was out there is a huge feat.
But it’s also way different from the way that albums, movies, or even the re-introduction of Twinkies would normally be handled. Let’s take Lady Gaga’s “ArtPop” album or Kanye’s “Yeezus” as examples. These two records were accompanied by global art installations — Kanye projecting the “New Slaves” video on buildings around the world and Lady Gaga partnering with Jeff Koons on the cover art, a Brooklyn art show, and working with Marina Abramovic as a prelude.
Of course, they aren’t the only ones crowing about upcoming releases. Movies get months of promotion, with films like American Hustle getting nominated for huge industry awards like the Golden Globes weeks before moviegoers can even buy a ticket. Film trailers come out a year in advance.
And how much do we hear about the day an album will “drop” before it actually lands?
With no advanced notice, Beyonce is trending on Twitter (along with “Blue Ivy” and #QueenBey”), has media covering the celebrity reactions to the album, and has fans waking up their friends and spending that cash without blinking an eye. It’s basically a pre-Christmas gift. But instead of fans running to their Christmas trees to get their gift, they’re running to the internet to download it.
It says something about the power of silence and surprise. As Bey says, music executives, elaborate marketing campaigns, and the mad scramble for a concert ticket typically make so much noise, whipping people into a frenzy while also keeping them at arm’s length. She simply pushed it out on the web and let people know it was there. Not through some fake “leak,” but a genuine album release. Come one, come all. Have your fill of all of it.
Clearly, Beyonce has an advantage. But, other stars also have a dedicated fan base that would be online within moments for their new material. Sure, it’s not entirely gimmick-free; a “surprise” album is a marketing ploy in and of itself. But it’s a low-key one that doesn’t require a ton of stuff to generate hype. It’s probably also a cost-saver for labels that have seen dwindling album sales eat into their profits. They’re looking for ways to save money, and a lower marketing cost could be a great way to do that.
Going forward, something tells us we’re going to start seeing many more albums come out this way. Don’t be shocked if we’re waking up to new music delivered to us on Instagram and iTunes more frequently in 2014.