By Jillian Mapes
Just as music fans are wrapping up the year and looking ahead to 2014 comes a reminder that it’s not over ’til the Queen Bey sings.
Shortly after midnight on Friday (December 13), Beyonce released her fifth album exclusively to iTunes with zero warning. The self-titled set is comprised of 14 songs and 17 videos, with all components available only through full album purchase.
Below: the Instagram Bey used to announce the album and tease its visual elements
“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Knowles said in a press release issued shortly after the album appeared on iTunes. “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.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Beyoncé’s Gets Into Character For New ‘Visual Album’
Not only is the emphasis on the full-length format (Bey calls it a “visual album”), there have been no singles from Beyonce released. The new songs Bey previewed throughout 2013 in Pepsi and H&M ads, online and even on her tour — “Grown Woman,” “Standing on the Sun,” “Grown Woman / I Been On” and “God Made You Beautiful” — are not even on the album.
Billboard reports that “XO,” co-written by Ryan Tedder and The-Dream, is the rumored lead single, though no announcements of any sort have been made by Bey or her label, Columbia Records.
The label specially stayed mum when specifically asked about Bey’s album back back in October, but mentioned that there would be big Columbia releases coming this December. Album collaborator Ne-Yo, of course, threw the Beyhive off the scent this past summer, saying that Knowles and co. were “still trying to figure out what they want that to be.” It sounded like an odd way to phrase it at the time, but knowing what we know now about the visual emphasis on Beyonce, it makes more sense.
“I see music,” Beyoncé continued in the release. “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.”
Just when we thought there was nothing 2013 hadn’t already shown us about the art of the record release, Bey schools us again. Adjust those year-end lists accordingly, folks.