Did you feel that? No, it’s not the San Andreas fault line again and it’s not a gang of dinosaurs with anger issues either. That quaking you may have felt was caused by Beyoncé dropping a brand new album down your chimney with no warning whatsoever. No teasers, no promo, nothing! And it’s not just music (featuring Frank Ocean, Drake, Jay Z, and even her daughter Blue Ivy); Beyoncé also shot videos for each song in various spots around the world, from a Houston roller rink where she skated as a child to a church in South America to the Cyclone roller coaster on Coney Island. Santa is real, y’all, and she came early this year.
But on a more serious note, this is a super interesting power play in the world of pop music. This last quarter has seen female heavyweights battling it out for the top spot, with every release date, lyric video or leaked track strategically planned to take attention away from the other contenders. When the dust settled, some had good runs (Miley Cyrus, Lorde, and Katy Perry), while others had a harder time working the press circuit to their advantage (Britney Spears and Lady Gaga). By releasing a heap of music and visuals, Beyoncé is subverting the tried and true system of the music industry and taking the focus off of the media spectacle (shocking performances, outlandish costumes, magazine cover stories, late night show pandering) and putting it back where it belongs: the art.
In an age when Britney Spears begrudgingly releases an album just to get attention for her Vegas residency or Rihanna rush releases an album each year to stay relevant, it’s refreshing that someone is drawing attention to that cynical approach to music and stripping it away, reminding us of a time when an album wasn’t just a collection of radio-friendly singles, but an immersive and cohesive experience. In a video on her Facebook page, Beyoncé explains why she wanted to release her music without media middle men. “I remember seeing “Thriller” on TV with my family. It was an event. I miss that. So much gets between the music and the artist and the fans.” Referencing Michael Jackson is no accident. Like him, Beyoncé is changing the landscape of pop music and taking it to new, exciting places just when we stopped believing it was possible, just when we needed it the most.
You can experience the 14 songs and 17 videos on iTunes right now! And check out previews of the visual album below: