Last night, while everyone was sleeping, Beyonce quietly released her fifth studio album, which is simply titled Beyonce. It would surely have been one of the most anticipated albums of the year — if anyone had known it was coming. But Beyonce decided to forgo the normal promotional blitz and simply let fans enjoy the album. You can download the 14-track album right now at iTunes, or listen to some samples from it below.
"I see music. It's more than just what I hear," said Beyonce in a video explaining the concept behind Beyonce that was posted to her official Facebook page. "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 dream or my fantasies. And they're all connected to the music. And I think it's one of the reasons why I wanted to do a visual album. I wanted people to hear the songs with the story that's in my head, 'cause that's what makes it mine. That vision in my brain is what I wanted people to experience the first time."
Even more impressively, Beyonce managed to film a music video for each of Beyonce's 14 songs without anyone leaking the album's existence. The goal was to make Beyonce an immersive "video album." In the promotional video for Beyonce, Beyonce discusses how people consume music now, reflecting on the way her entire family gathered around the TV to watch the premiere of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. "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 songs on their iPods. They don't invest in a whole album. It's all about the single, and the the hype is so much that gets between the music and the artist and the fans."
Beyonce's credited producers include husband Jay-Z and infant daughter Blue Ivy, who appears in the video for "Blue," the album's closing track. "It was important that we made this a movie," she said. "Made this an experience. And to see how personal everything is to me. I would make my best art, and just put it out, and that's why it out today."
Anyone who's on the fence about Beyonce can watch 30-second snippets of each of the album's songs: