They don’t call her Queen Bey for nothing.
She gets the music industry like nobody else out there today. Dance sells. Sex sells. Girl power sells. But this woman, an artist in the purest sense of the word, rarely if ever trivializes those very marketable qualities of hers. Instead, she owns them. Beyoncé is an undisputable icon in the music world today. And today, she brought the industry to its knees with the biggest music surprise of the year: a brand spanking new, unadvertised, utterly unexpected album.
You heard me. Bey just dropped her fifth solo album, self-titled and two years after her last album 4. It hit iTunes just before midnight, and already the music giant is advertising it to the nines across its home page. But it doesn’t look like the rest of the world is awake yet – as of Friday morning, 4 was kicked back at spot #78 on the iTunes Top 200 Albums chart, and Beyoncé (the self-titled album) doesn’t even appear to be on it. (Over-under on the time it takes for it to climb to the top spot? I say an hour.)
This Rock writer is unfortunately holiday-broke right now so didn’t purchase the new album on sight, but she’s given the samples a listen through and hears something that feels at once classic Beyoncé and different from any of her previous work. There’s something about this album that sounds darker, edgier. She bites at sex culture on “Pretty Girl”: “Mama said you’re a pretty girl / What’s in your head, it doesn’t matter / Brush your hair, fix your teeth, what you wear is all that matters.” She sings over camera clicks and a Lil Jon-esque beat on “Partition”: “Forty-five minutes to get all dressed up / And we ain’t even gonna make it to this club / Just take all of me, I just wanna be the girl you like.”
And yes, yes, yes, there is a Jay-Z collab with “Drunk in Love,” but even better than that there is a serious-toned ballad called “Blue” featuring Blue Ivy herself (though her exact role is as yet unclear): “You and I together / Come on baby, won’t you hold onto me.” There are 14 tracks, all “album only” on iTunes until December 20th when singles will be available.
I’m sorry, say what???
That’s some serious commitment. That’s an unprecedented media move. And it has all been executed without a penny spent on leadup advertising. Amid the explosion of album reviews that’s sure to be blowing up the news world, it’s crucial to keep in mind just what Bey has delivered aside from music: she’s dealt a statement.
In a mini-documentary-style video upload, she stated, “I miss that immersive experience. Now, people only listen to a few seconds of a song on their iPods. They don’t really invest in a whole album. It’s all about the single. And the hype. It’s so much that gets between the music and the artist and the fans. I felt like…I don’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready. From me to my fans.”
Well, Beyoncé is getting at least one of those fans through finals this week. And that alone is something worth bowing down to the Queen for.