It came without warning: fans and music critics alike were caught unawares by the release of Beyoncé's fifth studio album - on iTunes. The release forges new territory.
No single released ahead of the album. No pre-release - legal or illegal - on the internet. No gimmicks, teasers or major marketing campaigns. A well-kept secret to the very end: ambitious soul diva Beyoncé's fifth studio album is an extensive audio-visual work to be enjoyed in one sitting. The R & B singer completely surprised her fans by releasing it exclusively on iTunes - without any heads-up. Named after herself, the LP touches on everything from love to fear, anger, honesty, happiness, sexuality, and self-confidence. Breaking all sorts of records in the process.
"Beyoncé" was downloaded nearly 830,000 times in the first three days, said iTunes operator Apple, 620,000 times in the United States alone. That makes it the fastest-selling album in the history of iTunes. The record was previously held by US singer Justin Timberlake, who lends a hand on the new album.
Her own manager, Beyoncé enjoys a great deal of artistic freedom. By-passing her own record label's marketing, she is forging new territory. On the same day people learned of her new album, they were able to download it. Uninfluenced by marketing middlemen, fans could form their own opinion.
"So many things get in the way of the relationship between the music, the artists, and their fans," Beyoncé said. She wanted to take pressure off herself and simply release the album when it was finished. "And I think I can communicate directly with my fans by doing it this way."
New way of listening
Everyone involved stuck together, an insider told US Weekly magazine. "If just one person had let something leak, the whole project would have been ruined!" The album was released on iTunes around midnight last Friday, with fans being able to enjoy 14 new songs and 18 breathtaking videos - secretly filmed during the past year and a half in New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Sydney.
Bottom-line: Beyoncé sought to change the way we listen to albums. And she's reinvented herself in the process.