By now, we all know the story. Girlfriends and daughters everywhere kicked off their weekend with new scriptures to chant.
The buzz started around 9PM on Thursday as iTunes began showcasing puzzling film noir style photos of Beyonce on its store’s homepage. Little did we know that this was stage one of a guerrilla warfare attack in which the end result is an unpublicized, straight-faced self-titled visual album featuring 14 brand new tracks with 17 accompanying videos.
“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyonce says in the album announcement. She claims, rather frankly, that she’s grown uninspired by the traditional delivery method. “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.”
The power move itself is really two-fold.
On one end, for a mega-star like Beyonce, it’s remarkable that no information about this project leaked. We’ve seen members of her clique do similar things – in fact, they’re really the only ones that we’ve seen do similar things. It started with Kanye and Jay Z’s Watch the Throne album, which we knew about, but never found an album leak for. This year we’ve seen Justin Timberlake drop a project with post-release marketing. We had an anti-marketing project in Kanye West’s Yeezus, and of course, Jay Z’s Samsung linked Magna Carta that released about a week after it was announced via a commercial ad. However, Beyonce outmaneuvers them all by pulling off a more heavily packaged project with absolutely zero buzz preceding it.
Bey worked closely with her Parkwood Entertainment group, Columbia Records, and iTunes to get Beyonce out to the world. In fact, Hits Daily Double news reports that only four people were present at the round table during original ideation. The final product is a result of over a year and a half of groundwork and creative planning, with the music and video making process featuring collaborators such as Drake, Frank Ocean, Timbaland, Hype Williams, Jonas Ackerlund, and of course husband Jay-Z. The executives keeping quiet is one thing, but the fact that nothing slipped through the grapevine once other artists jumped on board is unheard of these days.
But what have we learned?
Beyonce shattered iTunes first week sales by moving over 618K units in three days and being on pace to sale close to 1 million in her first week. While we all celebrate, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a power move by a veteran power player. Countless emerging artists are taking note of the release tactic, and we can anticipate many of them will be inspired when releasing their own, but perhaps they should think twice.
I doubt that this is the best way for new talent – or anyone who doesn’t have a solid resume of hits over the past five years – to gain traction and distribute product. On one end, Beyonce laughs in the face of today’s single-driven market, but does so on the back of “Single Ladies” and a prolific list of chart topping hits over the last decade. Without that type of ammo, few people would care about a visual album, let alone one that fell into the atmosphere so seamlessly.
Everytime Beyonce reclaims her throne, people begin looking at the princesses of the industry with furrowed brows. The method of releasing an ”album every year, as many features as possible, with pop-house angled radio tracks” is the more practical road to success, in comparison to the earthquake Beyonce caused over the weekend.
Will people be talking about this for longer than a few months? Even with the Queen at the core of it, it’s hard to tell these days. We can only wonder if this project is still part of something even bigger in the works, but for now, girls everywhere enjoy.