Just minutes before midnight EST Friday (Dec. 13) morning, Beyonce released her fifth album, a self-titled set, exclusively on iTunes. Details are still emerging on confirmed producers, but guests credited on the "exclusive visual album" are Jay Z, Drake, Frank Ocean and daughter Blue Ivy.
Beyonce's self-titled album -- her fifth studio effort, and first since 2011's "4" -- arrived on Thursday night (Dec. 12) without prior warning. The 14-song collection features "Drunk In Love," a new collaboration with husband Jay Z; "Mine," featuring Drake; Superpower, with her "I Miss You" collaborator Frank Ocean; and "Blue," a song with her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. "XO," long rumored to be a single from the singer's new album, also appears on the track list.
Every song on the album has also been given a video, all of which are available on iTunes; "Grown Woman," a promotional cut that Beyonce performed during her Mrs. Carter world tour this year, appears as a bonus video, but did not make the album's track list. "Standing on the Sun," penned by Sia and featured in an H&M ad, is nowhere to be found.
"I see music," Beyonce said in a video announcing the album on her Facebook page, dubbed "Self-Titled, Part 1." “It’s more than just what I hear. 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 dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”
She likened the experience to her memories of watching the premiere of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video with her family in the 80s. "I miss that immersive experience," she says in the clip. "Now people only listen to a few seconds of song on the iPods and they don't really invest in the whole experience. It's all about the single, and the hype. It's so much that gets between the music and the art and the fans. I felt like, I don't want anybody to get 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."
Billboard first broke the news that Beyonce music might be coming before year's end when Columbia chairman Rob Stringer said in October, "we’ve got one or two records, which will be coming out that we’re working on, he said cryptically. I feel good about those records, too -- we’ve got records lined up that hopefully will make the beginning of December."
iTunes is expected to have a week-long exclusive on the album, before a retail release tentatively set for Saturday, December 21, according to sources familiar with plans and progress with the pressing of physical copies. Though an official single didn't precede the set, two tracks are expected to be announced as the lead singles for different formats next week.
The collaborators on the album vary from the indie and unexpected (Chairlift's Caroline Polacheck co-wrote and produced the slinky "No Angel," Sia wrote touching opener "Pretty Lights" while a mysterious writer-producer credited as "Boots" is listed on half the album's tracks as a co-writer) to first-time collabs with Miguel ("Rocket"), Drake and Noah "40" Shebib ("Mine"), Hit-Boy ("Bey Reel") and Frank Ocean ("Superpower") to reunions with Ryan Tedder and The-Dream ("XO"), Justin Timberlake, Pharrell and Timbaland ("Blow").
Directors featured on the music videos include Detail, Jake Nava, Hype Williams, Terry Richardson, Melina Matsoukas, Jonas Åkerlund, Ricky Saiz, Pierre Debusschere, @lilinternet, Francesco Carrozzini, Ed Burke, Bill Kirstein and Todd Tourso. "Grown Woman," initially previewed via Pepsi's global spot with Beyonce in April, is featured as a "bonus" video-only cut, directed by Jake Nava.
Earlier this year, Beyonce followed her performance at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show with the Mrs. Carter Show, an international tour that kicked off in April and included a headlining performance at Jay Z's Made In America festival in Philadelphia. Although a follow-up to "4" -- which included the hits "Run The World (Girls)," "Love On Top," "End of Time" and "1+1" -- was hinted at by Beyonce as well as collaborators like The-Dream and Ryan Tedder, a release date was never set.
In July, Beyonce appeared on Jay Z's "Magna Carta... Holy Grail" album, which was announced just three weeks before its release, on the track "Part II (On The Run)." "Beyonce" is the singer's first album since giving birth to daughter Blue Ivy in January 2012; soon after the birth, Blue made history by becoming the youngest artist to ever appear on the Hot 100 chart, as a featured artist on Jay Z's song "Glory."
Here is the track list to "Beyonce":
1. Pretty Hurts
3. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
5. No Angel
9. Mine (feat. Drake)
11. Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
12. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
14. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)