- POSTED: 14 Dec 2013 00:02
- UPDATED: 14 Dec 2013 00:42
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Beyoncé surprised fans on Friday by releasing a previously unannounced fifth solo album on iTunes, bypassing customary record roll-outs and creating a sensation on the Internet.
NEW YORK: Beyoncé surprised fans on Friday by releasing a previously unannounced fifth solo album on iTunes, bypassing customary record roll-outs and creating a sensation on the Internet.
Despite the lack of prior publicity, the self-titled album is an elaborate production, including videos shot around the world.
The pop diva returns to the feminist themes of her earlier works and, in some of her most intimate ballads yet, performs with her husband Jay-Z and their baby, Blue Ivy.
"Beyoncé" features 14 new songs and 17 videos and will initially be sold exclusively on iTunes, Apple's online music store, where thousands had downloaded the album within hours.
"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans," Beyoncé said in the statement.
"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."
Her label, Sony, said the surprise release was also a way of stopping pre-release leaks of her new material.
A hard copy, double CD/DVD of the album will be available in stores before Christmas, the label said.
The move comes weeks after two other top names in pop music - Lady Gaga and Katy Perry - suddenly released albums online after songs from the hotly anticipated works were leaked on the Internet.
While record companies say that such online releases are necessary to prevent unauthorized downloading, fans posting on social media sites have mused that well-known artists also have their own interests in avoiding traditional album roll-outs.
Musicians who have already developed loyal fan bases can sell directly - and gain more followers through the buzz on social media - without facing the scrutiny of reviewers in traditional media.
Beyoncé, who first won acclaim as a teenager in the trio Destiny's Child, hinted at her frustrations in the new song "Haunted." Switching from her high-range voice to a rap, Beyoncé says: "All these record labels are boring / I don't trust these record labels I'm touring."
Now 32, Beyoncé delves into female sexuality and empowerment in songs such as "Pretty Hurts." In the video, Beyoncé plays the role of a beauty pageant contestant under pressure to keep a trim waist.
"Blonder hair, flat chest / TV says bigger is better. South Beach, sugar free / Vogue says thinner is better," sings Beyoncé, no stranger to changing hair styles.
In "Partition," Beyoncé plays the part of a performer at a Moulin Rouge-inspired cabaret and, amid sexually explicit imagery, says, "Take all of me / I just want to be the girl you like."
Elsewhere in her videos, Beyoncé heads to Sydney and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, as well as her native Houston, and goes retro with a 1970s-inspired psychedelic dance session.
Other guest performers include Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Drake and a spoken word contribution from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian novelist whose latest novel "Americanah" has won glowing reviews in the United States.
In a stinging critique of societal views on women, Adichie calls for teaching girls to seek successful careers and regrets, "We teach girls they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are."