14 Things to Know About Beyoncé’s New Album

It was dropped as a surprise overnight, but that doesn't mean the secret details could stay under wraps for very long

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Larry Busacca / PW / WireImage for Parkwood Entertainment / Getty Images

Correction appended: Dec. 14, 2013, 1:06 p.m. E.T.

Beyoncé pulled off a coup and dropped a surprise 14-song “visual” album late last night. The self-titled album features a mind-boggling array of guest artists including her husband Jay Z and infant daughter Blue Ivy, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Miguel, Sia, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, and many more.

In addition to the 14 tracks, the album included 17 music videos. “I see music,” Beyoncé stated in a press release, explaining the idea behind a visual album. “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.”

(WATCH: Happy Friday: Beyonce Surprises Fans with a New Album)

The stealth release of Beyonce’s fifth solo studio set is likely headed towards a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 when that chart’s top 10 is revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 18. The album reportedly sold over 80,000 copies in just three hours.

(READ: Why Beyonce Kept Her Album a Secret)

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé goes on to say. “I am bored with that. 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.”
To help guide fans through the album, here are 14 things to know about Beyoncé:

[01]  Harvey Keitel gives Ryan Seacrest a run for him money as a pageant host in the video for “Pretty Hurts.” The song was written by Sia Furler, who has written some of the big hits for Katy Perry and Rihanna and contributed vocals to tracks like David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones.”

[02]  Photographer Terry Richardson directed the video for “XO.” Richardson is making a name for himself as a music video director after his work on a little track called “Wrecking Ball.”

[03]  The track “Ghost” includes one of the best humblebrags ever: “Soul not for sale/Probably won’t make no money off this/Oh well.” Queen Bey also talks about how she may not trust her record label and grouses about having to work “9 to 5 to stay alive,” lyrics that imply that one of the world’s biggest pop stars is now dabbling in fiction, too.

[04]  “Blow” was written and produced by Pharrell, who is having one of the best years ever with his work on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and now this — one of the better tracks on the album. The disco-skating video was directed by Hype Williams, whose credits include 2Pac’s “California Love,” TLC’s “No Scrubs,” Kanye West‘s “Gold Digger” and many many more. It shows Bey getting in touch with her inner Rollergirl, licking her lips, singing about getting her “cherry out” and guest stars her sister Solange gliding around the roller rink.

[05]  If the song “Drunk in Love” is any indication, Beyoncé and Jay Z are very happily married. Hopefully, Jay has good insurance coverage on his Warhol.

[06]  The video for “No Angel” was written by Caroline Polachek of the Brooklyn indie-pop outfit Chairlift and  directed by Twitter upstart @LILINTERNET. (If you don’t spend as much time on the internet as some of us do, @LILINTERNET is best known for originating “seapunk” and working on rapper Azealia Banks’ single “Yung Rapunxel.”) The video was filmed in Bey’s hometown of Houston and features her singing (slightly obnoxiously) in front of a tumbledown house while dressed in a white fur coat.

[07]  Based on the track “Partition,” Beyoncé should work with Timbaland more often. His sultry beats paired with her R-rated lyrics and the catchy chorus “It took 45 minutes to get all dressed up/And we ain’t even gonna make it to this club,” make a captivating combination.

[08]  The video to “Jealous” follows in the footsteps of “Partition,” but also seems like a natural precursor to “Irreplaceable,” at least in our imagination. Not only did Beyoncé perform the track, but she gets a directing credit for the video, too, along with Francesco Carrozzini and Todd Tourso.

[09]  “Rocket,” which was written by Miguel who knows a thing or two about writing a sex-filled album, along with Justin Timberlake, is an homage to D’Angelo’s “Untitled” that is filled with eye-popping euphemisms like “rocket to waterfalls” or “rock it until the water falls.” In short, don’t listen with your Nana.

[10]  The album features incredible guest stars including “Mine” featuring Drake and “Superpower,” where Beyoncé teams up with Pharrell, who wrote the track, and adds in Frank Ocean for good measure.

[11]  Many many of the tracks on the album were written by someone credited as only as “Boots.” Who is Boots? That is still TBD, but the #whoisboots hashtag on Twitter will hopefully get to the bottom of it soon.

[12]  While Kelly Clarkson may not want to be labeled a feminist, Beyoncé apparently has no problem claiming that title. On “Flawless” she sings over an excerpt of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” — set to a trap beat, naturally.

[13]  The album’s raciest tracks were brought to us by the trifecta of Justin Timberlake, J-Roc and Timbaland (the guys behind Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience) add in Terius Nash (a.k.a. The-Dream) and on songs like “Yoncé” and “Partition” they left no sexual innuendo unturned. You may need to wash your ears out with soap after a few listens.

[14]  Shot entirely in Brazil, “Blue” is Blue Ivy Carter’s second album credit. Beyoncé’s and Jay Z’s daughter is already the youngest person ever to chart on the Billboard charts. While she can’t beat the record she set at five days old, hopefully she has excellent lawyers who got her some royalties for her contribution on the cut.

MORE: Beyonce: Unstoppable and Unflappable Onstage

An earlier version of this article misstated that “Blue” was shot entirely in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The video was shot in both Rio and Bahia, Brazil.

8 comments
Queen.
Queen.

Love the album. Iconic.

RitchardMckie
RitchardMckie

An absolutely stunning visual album. Queen Bee has upped the bar for other to reach.

loheim
loheim

This review is so off. Why can't the music of a Black woman be enjoyed and appreciated without jest? Perhaps, the reviewer should take his privileged guard down and listen again. 

postingacomment
postingacomment

15: It's overrated, crappy songs that will sound outdated in 2 years.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Can this chunky ho not find any pants to fit her huge thighs and giant butt?  She has been rocking the pantless look for decades.

RitchardMckie
RitchardMckie

@postingacomment It's a great album full of amazing songs and great videos. You must have poor taste in music or you just haven't listened to them before commenting.