Neuendorf: Beyoncé brings fire back with album drop

Zachary Neuendorf

About a month ago, I was lounging on my friend’s futon scrolling through Twitter when a string of tweets from the East Coast rang out too good to be true. According to Twitter, a new Beyoncé album eponymously entitled Beyoncé was about to drop on iTunes — that very night. No lead single. No marketing. No album campaign of any sort. Just a release destined to upend the music industry while Bey strutted to center stage, popped a hip and changed the world.

Any semi-major music buff will confirm that 2013 was a landmark year for album campaigns, with artists like Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, and Jay Z finally harnessing the power of the Internet to transform their album releases into an album events. Even back to January of last year, David Bowie kicked off this trend brilliantly by stealthily emerging from ten years of public retirement, unleashing a song and announcing an album.

This past December, that’s essentially what Beyoncé did — except on a profoundly larger scale. Along with the fourteen sultry and uplifting tracks, she unveiled seventeen sultrier and uplifting videos- after all, she declares this self-titled project a “visual album”. Talk about not only pushing the envelope, but burning the existing envelope, then building a fresh envelope packed corner to corner with fierceness.

The lingering question that surfaced after the internet awoke from a Beyoncé flavored coma was, “How was this kept a secret for so long?!” This inquiry is understandable, especially in our era when it is expected for an album to leak in full at least a week prior to the planned launch.

The jury is still out on whether or not Bey and her close team possess access to magic, but if that is not the case, then this was a miracle of biblical proportions. A majority of the producers were clueless as to what they were producing for, and the majority of the directors were in the dark as to the context of their videos- they simply followed orders and contributed their talents in order to fulfill BK’s vision.

So what is so revolutionary about all of this? Well, if you listen closely, you can hear a choir of music die-hards chanting something along the lines of- “The music is back!” I not only refer to the resurrection of Queen Bey, but to all of the music. Additionally, the producers, directors, and artist took hold of the wheel and are steering the ship toward exciting waters.

For so long — and recently growing at a disturbing pace — the charts, the record labels, and the machine of it all has been dictating the show with only profit in perspective. As a result, robots (not the good Daft Punk kind, either) fill the radio, recycling melodies and beats that worked last month. Beyoncé confidently shrugs all of that off when she speak-sings: “Probably won’t make any money off this/ oh well.” With that lyric, the machine felt a heartbeat. Her vision is not fogged with dollar signs; it is bright and genuine and full of love for the music.

Ironically, that heartbeat is guiding the machine exactly where it wants to go: up the charts and beyond. After only a weekend of availability, Beyoncé had sold a jaw-dropping more than 800,000 digital copies; a feat of speed never seen by iTunes.

It looks as though Beyonce will be making money after all, but I doubt she cares too much about that business. All I pray for is that the industry does not capitalize on Beyonce’s risk and drop loads of albums unexpectedly in order to garner a similar effect, as we would only become numb to the sensation.

 All of this and I have not even talked about the most important part: the product. Minus the album’s opener, a beautiful and poignantly titled “Pretty Hurts”, all the songs shelter a rightfully earned sense of hubris. She knows this will work. A spicy flare of feminism is at every turn. Her pride of her sexuality, mind, and sheer ability to slay is united with infectious melodies and sticky grooves reminiscent of naughty 70s soul.

Then, on tracks like “***Flawless”, she hurls us into the future with stomping hip-hop-tronic beats and spitting delivery. The visuals are similarly diverse, taking us to beaches, Paris, haunted hotels, roller rinks, amusement parks, churches, and everywhere in between. The direction is sleek and ingenious.

A thousand columns could be dedicated to the prowess of this woman and her work. But while we wait for them to surface, let us take a moment of silence and shake our booty with the Queen Bey.