Burning Question: How Did Beyoncé Keep Such a Massive Album Project Top Secret?
Beyonce Surprises With New Album Release
A: Not massive: Ginormous. We're talking 14 tracks and 17 videos shot in cities ranging from Paris to New York to Sydney to Rio de Janeiro to Houston.
Let's also remember that guests include some of the biggest loudmouths in music aside from Kanye West: husband Jay Z, natch, and Drake among them.
To be fair, fans have known for months that Bey was recording new material. People who follow Yoncy closely even knew that singer-songwriter Sia Furler had penned a tune for it, and that Pharrell Williams was also involved.
"There has been talk of this for the past year,” says Todd Hensley, president of Hits magazine.
But what no one knew was the when of the thing: That "Beyoncé" would suddenly drop at, of all times, at midnight on a Friday morning. This Friday morning.
The music business is notoriously gossipy, so the insiders I contacted were equal parts impressed and mystified by that timing.
"That is amazing that they were able to do that in secret," one told me. "Must be nice to be famous enough that you can pull off stuff like that.
"A label theoretically wouldn't want to release an album as a surprise, not for 99 percent of their artists," says my industry expert, a former marketer at one of the biggest labels in music. "If you don't have the advance ability to sell the material to radio, to MTV, to sponsorships, to soundtracks, to music supervisors, you're leaving a lot of money on the floor. Thing is, if you're Beyoncé, you can get away with that."
As for exactly how a megastar keeps such a release date under the radar, two words for you: vanity company. Along with Yoncy's official umbrella label, Columbia, the Beyoncé album credits a certain Parkwood Entertainment, Beyoncé's own personal shingle.
"The vanity label includes only your nearest and dearest," the former label exec tells me. "It makes it easier to produce something on this scale without having to, say, involve the promotions assistant at Columbia. And would the promotions assistant have been told about a project as secret as this?