Rejoice! It’s Queen Bey day! A megastar like Beyonce doesn’t need any piddling, old-model music industry rules. Between last night and early morning, she released her fifth studio album on iTunes, with exactly no fanfare. And it's not only an album, with normal songs — no, the queen released a visual album, bundling each song with its own cinematic video.
It's been like musical Christmas morning, except we weren’t even expecting it! So while we all unwrap and enjoy this shiny self-titled present, let’s consider these five important lessons from this Monumental Day in Music Internet.
1) Facebook isn’t dead, and may remain an important platform for musical artists, particularly pop artists with wide reach.
Guess where Bey made the official announcement? Yep, the social network you like to make fun of now for being overrun with parents. Love it or hate it, though, you’re still there. So are millions of music fans. And artists are taking advantage of that to release exclusives. Last month, Bruno Mars released the video for his single “Gorilla” there too; and that’s just one other example.
2) A “visual album” makes way more sense and it’s weird that nobody thought to call it this before.
Everyone’s just going to rip songs to YouTube and make their own crappy lyrics videos to them anyways. They still will, with Beyonce, but at least she’s made the original material eminently shareable and multimedia via the bundled video for every last song. Smart lady. Why hasn’t anyone done this on a larger scale before? Oh, money, right? A minor peccadillo. Let’s see who follows this tough act, though.
3) R&B is going in two different directions, and the new one might be more interesting soon.
A lot of contemporary R&B/urban pop/whatever is mired in a super-electronic, downtempo sound. (Basically, everyone’s chasing that Weeknd/Drake/Sampha dragon.) While this flavor is still delicious when well-executed, it’s also getting just a little too ubiquitous. Beyonce herself hits some notes here that are basically high-budget versions of what “witch-house” “producers” were trying to do on blogs back in 2009/2010; see the creeptastic song “Haunted,” which is appropriately titled.
But on the other hand, there’s the decidedly old-school “Blow,” which sounds fresh and new in comparison. Is R&B going to take a turn back to the organic? That would be a welcome new/old thread.
4) Official release dates are almost 100 percent meaningless now.
Albums used to come out every Tuesday, without fail. This quiet drop in the wee hours of Thursday night/Friday morning is the final nail in that coffin. This is the release date for the album; nothing new happens next Tuesday. There’s pretty much a general release date range now – the Spotify date, the NPR/Pitchfork Advance streaming date,
5) Performers really don’t need bloggers or “press” as cultural gatekeepers any more.
Well, at least if they’re established. A lot of Music Writer/Blogger Twitter was super freaked out this morning that they didn’t have enough “time” with the album before they’d have to turn out a review. Well, Beyonce’s fans … don’t really need that. Music press functions to maybe highlight the good or bad as a side bonus – but fans can now decide for themselves with instant access. Beyonce just made this totally democratic by making everyone get the goods at the same time. Sorry if that hurts any feelings.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.