Beyoncé just shocked the music world by releasing her fifth studio album without warning, and the ramifications don't end there. The "visual album," simply entitled Beyoncé, is exclusively available on iTunes, and sells for $15.99 without the ability to purchase any of the 14 tracks individually. It features guest appearances from the likes of Frank Ocean, Drake, and Jay-Z, and there is an accompanying music video for each song alongside three additional clips.
As yet, the album is not on Spotify, Rdio, or other internet services; it comes just one day after Spotify announced exclusive streaming rights to Led Zeppelin's back catalogue. Although the new Beyoncé album appears to be a major coup for Apple, the price and download restrictions harken back to a time when customers would have to pay in full for every song on a CD. A press release announcing the album notes that Beyonce "has been the target of leaks," adding that "this is a fully designed preventative plan. The album will be offered as a cohesive body of work with every song and every video available all at once for one single purchase."
Rumors of a new Beyoncé album have circulated all year. The star has been spotted filming videos in locations around the world, and snippets of new music have been previewed in commercials, but her record label had suggested as recently as this week that the next album would see release in 2014. "Obviously, at some point Beyoncé will put a record out, and when she does it will be monumental," said Columbia chairman Rob Stringer in an interview with Hits Daily Double.
Although the album is restricted to iTunes, you'll find promotion for Beyoncé everywhere. The artist's YouTube page has half-minute previews from all of the album's 17 videos, which we've collated into a single playlist below.