Beyoncé surprised the world by dropping her fifth studio album with no warning. Her self-titled visual album was more than just a bushel of new songs; the 14-track release also included 17-brand new music videos — one for each song, two interludes, and the leaked and excluded “Grown Woman” (a.k.a. the Pepsi song).
Available only on iTunes, Beyoncé sold 828,773 copies in three days, easily surpassing one million in six. It’s also been estimated earlier this week that her album has already sold an additional 340,000 copies (digital and physical) in its second week — all without help from Target or Amazon who felt snubbed by Beyoncé’s one week exclusive deal with iTunes (EDIT: it has officially sold 374,000 copies in its second week). (For the record, Beyoncé and Wal-Mart are cool.)
Columbia Records’ chairman was clueless (in retrospect, this was most likely feigned) whenasked about his 2014: “Obviously, at some point, Beyoncé will put a record out.”
Putting her star power aside, it’s easy to see why Beyoncé became the digital retailer’s fastest selling album: the record itself is a fine piece of work. Critics have heralded it as the best album of her and the best of the year (you just won’t see it on lists thanks to its late release date). And to think, she did it all with minimal amount of marketing and promotion. In retrospect, we should’ve seen it coming.
We all knew a new album was due but we just didn’t have an exact date. Columbia Records’ chairman probably even feigned a little cluelessness when he was asked about his 2014; “Obviously, at some point, Beyoncé will put a record out,” he said.
Without a specific project to promote other than her own self, Queen Bey has had a stellar year. Just take a look at the timeline below to see how Beyoncé warmed us up for her new album without us noticing because, with a year like hers, why should she let all that steam go to waste?
October 2012 – NFL announces that Beyoncé will headline the Super Bowl Half-time show
With a handful of shows behind her, there’s no better way to announce her return to the music scene than by performing at the biggest televised sports event.
November 2012 – Beyoncé joins Instagram
Beyoncé was once notorious for being an extremely private person, even refusing to talk about her relationship with Jay Z with the media. Having already joined Tumblr earlier in the year, Queen Bey decided to add yet another badge to her social media profile: Instagram. There she shared candid photos from her life, including some inspiring #OotDs (outfit of the day).
January 2013 – Beyoncé lands the cover of GQ’s February Issue
While other celebrities might choose to show off their post-baby bodies on the covers of the tabloids (ahem, Kim Kardashian), Beyoncé decided to do it on the cover of one of the biggest men’s magazines with one of the biggest names on fashion photography: Terry Richardson. Basically, if you want sexy, Terry is your guy — not that Beyoncé needs the extra help. Just look at her.
January 2013 – Beyoncé lip-syncs the American national anthem
Thanks to Washington, D.C.’s chilly weather, Beyoncé was forced to lip sync the national anthem during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. It was a blip on her resumé, but even bad press is good press, right?
February 2013 – Beyoncé lands the cover of Vogue
Beyoncé lands her second cover of the fashion bible. She talks about her upcoming documentary and what it was like to give birth to Blue Ivy. (T.M.I.)
February 2013 – Beyoncé reunites with Destiny’s Child at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show
Beyoncé’s half-time show performance was a 14-minute tour-de-force. She sang a medley of her greatest hits, including “Halo,” “Baby Boy” and “Crazy In Love.” And if it weren’t for the incredibly accurate rumours, the singer kind of surprised everyone when her Destiny’s Child bandmates, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, joined her onstage for a mini-reunion where they performed three songs: “Bootylicious,” “Independent Woman: Part 1,” and “Single Ladies.”
The only downside to the whole ordeal was when Beyoncé’s publicist tried to get Buzzfeed to take down some unflattering photos of Beyoncé from their site the following day. Instead, the site decided to publish the e-mail request which shoved the photos into the spotlight and prompted the internet turned those photos into one of the year’s best memes.
February 2013 – Beyoncé announces Mrs. Carter world tour
She didn’t even have a specific project to promote but hey, everyone loves Beyoncé. Tickets to her North American shows sold out quickly and forced her team to add even more tour dates. The Mrs. Carter World Tour even passed the $100 million box office mark by the end of the year, according to Billboard.
February 2013 – HBO Airs Beyoncé documentary
Beyoncé promised fans an inside look into her life with her first documentary, Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream. Despite featuring home movies, the admission that she had a miscarriage and finally revealing Blue Ivy Carter to the world, the documentary itself was admittedly rather lackluster. It was a pretty but controlled look into the singer’s life and perfectionist demeanour yet at the same time solidified the flawless image Beyoncé has so carefully curated over the years.
March 2013 – Beyoncé Releases “Bow Down/I Been On”
Beyoncé first released “Bow Down/I Been On” earlier this year, linking her Tumblr and Instagram followers to the song on SoundCloud. In fact, the track has actually been reworked and re-released on Beyoncé. Listed as “Flawless,” she and her team dropped the track’s “I Been On” portion and added a sample from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s empowering TED Talk. The single artwork itself foreshadowed a lot of the trophy and past self imagery that would later reoccur in her Beyoncé music videos.
March 2013 – Beyoncé lands H&M campaign
In all honesty, it was probably more of a win for H&M to have gotten Beyoncé to star in their summer campaign and they even got a new song out of the deal: “Standing in the Sun,” which is featured in the commercials. The singer’s star power should have easily bagged her a high-end, high-profile with any fashion house. But considering that high fashion continues to be accused of racism and being size-ist, it may not have been the most realistic scenario. In any case, her deal with the Swedish cheap-and-chic retailer made Beyoncé more accessible to her adoring public — a much more preferable option on the route to world domination.
April 2013 – Pepsi release Beyoncé’s “Mirrors” commercial
Like her husband Jay Z, Beyoncé is a fierce business woman. The singer signed on for a creative partnership with Pepsi for a cool $50 million in December of 2012. Not only would this make Beyoncé the drink’s celebrity face, but it would also help fund Beyoncé’s creative projects. Her Pepsi commercial, which was released in March of this year, seems to be a combination of both as Beyoncé has a dance off with her former selves to a brand new song. It also foreshadows at the singer’s continued use of her past on her new album, which only becomes more apparent with its tagline “Embrace your past but live for now.”
The song for the commercial, “Grown Woman,” was also later leaked and left off the official Beyoncé tracklist because of this. She did, however, end up making a music video for the album’s visual aspect.
April 2013 – Beyoncé Lands A Spot on The Great Gatsby Soundtrack
Baz Luhrmann’s movie adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel was overindulgent flop with a matching soundtrack to boot. While it wasn’t a total hit, we do applaud Bey for joining forces with André 3000 to cover Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black.” It was an interesting attempt at covering a song that should more or less be left alone.
April 2013 – Beyoncé and Jay Z go to Cuba
Despite the American government’s ban on travel to Cuba, Jay Z and Beyoncé managed to make their way to the communist country for their fifth anniversary to much controversy. According to reports, the couple actually didn’t have their friend President Obama’s permission to go; they were actually part of a group organized by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation. Obama later joked that he had “99 Problems and Jay-Z is one of them” at the annual White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner.
May 2013 – Beyoncé is featured on The Dream’s “Turnt”
Beyoncé more or less slays The Dream’s overly auto-tuned vocals on his song, “Turnt.” The song is part of The Dream’s latest album, IV Play.
June 2013 – Beyoncé is featured in the movie Epic and its soundtrack
The singer lent her voice to this Disney movie in two different ways: she was the voice behind Queen Tara, and then sang and recorded the song “Rise Up” for its soundtrack. We may even be seeing Beyoncé on the Oscars red carpet as the track has been long listed by the Academy for Best Song.
Summer of 2013 – Beyoncé is more or less flawless
She made fans faint, made sure the fan who smacked her booty didn’t get kicked out, got her hair stuck in an actual fan, attended a Trayvon Martin protest in New York, cut her hair… and it was all beautiful and nothing hurt.
August 2013 – Beyoncé films “XO” at Coney Island
Fans and cameras caught Beyoncé filming her “XO” music video as Terry Richardson sat in the director’s chair. For the record, this happened four months before the world saw the finished product.
November 2013 – Beyoncé releases “God Made You Beautiful”
Apparently, there could only be one Blue Ivy song on her new album and Beyoncé decided to go with the admittedly stronger “Blue.” She obviously loves her first child so much that she wrote another song for the year-old babe and released it.
December 2013 – Beyoncé drops Beyoncé
She shocked the world and pretty much left her competition in the dust (sorry, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry). With it, she proves that hype just isn’t enough to move records and inspire a legion of girls.