Beyonce's Surprise Album: 8 Musicians Who Also Released Secret Records (Photos)
2:08 PM PST 12/16/2013 by Jason Lipshutz, Billboard
Beyonce's surprise self-titled release has become the fastest selling album ever on iTunes worldwide, with 828,773 albums sold within its first three days. Whether to prevent leaks or pump up publicity, see which other musicians have also released secret records.
Beyonce released her fifth studio album just before midnight on Dec. 12, complete with full-fledged music videos and absolutely no warning. But she's not the only singer to release a secret record. See which other eight musical acts have opted for the "less is more" marketing approach when dropping a new album.
Radiohead: "In Rainbows"/"The King of Limbs" (2007/2011)
Radiohead's "pay-what-you-want" option for seventh studio album In Rainbows was seen as a radical move. However, that business model should not overshadow the ingeniousness of announcing the follow-up to 2003's Hail To the Thief just 10 days before its October 2007 online release, immediately stoking fan anticipation for the 10-song release. Four years later, Radiohead gave fans even less notice: The King of Limbs was announced just five days before its February 2011 release, and was packaged with a special "newspaper" edition.
Burial: "Street Halo," "Rival Dealer" (2011,2013)
U.K. dubstep king Burial is one of the most secretive artists on the planet, so it's no surprise that his singles and EPs tend to drop from out of the blue. After a long absence as a solo artist following the release of his acclaimed 2007 album Untrue, Burial returned with little forewarning in 2011 with his Street Halo EP, which was announced on Mar. 22 and released on Mar. 28. Similarly, Burial returned earlier this month with the Rival Dealer EP, which began streaming online on Dec. 11 after being announced 10 days earlier.
Photo by: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Frank Ocean: "channel orange" (2012)
Frank Ocean's Def Jam debut was pegged with a July 2012 release date long before it was made available, but the original date was July 17 -- one week after it actually arrived. To prevent Channel Orange from leaking online, the R&B renaissance man posted his album for sale on iTunes on July 10, and announced the revised date after debuting "Bad Religion" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on July 9. The misdirection certainly didn't hurt, asthe album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for album of the year at the Grammy Awards.
Jai Paul: Unreleased Demos (2013)
Jai Paul, the mysterious U.K. singer-songwriter responsible for blogosphere-beloved singles "BTSTU" and "Jasmine," apparently uploaded his entire debut full-length on Bandcamp last April. Or did he? Soon after the release, Paul cautioned fans against buying it, claiming that the album was a fake. Eventually, Paul's label, XL Recordings, stepped in, clarifying that the songs were Jai Paul, but "not his debut album -- it is a collection of unfinished recordings from Jai's past." The unauthorized release of the sketches was unfortunate, but whet appetites for Paul's still-in-the-works first album.
My Bloody Valentine: "mbv" (2013)
The 21 years between the landmark release of My Bloody Valentine's 1991 album Loveless and this year's mbv was filled with a decade of inactivity, various reunions and long-unfulfilled promises of a studio return. When frontman Kevin Shields told the audience at a My Bloody Valentine show in London last January that the follow-up would be out "in two or three days," one couldn't be blamed for some skepticism. Fortunately, MBV finally delivered, posting mbv on its website on Feb. 2, and that website proceeded to crash due to heavy traffic.
David Bowie: "The Next Day" (2013)
Like Beyonce, a new David Bowie album had been prodded at by the music world for years, but when Bowie announced The Next Day on his 66th birthday last January, only his closest collaborators saw it coming. It was recorded in secrecy over a two-year period, even requiring non-disclosure agreements to make sure the cat never left the bag. Two months after the announcement, Bowie's first album since 2003's Reality was in stores.
Photo by: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Jay Z: "Magna Carta… Holy Grail" (2013)
Five months before his wife pulled off the surprise of the year, Jay Z delivered one himself by revealing his twelfth studio album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail, via a commercial during the NBA Finals last June. The commercial was actually a spot for Samsung, which released the album as a free download to the first one million users of a new Magna Carta app on its phones. On July 4 -- less than three weeks after the album was announced on June 16 -- Magna Carta was released, with no music leaking to the public ahead of time.
Death Grips: "Government Plates" (2013)
The ever-controversial hip-hop group followed its self-released 2012 album No Love Deep Web with Government Plates, which was posted online last month as a free download with zero advance notice. No Love Deep Web, of course, was self-released due to complications between Death Grips and its (now former) label, Epic Records. Now free from the major label system, the experimental duo is free to blast out new full-lengths online through its own label, Third Worlds. Just don't expect too much forewarning.