Beyoncé released a surprise album, titled Beyoncé and described as a "visual album" at 12 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 13. This is Beyoncé’s first new album since 2011’s 4 and could mark a huge change in how new music is released and sold.

'Beyoncé': A Visual Album Of 14 Songs, 17 Videos

The 14 new, original tracks are not yet available for individual purchase – though they will be on Dec. 20 – and, for the first week, the album is exclusive to iTunes. What is most original about the album is the “visual” aspect: the album does not just include the songs. Each track is accompanied by a brand new video, each filmed in locations all around the world, and there are a three songs only featured in video, not audio, such as “Grown Woman.”

The album was released without any pre-promotion – no single, music video, or even rumors of an upcoming album release. At midnight, Beyoncé announced the release on her Instagram account with a simple message: “Surprise!”

Beyoncé also posted an explanation video on her official Facebook page, explaining, “I see music, it’s more than just what I hear… I wanted people to hear the songs with the story that’s in my head, cause it’s what makes it mine. That vision in my brain is what I wanted people to experience the first time.”

In the video, Beyoncé, dressed down in shorts and white t-shirt, says it is important to her that her fans listen to the album as a whole, instead of just a few seconds from one single or another before getting the full experience.

“I wanted to make this body of work, and I feel like it’s something that’s lost in pop music,” she says.

The risk of releasing a complete album without any pre-promotion is definitely paying off. The explicit version currently sits at number 1 on the iTunes charts, followed by the clean version at number 2, and reports suggest Beyoncé sold over 80,000 copies in the first three hours following its release.

Beyoncé Duets With Blue Ivy

Though the videos are heavily stylized, in true Queen Bey fashion, Beyoncé seems invested in the idea that this album bring fans closer to who Beyoncé really is. One of the most personal songs off the album, “Blue,” features her young daughter Blue Ivy. Beyoncé has been very protective of her daughter, never releasing photos via a third party, and always keeping Blue’s face hidden in photos posted to her social media accounts. The song concludes with Blue Ivy talking and laughing with her mother, and will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about tracks from the album. Blue Ivy also makes an appearance in the accompanying video.

Other guests on Beyoncé include her husband Jay-Z, Drake and Frank Ocean.

The album is now available in its entirety on iTunes and individual songs will be available Dec. 20.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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