Dec. 18, 2013 -- intro: Beyonce gave her fans an early Christmas present when she released an unexpected new album exclusively on iTunes last week, and in return her fans have given her one: another No. 1 debut, making her the first woman to hit the top spot with her first five studio albums.
All five of Beyonce's albums, including her new self-titled one, have debuted at No. 1. But the entire world didn't learn of the star's latest album until the day it was released Friday. With no advance whispers, no fanfare and absolutely no hype, the singer, 32, simply posted a message on Instagram. "Surprise!" it read.
"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," Beyonce said in a statement on the day of the record's release. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."
The new album contains 14 singles and 17 music videos and can only be purchased as a whole. For those still itching for more, Beyonce discussed 13 of the 14 songs on her iTunes Radio channel. Keep reading to get the low-down in Bey's very own words.
quicklist: 1 title: 'Pretty Hurts' text: "'Pretty Hurts' was such an incredible song. It's really difficult to find a song with such a strong message that doesn't sound preachy. And Sia is such a genius. The second I heard the song, I'm like, 'I have to sing this song. I don't care how hard I have to fight for this song. This is my song.'"
quicklist: 2 title: 'Haunted" text: "'Haunted' is a song that's produced by Boots, a new producer that I completely respect. He plays every instrument. He is a lyricist. He is an innovator and I'm so proud to work with him. The song is really about temptation in this music industry and being exposed to this crazy madness."
quicklist: 3 title: 'Drunk in Love' text: "A song I did with my husband Jay and we worked with Hype Williams for the video. We shot in Miami last summer. The shoot was extremely effortless and spontaneous. We completely captured the energy of the song."
quicklist: 4 title: 'Blow' text: "I shot in Houston, Texas. … I grew up in Fun Plex, which is a skating rink that we went back to and it was so strange because, like, one of my first dates with my first boyfriend was at Fun Plex and now I got the whole Fun Plex that I rented out -- I thought I was balling. I'm like, 'Man this Fun Plex is just for me.' It was beautiful to be back there and to shoot with Hype Williams. I was really happy to work with him again because, growing up, he created the music video for hip-hop artists and R&B artists. He was the visionary."
quicklist: 5 title: 'Yonce' text: "'Yonce' is an incredible song. I love it because it's really organic and the drum beat was actually done in the studio by Justin Timberlake. He just started beating on these buckets and The-Dream started coming up with this little chant, 'Yonce all up in his mouth like liquor.' It's so exciting when something naturally happens that way."
quicklist: 6 title: 'Partition' text: "I didn't need a pen and paper. It just kind of flew out of my mouth … it's one of my favorites."
quicklist: 7 title: 'Jealous' text: "[It's] a song about being human. We all get jealous. It doesn't matter who you are. At some point, it's just inevitable. I co-directed this video with some very talented people. We shot in the streets of New York City at four in the morning. It was freezing cold, but it turned out excellent."
quicklist: 8 title: 'Rocket' text: "'Rocket' is one of the most sensual songs. It reminds me of the vibe I got when I first heard D'Angelo's 'Untitled.'"
quicklist: 9 title: 'Mine' text: "Drake is one of my favorite rappers. I think he's extremely talented and I'm so happy he worked with me on this next song."
quicklist: 10 title: 'XO' text: "The-Dream wrote and produced, along with Ryan Tedder, the next song. I actually worked with my favorite photographers Terry Richardson for the video. We shot in Coney Island this past summer. It was insanely chaotic and the video captured raw, fun and being in the moment."
quicklist: 11 title: 'Bow Down' text: "The reason I put out "Bow Down" is because I woke up, I went into the studio, I had a chant in my head. It was aggressive. It was angry. It wasn't the Beyonce that wakes up every morning. It was the Beyonce that was angry. It was the Beyonce that felt the need to defend herself. And if the song never comes out, okay! I said it. And I listened to it after I finished, and I said, 'This is hot! I'ma put it out. I'm not gon' sell it. I'ma just put it out.' People like it, great. If they don't, they don't. And I won't do it every day because that's not who I am but I feel strong. And anyone that says 'Oh that is disrespectful,' just imagine the person that hates you. Imagine the person that doesn't believe in you, and look in the mirror and say 'bow down, b****,' and I guarantee you'll feel gangsta. So listen to that song from that point of view again if you didn't like it before!"
quicklist: 12 title: 'Super Power' text: "Such a powerful song, it comes on and you instantly hear these strong voices…the lyrics that Frank Ocean wrote…it's like he thought of one thing and the thought just keeps going and going…the song is the kind of song that you can just put on repeat and put you in this trance, which is why I didn't want to perform it in the video. I just wanted slow motion shots of really powerful imagery. ...Basically the message is love is the most powerful thing we have and it doesn't matter if a war, if a riot is going on. When you are with the person you love, you can survive any and everything."
quicklist: 13 title: 'Heaven' text: "'Heaven' is about death and finding the strength in knowing that someone had an incredible life and that giving you some type of closure."