Could Beyoncé’s Visual Album Become The New Commercial Standard?

By: Juliette Jagger

What do you do when releasing a record the “old fashioned way” stops working even for those at the top of their game? Well, if you’re Beyoncé, you release your record in the dead of night and without any warning. Her 5th self-titled album, which dropped on December 13th, is what’s being called a “visual album” and is comprised of 14 tracks and 17 accompanying videos. Beyond that, the album sold 80,000 copies on iTunes within the first three hours of its release, and has already hit number one in over 100 countries worldwide. Now that’s a fucking feat.

The album itself isn’t about the hit singles; it’s about the package as a whole. The songs aren’t all bangers but they are all really solid tracks. They’re steamy, totally x-rated and they exude a stark sense of female dominance, but they’re also glamorous, vulnerable and incredibly raw. This thing is meant to be experienced from top to bottom and it makes a huge statement about both Beyoncé’s presence in pop right now and the state of music today.

In this day and age you’ve really got to be somebody to make those kinds of record sales, never mind without any promotion and within hours of a release. Here’s the thing, you can work your promotional muscle to no end but if the music doesn’t speak louder than the expectations you build in the process, you may have a critical flop on your hands. That seems to be the case for Lady Gaga at the moment. Although she is a completely different animal and a well-respected pop visionary in her own right, just a few days ago the Duck Dynasty Christmas album was out selling both Britney Spears and ARTPOP.

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Juliette Jagger

Juliette Jagger is a Canadian music journalist. She is on Twitter @juliettejagger.

4 thoughts on “Could Beyoncé’s Visual Album Become The New Commercial Standard?

  • December 17, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Feels slightly Bowie like, circa February 2013. Although he didn’t throw out the huge video package like Beyonce, I can’t help but wonder if he was on to something. Again. The other side of my brain says this is a big splash because she is a big name and the masses have to jump on out of surprise and curiousity. Further yet, Toronto indie/art rockers The Darcys released a solid start to finish album accompanied by well produced videos in the summer, yet haven’t made a dent compared to Beyonce impact in a week. But I do agree this is likely going to be more common in the time to come.

  • December 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    It may be the ‘way’ for a few months and a few ‘huge’ artists but no one else can do this. It’s like a game. Can I get these few people to keep a secret? After you’ve done it once, the magic is gone. Yes, Bowie already did that. At the end, who cares? This has nothing to do with the foundational changes in the industry. This is nothing more than a ploy because no one knows where the dust will settle on the road forward.

    Five years from now, someone will release an album to ‘car infotainment consoles’ only and everyone will go ooooooo visionary…

    • December 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

      You make a good point Larry and I’m not suggesting that this “visual album” thing will become the standard for everyone, certainly not the little guy. That being said, there are certain top caliber artists out there, particularly in the commercial pop game, who could serve to learn something from this stunt and anyone who can pull such a thing off these days is to be commended.

      Yes, the element of surprise has been lost on us, that’s not something that can be repeated in the same way, but creating a fully immersive package, as I said something more experiential, definitely can.

      As we know, it’s often not who does it first, but does it best that.


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