Spencer Kornhaber: This going-viral GIF handily illustrated what Beyoncé did Thursday at midnight:
Translation: She upended the year in pop music by releasing a self-titled, “visual” album on iTunes—with zero forewarning. Well maybe not quite zero. She’d been on a year-long promotional tear, performing at the Super Bowl, producing an HBO autobiographical documentary, and launching a world tour. But no album had materialized. No album seemed likely to materialize. And then one did.
Nolan, Ashley, we took an hour today to binge on the 14 songs and their 17 accompanying videos (including credits!). Mostly we sat in stunned silence, except for that time when we all shifted uncomfortably as the camera closely followed Bey’s hand running across the curves of her body in slow motion for the “Rocket” clip. How are you feeling?
Ashley Fetters: Impressed. Overstimulated. Kinda hot and bothered, a little uncomfortable. So, you know, great overall.
Nolan Feeney: I feel like a grown woman, and I can do whatever I want.
Kornhaber: “Impressed” is a good place to start. This album’s existence must be one of the best-kept-but-then-revealed secrets in music history. What's amazing is not just that it exists—it’s that it’s a really big, cohesive, high-effort deal. There are SEVENTEEN music videos here, and in terms of production values, they all rank in the top tier of the medium. There are no tossed-off performance clips or star-free animations. Beyoncé’s in every video. They seemed to have been filmed all over the world. They vary from documentary-style to story clips to high-art dance choreography.