Beyonce's game change: a surprise album release

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LOS ANGELES -- Without as much as a hint, Beyonce stealthily released her new album.

As the West Coast was tucking into bed Thursday night, the singer rolled out one of the best-kept secrets in recent music history: The album she has spent the past year teasing was now available for purchase on iTunes.

The self-titled set comes as a "visual album" featuring 14 new tracks and 17 music videos.

It's available as an iTunes exclusive. Manufacturing of physical albums begins Thursday and a double-disc CD/DVD will be available before the holidays, according to her label.

Working with Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Drake, the Dream, Sia, Ryan Tedder, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Hit Boy, the singer churned out her most ambitious project to date, without ever actually saying she was putting out an album any time soon.

"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it. 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," Beyonce said in the album's announcement Thursday.

"I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out," she added. "I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."

Beyonce's sneak attack is the result of more than a year and a half of work.

Recording began when the singer and her camp of writers and producers lived together in the Hamptons last summer. And the videos were lensed in places like Houston, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and Paris as she toured.

More impressive than Beyonce keeping the project under wraps -- only pictures from unconfirmed video shoots and a piece of footage from "Grown Woman" managed to leak -- is what she managed to pull off.

The album is a striking collection of work that shows her torching the veil of her carefully crafted image.

It's difficult to digest all she's weaved together in just one sitting. And she wants listeners to experience it as a complete body of work.


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