How Beyoncé Trademarked the Surprise Release

She knows she's famous enough to release a No. 1 album with zero publicity.

Earlier in the month, Beyoncé and rap-mogul husband Jay-Z released their first joint album, “Everything Is Love.” The drop came as a surprise to fans worldwide when the couple announced its issue by simply adding it to Tidal’s music library.

Headlines, relationship morals and rumors aside, the record is more or less nine hip-hop heavy tracks that, debatably, could’ve flown under the radar if the Carters hadn’t been attached to them. What really got audiences hyped — besides Bey and Jay being such high-profile and legendary artists — is Beyoncé’s trademark marketing tactic: the surprise release.

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade, it’s difficult for any culturally aware individual to doubt Beyoncé’s worldly impact. Over the past few years, the former Destiny’s Child member has taken it upon herself to exclusively release music at the drop of a hat.

In other words, no press, release dates or hype to amp fans up for her records. Her past three albums, “Beyoncé,” “Lemonade” and “Everything Is Love,” were posted with little warning, causing the internet to go into a complete and utter frenzy every time.

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The fascinating thing about the surprise release is that Beyoncé, an undeniably talented and innovative musician, doesn’t need to pull any tactics for people to be interested. And perhaps that’s the point she’s so quietly making — something along the lines of, “I’m so famous, I don’t even need to tell people I’m releasing an album.”

Yet there’s somehow a sense of simplicity to it that is so effortlessly Beyoncé. Despite being one of the most famous celebrities in the world (she has a whopping 116 million Instagram followers), she is also notoriously quiet when it comes to being in the public eye.

She makes an effort to steer clear of press and rarely posts on social media. The great thing about Bey is that all her opinions and emotions are naturally portrayed through her music. That’s how we all found out about Becky with the good hair, remember?

Ditching predictability is a rather Beyoncé move.

When it comes to the surprise release — a skill Beyoncé has quickly acquired and made her own — predictability is completely thrown out the window. Pop stars can often become boring and unsurprising after a while, and perhaps suddenly releasing music helps avoid that dreaded curse.

Beyoncé has never been a conventional musician. She’s a fiercely proud and talented artist that’s been on a steady rise since her initial uprising in 1997. She’s skillful in flying under the radar, and the fact that she is able to stay silent, release an album, then head on a widely successful world tour is indisputably impressive.

Beyoncé Jay Z Grammys
Beyoncé and Jay Z performed “Drunk in Love” together for the first time at the 2014 Grammys. (Image via KTLA)

When analyzing the type of artist Beyoncé is, being unpredictable seems to be a key characteristic. Sure, celebrities can claim their innocence in trying to stay away from the spotlight, but efforts are almost always null. Beyoncé is able to pull off the nearly impossible feat without even batting an eye.

Amid the effort to enforce the unpredictable yet mysterious aura Mrs. Carter renders, it’s almost as if utilizing surprise releases as a marketing tactic just happened to make complete sense.

The act in itself fits Beyoncé’s repertoire quite flawlessly. At this stage in the game, fans are accustomed to the surprise releases, yet she pulls them off so effortlessly that each drop is diverse.

Her conscious (or unconscious, depending on who you talk to) attempt to ditch the predictability attribute most pop stars struggle with is not an accident. It just so happens that she does it gracefully enough to completely trademark the aura.

She is Beyoncé, after all.

Is it all about the headlines?  

That’s not to say that Beyoncé’s new music hits headlines solely because of her tendency to drop without warning. She’s fabulous regardless of how or when she decides to release albums after all. But the added shock factor most definitely intensifies the release in a way that wouldn’t have occurred had it been strictly about the music.

When Bey’s team makes the provocative choice to abruptly post a new record on Tidal, her husband’s exclusive streaming service, headlines hit the web before people even finish listening. Her name is trending on Twitter a mere few minutes later. And it all happens without Beyoncé saying a word. It’s pretty extraordinary to say the least.

The surprise release enhances a certain jolt of astonishment that the music might lack. “Everything Is Love” is a relatively solid album thanks to the talents that cross its tracks, but had it not been The Carters, would anyone even care?

The mediocrity of songs such as “713,” “Friends” and “Heard About Us” make a third of the record skip-worthy. Although I believe Bey and Jay would never release music they weren’t proud of, it never hurts to amp an album up. A surprise release is the easiest way to do just that.

And while Beyoncé is irrefutably relevant, the more people talk about her latest album, the longer it’ll stay significant.

Perhaps the success of the surprise release is more about exclusivity than headlines. To be the first few people talking about an album after catching its release is, in modern day culture, an odd accomplishment.

It’s worth mentioning that the exclusiveness factor continues to be perpetuated by Tidal. Anything Beyoncé touches is released on the site first, and in some cases, exclusively. Her sixth album, “Lemonade,” an emotionally charged chronicle of her husband’s infidelities, has yet to be made available on any other streaming site.

Money and streaming aside, Beyoncé has still managed to adopt the surprise release in a way that’s completely her own. Any other artist that dares to cross the same line is merely pushed aside, and the release’s significance is not nearly as monumental.

Admittedly so, linking significance and fame to a surprise release isn’t necessarily considered rocket science. There seems to be limited shame on Beyoncé’s behalf because, at the end of the day, she knows she’s famous enough to release a No. 1 album with zero promotion.

Melissa Lee, State University of New York at Oswego

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Melissa Lee

SUNY Oswego

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