Beyoncé is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Beyoncé, released on December 13, 2013 by Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records. Developed as a simultaneous audio-visual experience whereby the singer sought to recreate an “immersive experience” in her music, the “visual album” comprises non-linear short films that accompany its songs, illustrating the musical concepts the singer conceived during production. The album has been identified as one of the most explicit pop albums ever recorded, and tackles themes darker and more complex than her previous material, including feminism, explicit depictions of sex, the joys of motherhood and post-maternity relationship problems.
The album began production in 2012 in New York, where musicians were invited to live and work with Beyoncé for a month. During extensive touring in 2013, the nature of the project changed, as she desired to put together short films and favored an unexpected release. During this time, the album’s status and its visual aspect were kept from public knowledge. She continued recording in strict secrecy and held sessions with rock musician Boots who worked on most of the album. Their collaboration led to more sonically experimental material that combined rhythm and blues with electronic music. Songs from these sessions often eschewed traditional structures, and exploredmodernist sonic effects that included subdued pulses, orchestral drum rolls, and dubstep bass, and diverse vocal styles such as poetic spoken-word vocal, breathy falsetto, and rapping.
Beyoncé was released digitally to the iTunes store, without prior announcement or promotion, which led to a hysterical response from the public. It received rave reviews from music critics, who commended its production, themes and Beyoncé’s vocals, and was ranked as the best album of 2013 by several publications. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, giving Beyoncé her fifth consecutive number one album, and sold 828,773 copies worldwide in three days, becoming the fastest-selling album in iTunes Store history. It spawned five singles—”XO“, “Drunk in Love“, “Partition“, “Pretty Hurts” and “Flawless” (including the remix)—and has sold 3.36 million units worldwide.