LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK - US pop singer Beyonce surprised fans and critics with the release of her fifth solo studio album on Friday, which features 14 new songs and 17 videos and caused a stir on Twitter, capping a year in which the singer made a carefully choreographed return to music.
The 32-year-old Grammy-winning performer said she wanted to release the music in a new way, in order to connect more directly with her fans.
After she announced the album, it was immediately available worldwide exclusively on iTunes, skipping the advance publicity, critics' reviews and other marketing strategies that usually precede the release of a major musical artist's new work.
Music trade publication Billboard, citing sources, said the album sold 80,000 copies within three hours of its iTunes release early on Friday.
"There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans," Beyonce said in a statement. "I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out."
The move to release the album without fanfare was designed to let fans hear the music first and form their own opinions, something that Billboard editorial director Bill Werde said was rarely seen among music's top performers.
"Being able to listen to an album without any sense of what to expect, and to experience the music and videos in an unspoiled sort of way, it was fantastic," Werde said.
"What it does show in the age of the Internet is that artists can have a really strong direct relationship with core fans and present art to them in the way they want to," he added.