How Beyonce Pulled Off Secret New Album

Yes, code names were involved
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2013 10:15 AM CST
How Beyonce Pulled Off Secret New Album
Beyonce performs onstage at her "Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013," on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Ill.   (Photo by Robin Harper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)

Beyonce blew the world's collective mind when she released a new album seemingly out of thin air Friday, and now a number of media outlets are tackling the inevitable question: How did she do it?

  • Code names were involved. The album was called "Lily," Billboard reports, and the whole operation was referred to as "TNO" for "Tell No One," adds the New York Daily News.
  • People learned about the project on a "need to know" basis. Only the top iTunes executives knew about the plans and, according to Vanity Fair, only about 12 people on Beyonce's Sony Records team knew the exact release date. And of course, everyone involved signed confidentiality agreements one person calls "scary." Even top staffers at Columbia Records had no idea what was going on: "Honestly, most of us found out [about the release] when everyone else did," one insider says.
  • Working with iTunes exclusively was a big factor, Rolling Stone points out: Beyonce was able to give secret information only to Apple employees, as opposed to including employees at Amazon and other retailers.

  • Collaborators, too, were kept as much in the dark as possible. A songwriter and producer who worked on one of the songs had no idea why he was being pressured to finish mixing and mastering it, and the writer and producer of another song says, "I had no clue it was coming." Amazingly, one of the videos actually includes a TMZ employee, and yet even TMZ failed to get the scoop. That's likely because dancers and other collaborators often didn't know exactly what they were working on. And they were never told song titles or given clues about when they might be released. Some of the videos were even recorded in studios "on lockdown."
  • And Beyonce kept things fluid: She worked on the album for months, despite the fact that she was in the middle of a huge world tour (Radar has her grueling shooting schedule here; it involved eight different cities on four continents), but the deadline wasn't finalized until a week before the release.
  • That doesn't mean there weren't hints: People rounds up a number of them, including clues Beyonce dropped on Instagram and Tumblr. For example, a few images shared on Instagram were taken during the video shoot for "Blue," and some even ended up in the video.
  • A former music exec sums it up: "Many other artists who aren't of Beyoncé's stature would not have been able to get this done. ... She obviously had to bypass a lot of the standard mechanisms to make this work."
(Read more Beyonce stories.)

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