Last Thursday night, one of the world’s biggest pop stars took a very cleverly calculated risk, and the entire internet exploded at once. Beyoncé released an eponymous 14 song / 17 video digital album, exclusively through iTunes, with zero promotion and a secretive production team so leak-proof the NSA must be jealous.
The album is experimental, boundary-nudging pop made in collaboration with some of the best musicians currently working, but particularly distinguished by Beyoncé’s songwriting, her most mature to date, which is both candidly personal and politically charged. In a year rich in statement-making releases, the record immediately inserted itself on many critics’ best-of lists and has become an essential pop culture touchstone.
One of the more radio-friendly hits off “Beyoncé,” the soaring, anthemic “XO” is custom-made to fill massive arenas with fans chanting along and is the kind of song that can change the mood of a room from its wobbly opening bars.