Beyonce's surprise album: What's the verdict?

Beyonce's surprise album: What's the verdict?
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POSTED: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 1:04pm

On a single she previewed as part of a Pepsi ad earlier this year, Beyonce sang, "I'm a grown woman / I can do whatever I want."

The singer proved that on Friday when she released a surprise album with no fanfare.

Fans promptly lost it and the Internet was on the verge of exploding. Even fellow celebs seemed to have been left breathless.

Singer Katy Perry tweeted, "Don't talk to me today unless it's about @Beyonce THANX."

Added actress Abigail Breslin, "The new Beyonce album is so perfect wow."

The 14-track self-titled album was released exclusively on iTunes at midnight and had to be purchased in its totality. Singles will not be available for purchase until December 20. In addition to the songs, there are also 17 music videos.

Speaking to fans via a video on her official Facebook page, Beyonce called the project a "visual album" and said "I see music."

"It's more than just what I hear," she said. "When I'm connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they're all connected to the music."

Her fifth studio album has been eagerly awaited since the success of "4," which was released in 2011. Over the past year she has hinted that something new was in the works and previewed singles including "Grown Woman," "Bow Down/I Been On" and "Standing on the Sun," which served as the soundtrack for her H&M fashion campaign.

The new album - which quickly shot to No. 1 on iTunes Friday - features collaborations with rapper Drake, singer Frank Ocean and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and, of course, her husband, rapper Jay Z. Daughter Blue Ivy also makes a cameo.

The bold and innovative move was hailed by critics and fans. USA Today 's Korina Lopez wrote "It's a fully baked album, no filler remixes and re-released greatest hits. By sidestepping promotional blitz and gimmicks, this album could be her most personal yet."

According to Gerrick D. Kennedy of the Los Angeles Times, Beyonce, her producers and writers began work on the project last summer while they were all together in the Hamptons. The end result, Kennedy said, "is a striking collection of work that shows her torching the veil of her carefully crafted image."

"Songs on the album jump and dive between genres and are woven together with everything from spoken word and trap raps to the coos of her daughter Blue Ivy and vintage Destiny's Child footage," Kennedy wrote. "It's a lot to consume, but a revelatory look at the singer who has tirelessly calculated what she chooses to share (and it's not always much)."

Miles Marshall Lewis, the Arts & Culture editor for Ebony.com, writes that Beyonce has overshadowed some other big-name singers who have recently released new projects.

"Where pop stars are concerned, Beyoncé easily bests the latest from both Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, rivaling Justin Timberlake with a fraction of the media blitz (so far)," Lewis said. "Now that's a superpower."

For her part, Beyonce said in her video to fans that she was inspired by the legendary Michael Jackson.

"I remember watching 'Thriller' on TV with my family. It was an event, we all sat around the TV and now looking back, I am so happy I was born around that time," she said. "I miss that immersive experience." 

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