The Beyoncé Effect: Artists Who've Dropped New Albums Out of Nowhere

Bad Bunny's the latest artist to follow Beyoncé's lead with the surprise release of his album El Último Tour del Mundo on Nov. 27. See who else has stunned fans with the unorthodox approach!

By Billy Nilles Dec 01, 2020 7:23 PMTags
Watch: The Beyonce Effect: Artists Who've Dropped Surprise Albums

Bad Bunny's been a busy bunny.

The Puerto Rican superstar born Benito Martínez shocked fans on Nov. 27 when he released a new album, El Último Tour del Mundo, entirely out of the blue. Written and recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine, the 16-track LP marked Bad Bunny's third collection of new tunes to drop in the same calendar year. And all of them arrived with an element of surprise. 

While releasing three albums in one year is a feat of superhuman artistic strength, the practice of dropping them with zero promotion is nothing new. The strategy was made popular by Beyoncé when she released her self-titled fifth studio album in December 2013 out of thin air, shocking fans and industry insiders alike. It was a move that's inspired many imitators—each to their own varying degree of success—upending traditional promotional processes for good.

However, though Queen Bey made the surprise drop a thing, you might be surprised to know that she wasn't the first one to do it.

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The Best Music of 2020—So Far

Check out the history of the surprise album below, from its rock roots to its rap and pop present.

Getty Images; Beyonce.com/E! Illustration
Radiohead, In Rainbows

The English rock band's seventh studio album, announced on their blog just 10 days before its October 2007 release, not only pioneered the surprise drop, it also kickstarted a "pay-what-you-want" sales model. Fans could pre-order a download of the LP for any price they desired—including £0.

Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts I-IV

Following an ugly severing of ties with Interscope Records, Trent Reznor's industrial rock band released this album independently—and for free—on their official website in March 2008. The only prior warning fans received was a post from Reznor that read "2 weeks!" The almost entirely instrumental album was released under a Creative Commons license, which allowed for listeners to legally edit and remix the material however they'd like.

Nine Inch Nails, The Slip

Two months after the release of Ghosts I-IV, Reznor and Co. repeated the entire process with the surprise drop of this album. This time around, however, a single was released the day after the frontman's "2 weeks!" post arrived.

Kanye West & Jay-Z, Watch the Throne

While the existence of this collaborative album between the two rap giants wasn't exactly a secret to fans, its arrival in 2011 still came as a surprise. The pair made use of false release dates to throw eager listeners off the scent and prevent a leak before dropping the album in August.

Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE

Following the very warm reception of Ocean's debut mixtape Nostalgia, ULTRA in 2011, fans were rabid for his first studio album. Seeing how Watch the Throne had successful thwarted its own leak, Ocean chose to drop his LP a week ahead of its advertised release date in July 2012.

My Bloody Valentine, m b v

With 22 years between them and their last album, the Irish rock band surprised fans with a Facebook post in February 2013 announcing the imminent arrival of their new LP. Within minutes, their official website crashed due to the overwhelming traffic from hopeful listeners seeking out a digital download.

Beyoncé, Beyoncé

While she certainly isn't the first on this list, the fact that a pop star of Bey's magnitude was not only able to record an entire LP in secret, but film corresponding music videos for each of the 14 tracks on her self-titled visual album and have none of it leak prior to its release in December 2013 is wildly impressive. When the album arrived quite literally out of nowhere, it delivered a seismic shock to the industry.

U2, Songs of Innocence

The biggest rock band in the world teaming with a technology giant to surprise release their 13th studio album by making it available on everyone's devices immediately and for free. What could go wrong? Well, as it turned out, there were plenty of Apple users who didn't want to have a U2 album forced on them without their consent, as happened in September 2014. So, there's that.

Drake, If You're Reading This It's Too Late

This mixtape from the Canadian rapper arrived in February 2015 with zero promotion and debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.

Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz

As Cyrus wrapped up her hosting duties at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, she announced to everyone watching that her follow-up to Bangerz was being made available as she spoke. The experimental album, much of it made in collaboration with The Flaming Lips, was released independently for online streaming on SoundCloud before finally making its way to paid streaming services two years later.

Beyoncé, Lemonade

Three years after she changed the game with that digital drop, Bey upped the visual album ante, delivering a concept LP that debuted as part of an HBO film in April 2016. The movie debuted two months after the pop star released "Formation" with zero warning a day before her performance during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show.

Frank Ocean, Endless and Blonde

With his fans hungry for new material following the release of Channel ORANGE, Ocean proved elusive for four whole years. Until, that is, he dropped these two albums within days of each other in August 2016. 

Solange, A Seat at the Table

Taking a page out of her sister's playbook, the younger Knowles sister announced her third studio album on Twitter just three days before its release in September 2016. 

Jay-Z, 4:44

After a series of very vague billboards began popping up in major cities across the country in early June 2017, the rapper released his 13th studio album on the very last day of the month as a Tidal exclusive.

J. Cole, KOD

Two days after the rapper unveiled the cover artwork and tracklist for his fifth studio album, it arrived in all its glory on April 20, 2018.

The Carters, Everything Is Love

It was only a matter of time before Bey and Jay teamed up for a full-length album. And, true to form, the announcement of their 2018 collaborative LP was about as baller as you can get. While embarking on their joint On the Run II Tour that June, they ended their second London show with a surprise for the audience: The music video for their new single "Apes--t" played on stage, followed by the words "ALBUM OUT NOW." With that, Everything Is Love was made available on Tidal.

Eminem, Kamikaze

At the end of August 2018, Em shared a 15-second snippet of a new song on social media with no further comment. The next day, his tenth studio album was made available everywhere.

Missy Elliott, Iconology

Thirteen years after her last album, the iconic rapper surprised fans with her long-awaited return via tweet. "At midnight tonight I'm dropping a collection of new songs," she wrote in August 2019. "Let's #ThrowItBack to a time when music just felt good and made us want to dance! Sincerely, Dr. Melissa 'Missy' Elliott." The EP coincided with her receiving the Video Vanguard Award at that year's VMAs.

Eminem, Music to Be Murdered By

Em replicated his Kamikaze strategy for the release of this album in January 2020. It paid off, with its debut atop the Billboard 200 making him the first artist to have 10 consecutive albums do so.

Bad Bunny, YHLQMDLG

While the Puerto Rican superstar had two singles out before announcing his second studio album, its existence was only confirmed during a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon two days before its release on Leap Day 2020.

Childish Gambino, 3.15.20

After a four year wait for his fourth studio album, Donald Glover released the LP with no prior warning on his website on the date in the title. After 12 hours, though, it was taken down. The 15-track album was eventually released on streaming and download services days later, on March 22.

Drake, Dark Lane Demo Tapes

This 14-track mixtape, a compilation of new material as well as songs either previously released on SoundCloud or leaked, arrived out of the blue on May 1, 2020.

Bad Bunny, Las que no iban a salir

Bad Bunny dropped this compilation album, a collection of tracks that didn't make the cut on his two prior LPs, with zero warning on May 10, 2020.

Taylor Swift, folklore

Written entirely at the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, T.Swift's eighth studio album was only announced by the superstar a day before its July 24 release. It went on to earn her five Grammy nominations, including one for Album of the Year.

Bad Bunny, El Último Tour del Mundo

Not content with two surprise albums in one year, Bad Bunny surprised his fans when he dropped this third LP out of the blue on Nov. 27, 2020. 

El Último Tour del Mundo is available now.

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