Beyoncé’s fifth self-titled album arrived without warning and is already reaping the rewards. The surprise release, which secretly hit iTunes on Friday, rocketed to No. 1 in 100 countries and generated 1.2 million tweets in its first 12 hours.
On the visual LP, Bey crafts 14 songs and 17 videos with some help from Jay Z, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Miguel, Frank Ocean, Blue Ivy, and more.
But the fans weren’t the only ones raving. The critics have also applauded her unprecedented move. The New York Times called the album “superb,” while Entertainment Weekly awarded it an A-.
Read some of the glowing reviews below.
Entertainment Weekly: This album reveals plenty of what’s in that head of hers. One of the most beautiful, painstakingly constructed women in the world singing ‘Pretty Hurts’? … Here more than ever Bey indulges clashing impulses—between strength and escape, megapop and fresh sounds, big messages and resonant lyrics. A-
Rolling Stone: The vibe on BEYONCÃ‰ is moodily futuristic R&B, strongest when it goes for full-grown electro soul with an artsy boho edge. “Blow,” the best track here, evokes Janet Jackson circa The Velvet Rope, a song about oral sex that has an air of melancholy in the chilly neo-disco groove. There’s a similar mood in her excellent Drake duet “Mine.” 3.5/5
The New York Times: Beyoncé is flawless so no one else has to be. That’s the theme of her superb fifth studio album, BEYONCÃ‰, which arrives as a feat of both music and promotion. Its songs are steamy and sleek, full of erotic exploits and sultry vocals; every so often, for variety, they turn vulnerable, compassionate or pro-feminist.
USA Today: In none of these songs or visual sequences does Beyoncé coarsely exploit her celebrity. Rather, in keeping with her penchant for discretion, she reveals herself, and her loved ones, in controlled doses. The sensuality is distinctly, intentionally gritty, but never crass.
Los Angeles Times: Songs like the woozy “Mine” and the spooky, almost perversely stripped-down “Partition” reflect her determination, rare among superstars, to keep pushing creatively. 3/4
New York Daily News: The R&B warrior queen gives her music a soft new focus. In song after song, she drapes herself over the music with an insinuating sensuality. The beats, too, have a hazier texture, and proceed at a slower pace, the better to let the music last longer. 4/5
Newsday: BEYONCÃ‰ is the third album since B took total responsibility for her work, and it sounds like she now has the hang of it. Throughout the album, she pushes the envelope of what pop and hip-hop expect from their divas, cowriting every song. Everything on BEYONCÃ‰ is under meticulous control—lyrically, musically, and thematically.
PEOPLE: BEYONCÃ‰ finds Queen B exploring new sonic—and surprisingly sexual—territory with her most adventurous music yet. 3.5/4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Pretty Hurts,” “Drunk in Love,” “XO,” “Mine”