When an artist like Beyoncé drops an album that becomes arguably the biggest of the year and a game-changer for the music industry, people start scrambling to figure out how it all came to be. Two years in the making, Beyoncé’s self-titled album has dominated water cooler convos since its Dec. 13th digital release. “My message behind the album was finding the beauty in imperfection… Growth, love, happiness, fun,” Beyoncé says in the mini-doc released with the album. “Enjoy your life. It’s short. That’s the message.”
Since Bey's big bang, there’s been tons of info and interviews floating the Net and it’s hard to keep track. Below, a cheat sheet of what we’ve learned so far about Beyoncé’s visual album.
1. Team work made the dream work, but the visual album was primarily Beyoncé’s vision.
"I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans,” she said in the doc. “There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans."
2. The release date changed multiple times.
According to Hits Daily Double, Columbia Records (led by Rob Stringer) and Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood, worked with iTunes to make sure this CIA-style operation went smoothly and without leaks. In the days leading up to the album’s release, the original cast of four people evolved into three teams.
3. Beyoncé requested all black models for the “Yoncé” video.
“Beyoncé wanted to push that angle — that was her request and concept initially. I think any time you can promote a sense of community and unity and that is natural, you should,” the video’s director Ricky Saiz told New York. “All the girls are friends and it was so friendly and there was no ego on set. Everyone was so happy to be there. The girls were incredible. What a great cast. It was spontaneous and not at all contrived.”
4. But it was Joan Smalls’ idea to lick Beyoncé’s chest.
“We were going through takes and it was her and Joan and they were close. And Joan went for the lick and we got it,” said Saiz.
5. Justin Timberlake helped out with the “Yoncé” beat.
“I love it because it’s really organic,” said Bey in her doc. “The drumbeat was actually done in the studio by Justin Timberlake. He just started beating on this bucket.”
6. Some participants signed non-disclosure agreements...
For the "No Angels" video, producer Ben [Solomon] worked with Beyoncé's company to wrangle cameos from Houston rappers like Paul Wall. "It was kind of nuts. We're prepped. Everybody's hyped. But everybody knows you have to keep it on the low—what record we're doing and what's actually being done," the video's cinematographer Shomi Patwary told Complex. "Even I didn't know what the heck was going on, really. The whole operation was a secret. All I know is we had to sign a [non-disclosure agreement] and not talk about it to anybody.
7. ...Ty Hunter, Beyoncé’s fashion director and longtime friend, didn’t sign one.
“People knew things were going on. But the thing is, we’re such a tight-knit family," Ty told Elle. You had to put your phone away. Beyoncé has always been this person who is super-secretive with the things that she does, as far as with her camp and her family. They’re also very secretive and very intuitive with her vision and keeping things under wraps.”
8. Working with Bey, Ty coordinated with five stylists to compile all the fashion looks, some shipped from overseas.
“I’d have it sent and pray that the pieces and the packages would be received by different hotels in other countries.”
9. Beyoncé probably would have killed someone to keep her album’s opener “Pretty Hurts.”
“It’s really difficult to find a song with such a strong message that doesn’t feel preachy," she said. "[The songwriter] Sia is such a genius. The second I heard the song, I’m like, 'I have to sing this song. I don’t care how hard I have to fight for the song, this is my song!'”
10. Hi haters, this is why Beyoncé released "Bow Down."
“I woke up, I went into the studio, I had a chant in my head. It was the Beyoncé that was angry. It was the Beyoncé that felt the need to defend herself and if the song never comes out – okay, I said it! And I listened to it after I finished and I said, 'This is hot! Imma put it out!’ Anyone who says that is disrespectful — just imagine the person that hates you. Imagine the person that doesn’t believe in you and look in the mirror and say, ‘Bow down, bitch’! I guarantee you feel gangsta!"