beyonce

*According to Billboard, Beyoncé reportedly sold over 80,000 copies in just three hours after the closing sales window ended at midnight Pacific Time.

The singer surprised everyone with the stealth release of her fifth studio album in an unprecedented manner, skipping out on the months of promotion in which many artists often participate. With no fanfare, she made the album available exclusively on iTunes.

While it’s still too early to judge how the entire album—which includes 31 tracks, 14 of which are new songs—will perform over the full three days left in the sales tracking week, Bey is well on her way to approaching the prior projected leader Garth Brooks, who’s ninth studio album hit No. 1 and sold 146,000 copies in its first week.

So how did Beyoncé manage to keep her album release a secret at a time when countless artists are struggling to save their records from leaking early online?
Billboard reports that only a handful of members from Bey’s Sony Records family were aware of the unexpected iTunes set, which also features an impressive 17 videos.

The album features collaborations with big name artists such as hubby Jay Z, Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake and her daughter Blue Ivy, to name a few.

The surprise release is described as an “unguarded artistic statement,” and labeled as “a visual album” that is “exclusively available on iTunes…The complementary videos unfold amid an international backdrop of New York, Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.”

“I see music as more than just what I hear,” Bey said in a Facebook video, uploaded after the album dropped. “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. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do a visual album.”

According to the latest Twitter stats, Bey’s album release generated over 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours, with a tweets per minute spike of 5,300 (that’s more than tweets than Syfy’s record-setting “Sharknado” airing generated).