Beyonce surprises fans with release of album

Singer Beyonce arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of the "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibition in New York, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. pop singer Beyonce surprised fans and critics with the release of her fifth solo studio album on Friday, which features 14 new songs and 17 videos and generated a frenzy on Twitter.

The 32-year-old Grammy-winning performer said she wanted to release the music in a new way, not as she had done in the past, in order to connect more directly with her fans.

After she announced the album, it was immediately available worldwide exclusively on iTunes, skipping the advance publicity, critics' reviews and other marketing strategies that usually precede the release of a major musical artist's new work.

"There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans," Beyonce said in a statement. "I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out."

The move was designed to let fans hear the music first and form their own opinions.

The manner of the release seemed to have worked, generating plenty of reactions on Twitter.

"How is anyone not tweeting about #Beyonce right now?!!" singer Demi Lovato, a judge on "The X Factor" singing competition show, said on the microblogging site.

"Love this!! Shine on mama!!@Beyonce," singer Alicia Keys added on Twitter, while rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted, "my girl @beyonce just changed d game !!"

Fans were equally excited.

"Beyonce. This new album is everything," tweeted fan Jessica Lu. "Only Beyonce can drop an album with no promo and sell thousands in a day," added Virgo@TheDailyVirgo.

Entitled "Beyonce," it is the singer's first visual album and contains videos filmed in Houston, New York, Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. Many of the shots were made during her "Mrs. Carter Show World Tour."

"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 are all connected to the music," Beyonce said of the visual components of the album.

The Texas-born singer is one of the most successful performers in the world, regularly selling out concert tours.

Beyonce and her rapper husband, Jay Z, were named the highest-earning celebrity couple for the second consecutive year in September by Forbes magazine, with estimated combined earnings of $95 million for the year up to June 2013.

The singer is famed for her energetic stage shows, the song "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and her promotion of female empowerment.

Jay Z, rapper Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and rappers Pharrell Williams and Drake are among the artists, songwriters and producers involved in the album.

The song "Blue" features the couple's baby daughter, Blue Ivy, who was born in January 2012, and Jay Z collaborated on the track "Drunk in Love."

Beyonce also was a co-director of four of the videos, including "Blue."

Physical copies of the album in CD and DVD format will be available in time for the holidays.

(This story has been corrected to remove reference to "If I Were A Boy" in paragraph 11)

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Additional reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Kenneth Barry)