Ta-Da! Out Of The Blue: A Brief History Of The Surprise Album

After the recent release of Solange’s ‘When I Get Home’, we chart some of the most notable sudden album releases of the past few years.

The release of Solange’s new album ‘When I Get Home’ earlier this month came with almost no warning. Melding together jazz, hip-hop, R&B and electronic beats with an impressive list of collaborators, including Pharrell, Dev Hynes, Sampha, Gucci Mane, Earl Sweatshirt and more, the album came just days after the singer staged a takeover of Black Planet, a social networking platform for African-Americans that was launched in 2001, and seemed to hint at new music via a surreal clip posted to social media that mixed arty studio shots with home-video footage and a clip of a new song. But at no point was the album actually, y’know, announced, leaving fans pleasantly surprised when they woke up on 1st March with nineteen brand new tracks.

There was a time when the surprise album was almost unthinkable and a lack of pre-album publicity and distribution planning would massively affect its success. But with the turn of the 21st century came mass internet and social media usage and, with it, a way for artists to speak to their fans directly, outside of traditional communication channels. As a result of this, the surprise album has become almost commonplace over the past decade and now - rather than breaking the internet - done badly can become the equivalent of a mass eye roll. Yet, done well, it gives artists breathing space to really make an impact and retain control over the way their music is released, pre-empting album leaks and taking their album out of the pre-album press cycle to let the music speak for itself.

Here, we run through some of the most memorable surprises of recent years.

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