The Internet awoke last Friday to find that Beyoncé had airdropped an entire new album onto iTunes. For most fans, the “visual album” was a total surprise and an instant success (it sold some 828,773 copies in the first three days — an iTunes record), despite a complete lack of advanced marketing, television appearances, or even a lead-up radio single. Granted, a pop artist of Beyoncé’s stature is clearly able to generate massive interest just by being, well, Beyoncé.
Still, Beyoncé’s model almost seems like an outlier, especially at a time where long, drawn-out hype cycles are now commonly expected — not just with artists of this magnitude much smaller indie bands as well.
All year, albums from pop music’s biggest names — and many mid-level and indie artists — were released after calculated, creative, and even mysterious marketing plans to help inspire fan interest, re-instill some fun in new music, and hopefully boost sales. Here’s a rundown of some of the year’s most notable.
For the last five months, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has served as the commander of Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station. And while in space, he’s made some fun and surprisingly educational videos: You may have seen him making a sandwich or wringing out water from a wet towel.
Hadfield’s latest video is perhaps his best yet: a music video of a stunning cover version David Bowie’s 1969 classic and space tragedy “Space Oddity.” The video is gorgeously shot (hello lens flares!) and edited, and as you see Hadfield slowly floating and singing alone on the space station, it’s remarkably poignant.
Beck Hansen certainly is no stranger to ambitious musical concepts — from his genre-defying albums and shapeshifting production work to his Record Club video series, video game music, and his recent Song Reader sheet music album. He’s also reportedly at work on his long-awaited first proper album since 2008’s Modern Guilt.
But now, he’s debuting something far grander: A nine-minute cover of David Bowie’s classic song “Sound and Vision” performed with 170 musicians and recorded with 360-degree microphones and camera equipment that lets viewers feel as though they’re actually there in person.
Today, on his 66th birthday, David Bowie announced he was set to release a new album, The Next Day — his 30th album and first in ten long years of radio silence — on March 12. Along with that announcement, Bowie dropped that album’s first single, “Where Are We Now?,” along with a self-referential and inward-looking video directed by Tony Oursler about aging and mortality.