Nobody can “pull a Beyoncé” like Beyoncé.
Think back to 2013, when without warning Bey released her landmark self-titled album. At the time, it was believed that “pulling a Beyoncé” would become a new industry norm. Why bother with the traditional promotional duties of a conventional album launch when you can spring your new music on an unsuspecting public, and reap the benefits of so many stunned and ecstatic listeners on social media and in the music press?
But when Beyoncé, with Jay-Z as part of The Carters, dropped Everything Is Love suddenly this past Saturday, it was a reminder that she’s one of the only pop superstars capable of a record release that’s both genuinely surprising and reassuringly graceful.
Music aside, it’s hard not to marvel at the sheer professionalism of it all — the album arrived, swiftly captured the zeitgeist, and set itself up for days of reactions. It was just so elegant, especially since launching a would-be blockbuster album properly has become a lost art. Think of the all the big-time albums that have come out in the past few years preceded by promotional campaigns that were obnoxious, overbearing, ill-conceived, and totally, totally wrong. “Pulling a Beyoncé” did not become the industry standard, because there is only one Beyoncé. The new standard seems to be playing yourself.
How did we get to this point, when the arrival of a big-time record always seems anticlimactic, even dread-inducing, because we’ve all been worn down from months of pre-release PR screw-ups? We need to explore the dark side of album launches, Howard Zinn-style — the mistakes, the controversies, the outright disasters. Here are 10 worst album launches of the decade so far.
(Dis)honorable Mention: Jessica Lowndes pretends to be married to Jon Lovitz
This one technically doesn’t count because it wasn’t intended to promote an album, but rather a music video. But when the Canadian singer-songwriter, best-known for her role on the millennial reboot of Beverly Hills 90210, perpetrated an internet hoax in 2016 in which she supposedly eloped with former SNL star Jon Lovitz, it bore many of the hallmarks of a botched album launch. It was annoying, it completely overshadowed her single — it’s called “Deja Vù,” for those who aren’t serious Lowndes-heads — and instilled a level of public ill will that was impossible to move on from. Worst of all, it failed to launch Lowndes’ music career, which is why most people probably have no idea what or who I’m even talking about right now.
(Dis)honorable Mention No. 2: YACHT leaks their own fake sex tape
Another terrible music-related internet hoax from 2016 involves the dance-pop group YACHT, who claimed that a sex tape featuring married band members Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt had been stolen and leaked online. Fans and onlookers naturally expressed sympathy, because it’s horrifying to have a private, intimate moment exposed without your permission. (It’s also a sex crime!) Then, weirdly, Evans and Bechtolt announced they were going to sell the tape for $5 — even though nobody responsible enough to pay for a sex tape would actually want to watch a sex tape. And then, finally, it was revealed that the tape was faked for the purpose of promoting the song “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead.” Again, not technically an album launch, but as possibly the ickiest music-related PR stunt of the 2010s, it warrants a mention.