“Can I say I'm sick of what 'BEYONCE' has created. Now there's always rumours someone is about to 'pull a Beyonce' and gets me all excited and it always adds up to jack shit. Has anyone actually pulled a 'BEYONCE' since 'BEYONCE'?”
superglowy, Popjustice forum.
Ever since Beyoncé unleashed her fifth album last December, pop has been on edge. Panic has set in. No one can be trusted; every metaphorical bush could have a pop star waiting behind it with a massive surprise involving 5am UK-time wake-up calls.
Nowadays, if a pop star has been particularly quiet in the run up to Q4, it's no longer assumed that they're just having a year off. Instead, it's assumed that they'll plonk something on iTunes at a moment's notice. Rumours of albums coming out early next year are dismissed with 'but that could be a bluff'; even now nobody's 100% certain that Rihanna isn't going to just shit out an album just before the X Factor final before descending onto the stage, God-like, to save pop. Gwen Stefani's said she reckons her album will be out next year but don't take your eyes off her, she'll chuck that online before you know it. Madonna? #unapologeticbitchcouldbefreeonyouripodnextweek.
Even poor Britney was swept up in the panic of possibility. That quote at the top of this blog was in response to this week's rumours of 'something' by the 'Perfume' hitmaker apparently being sent to iTunes for release the next day. What was initially rumoured to be one track (called 'Bli$$'), then became a nine track EP (!), then it could possibly have been the Giorgio Moroder collaboration, and now it looks like it was nothing.
A few months ago I heard rumour that a rather popular popstar was gearing up to grace a number of forthcoming high profile magazine covers, thus hinting at his or her imminent return. That was quickly dismissed by someone else with a simple, 'yes but remember when Beyoncé was on the cover of all those magazines and then nothing happened?'.
Well yes, but then something did happen.
AND NONE OF US WERE PREPARED.
No wonder there's panic in the industry.
All this speculation and false hope makes Taylor Swift's immaculate and refreshingly old-school release campaign for '1989' feel even more refreshing.
Taylor's campaign was something you could rely on; a loving hug at a time when popstars seemed to want to shake you vigorously or ignore you completely. Presented by Taylor herself during a worldwide Yahoo! livestream thing, '1989''s title, artwork and lead single were all announced in one large, perfectly controlled dump. Even the context of the announcement – brilliantly OTT yet typically direct and 'personal' – felt comforting. We learned that the album would be out two months after the announcement, while the single, paying lip service to our unquenchable thirst to have things immediately, would be available to purchase worldwide right away.
Oh and the single already had a finished video which was sat on YouTube ready to be streamed. No endless teasers, no leaked footage. Boom.
In one hour of gorgeously dorky but knowingly executed content, pop fans had enough information to keep them going for at least a month. Details such as the full list of credits and the full tracklisting were held back to leave further announcements to follow, which they duly did, with the latter not actually being confirmed until a week before the album came out. Having seen Taylor execute the 'Red' campaign with a similar expertise, fans also knew there'd be 'instant grat' songs to come, and guess what, they appeared just at the right time, easing fans into the various themes of the album without scaring anyone away.
(Yes 'Out Of The Woods' was a bit of mess 'vis-a-vis' the UK release, and I'm still not quite sure why that all happened, but it's a great song, you could hear it if you really wanted and Taylor wrote a blog post saying Ed Sheeran told her to do it or something, so blame him).
Pop in 2014 is all about immediacy and instant gratification.
If you're a forum-based pop fanatic, then prior knowledge is power and one upmanship, but it can also suck the joy out of an album by the time it finally arrives. It's thrilling to read bits about an album you're excited by ahead of release. Of course it is. But there's also something to be said for waiting for an album to come to you, fully-formed rather than sliced and diced into snippets, leaks and premature over-saturation. In a landscape still stricken with pop panic following Beyoncé's surprise right hook, it felt nice – at least for now — to be on safer ground with '1989'.