Surprise albums entertain fans, attract listeners

Drake's

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” was a major surprise for his fans and quickly became a trend on social media.

By Zach Silver, Staff Writer

If you’re reading this… it’s too late.

Drake’s mixtape, which was released Feb. 12, is just one of the several instances in which an artist has released music for his fans without giving notice. The phenomenon of artists releasing surprise albums has taken the world by storm over the course of the past couple of years and has brought a new element to the music industry.

“I think they want to elicit a reaction from their fans and make headlines,” said senior Drew Gerber, an avid music fan who’s listened to several surprise albums.

In addition to Drake, Beyoncé, Radiohead, David Bowie, Jay Z and Justin Timberlake have also released surprise albums.

According to AP Psychology and Studies in Modern American Culture (SMAC) teacher Jared Pulliam, the ability to have a popular surprise album is not present in every artist.

“The only people who can pull it off are already a spectacle,” Pulliam said. “When unknown artists put out albums, not many people know they did it.”

For some artists, releasing a surprise album is done in sheer spontaneity, but for others, there are underlying reasons behind the surprise.

According to Pulliam, some artists don’t announce their albums ahead of time so hackers online don’t try to get it illegally in advance. Other artists do it to wiggle out of contractual obligations.

“If people don’t know there is an album coming, they won’t be looking to pirate it online,” Pulliam said.

According to The Early Registration News, a Chicago-based online music publication, Drake’s contact with Cash Money Records was through four albums, and many believe his release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was his way of producing a fourth album and getting out of his contract.

Not every surprise album’s release is on purpose, however.

On the morning of Monday, March 16, Kenrick Lamar released his sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly, which was set to be released March 23. According to USA Today, there was a “mishap” with Interscope Records, Lamar’s label.

Regardless of the reasoning behind releasing a surprise album, there’s a certain psychological aspect behind it that makes it so spectacular.

“Due to how we misappropriate emotions, surprises can mask true emotions,” Pulliam said. “Surprises make mundane things more spectacular, whether it be good or bad.”

And what a spectacular event it was, as Beyoncé’s album entitled Beyoncé broke iTunes’ record in sales with over 828,773 copies sold in three days. Meanwhile, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, made its way to the top of the Billboard 200 within a week of its release.

While many believe some of the surprises albums are successful because of their spontaneity, others think that the success follows the established fame of the artist.

“I don’t think the success is due to the surprise,” Gerber said. “I think it’s because of the significant following the artist already has. Usually surprise albums are only released by artists who already have huge followings.”

Opinions on albums are subject to change as time goes on. It’s as if the surprise release can create a temporary positive outlook that quickly fades away as people delve deeper.

“The only reason I listened to Drake’s album was because it was all over Twitter,” senior Crystal Mehdizadeh said. “If it was just a normal release I wouldn’t have listened to it.”