April 2016, to be fair, was somewhat of a lackadaisical month for new music. That is no disrespect to the likes of Deftones (Gore), Lukas Graham (Lukas Graham), or The Lumineers (Cleopatra) who released enjoyable albums, but for much of the month, there was no clear blockbuster. Things changed towards the end of the month, thanks to two surprise albums, courtesy of Beyoncé (Lemonade) and Drake (Views).
Interestingly, both Beyoncé and Drake aren’t new to “shocking the world” and releasing surprise albums. Beyoncé did so flawlessly in December 2013 when she “changed the game” by dropping visual album Beyoncé out of nowhere, topping the Billboard 200. Beyoncé ended up being certified double platinum by the RIAA (including a number of platinum singles) and nominated for five Grammys, including album of the year, ultimately winning three. Notably, Beyoncé made our list of Best Albums Since 2000 That Didn’t Win Album Of The Year, coming in at #12.
Drake mastered the art of the surprise album in 2015 – or rather the surprise mixtape. In the first of two hit ‘tapes in 2015, Drake dropped If You’re Reading This Its Too Late. Unsurprisingly, the album topped the Billboard 200 and would be certified platinum. Additionally, it went on to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album. On his second ‘tape with Future, Drake exemplified the title of his tape What A Time To Be Alive. Once more, he topped the charts.
So, with two heavyweights dropping another surprise album respectively, whose surprise album was most surprising? While respective fans of each artist will be quick to cite their own, being a bit more objective – or at least semi-objective with a dash of subjectivity – Beyoncé seems to be the victor here. Every assertion needs some evidence to back it up, so here’s why Mrs. Carter gets the edge!
As the aforementioned Forbes link suggests, Beyoncé wasn’t the first to drop a surprise album, but Beyoncé definitely raised the bar. Early in 2016, the diva dropped controversial single “Formation” ahead of what’s been characterized by some as a controversial Super Bowl 50 performance, well Beyoncé’s contribution that is. Even with hints – new single, Super Bowl, and forthcoming tour – it was never evident that Lemonade was a “done deal.”
In other words, even though Beyoncé provided more hints this go round, Lemonade was still a surprise, something considering she became the definitive model. The biggest reason why Queen Bey surprises more is the content of Lemonade. Earlier in Beyoncé’s career, it could be argued that there was a lack of personal content. On Lemonade more so than any other album (including Beyoncé) she embraces her more personal side.
No, she doesn’t explicitly address Jay Z’s rumored infidelity, but on the opening quartet of the album, namely songs “Hold Up” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she sounds like a woman scorned and hella pissed off. Also, watch the ‘visual’ portion of the album, and Beyoncé knocks the [bleep] out of everything she hits with that bat in her hand. She’s definitely not happy in that context!
Honestly, it would be tough for any other surprise album to best Beyoncé’s Lemonade, though it’s never surprising to see Drake as a contender. Views is most surprising in the fact it didn’t have a concrete date despite a couple of dates being mentioned, including the rumored date that came to fruition. Interestingly, Fuse TV compiles a history of Drake’s latest project. The content of Views is more familiar territory, even with a few “tweaks” here and there. In other words, Drake plays more true to the script than Beyoncé, who sifts through various styles.
So in essence, both artists have done a fantastic job of keeping the music industry abuzz, particularly in a mundane April. But if the ripest of ripe albums must be selected, those honors go the fiercest competitor, Beyoncé. Nothing to sweat about Drake! As he asserted on “Still Here,” he’s still on top (and “in the city Still”). Be sure to check out our reviews of Lemonade and Views.