Beyonce surprise releases new album, available exclusively via iTunes

Beyonce - Mrs. Carter World Tour - Los Angeles

Beyonce late on Thursday evening surprised fans when she released a completely new "visual album" available exclusively on iTunes. Self-titled Beyonce, the album features 14 brand-new tracks and features musical heavy hitters such as Drake, Frank Ocean, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and, naturally, Jay Z. Oddly enough, one of the songs even features Blue Ivy; you know, her almost 2-year-old daughter.

On top of that, the new "visual album," true to its name, features full-length videos for each song and comes with a digital booklet to boot.

The album description reads in part:

Adding a striking dimension to the music, the complementary videos unfold amid an international backdrop of New York, Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.

The album runs for US$15.99 and, as it stands now, is only available for purchase in its entirety. Come December 20, however, fans will be able to purchase individual singles from iTunes.

Beyonce announced her new album via an Instagram video at around midnight EST.

As a quick aside, it's interesting that Beyonce, of all artists, took this all-or-nothing album approach given that her husband -- Jay Z -- a few years back refused to release his American Gangster album on iTunes because he didn't want it chopped up and available on a song-by-song basis. In a statement sent out at the time, Jay Z explained, "As movies are not sold scene by scene, this collection will not be sold as individual singles."

In any event, Billboard reporter Andrew Hampp speculates that the iTunes exclusivity period for Beyonce's new disc will last for about a week.

You can preview and purchase the album on iTunes over here.