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Top 10 Surprise Album Drops

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Noah Levy These artists were obviously never told that “waiting is the hardest part”. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re looking at the Top 10 Unexpected Album Releases. For this list, we’re looking at unconventional album releases, or ones that came out mere days or weeks after an announcement was made. Special thanks to our users liam_schell or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Noah Levy

Top 10 Unexpected Album Releases

 
These artists were obviously never told that “waiting is the hardest part”. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re looking at the Top 10 Unexpected Album Releases.
For this list, we’re looking at unconventional album releases, or ones that came out mere days or weeks after an announcement was made. We’re also including cases where audiences had no idea the musicians or artists were even recording and then dropped an album.
 

#10: “MBV” (2013)
My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine hadn't released a new album since 1991, and had actually broken up in 1997, before reuniting ten years later, so when MBV dropped out of nowhere in 2013 it was more than a bit surprising.  Pre-break-up, the Irish shoegaze legends recorded a ton of material that went unused and after reuniting they finally got around to finishing their long delayed third album, but failed to provide a release date until February 2nd 2013. On that day, they also relaunched their website and put the album up for sale in both physical and digital forms. The comeback of My Bloody Valentine resulted in their website crashing, and massive critical acclaim.
 

#9: “No Love Deep Web” (2012)
Death Grips

Leave it to one of the most experimental, unconventional groups of the decade to go with the unorthodox release method. In 2012, fans were ready for a sophomore album from the hip-hop group, with them even cancelling an entire tour just so they could work on it. It was originally set for release on October 23rd, but after Epic, their label, refused to let them release it then, the Grips took matters into their own hands and released the record as a digital download on their website on October 1st. The incident led Epic to drop the band, and the band rebelled by using a rather risqué uncensored album cover. Just Google it.
 

#8: “Black Messiah” (2014)
D’Angelo and the Vanguard

It had been fourteen years since the R&B artist and sex symbol that is D'Angelo had released a record, as personal issues had drawn him away from performing and making music. As the 2000’s wore on, it didn’t look like we were getting any new material from the guy behind “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”. But just as 2014 was coming to a close, D’Angelo finally dropped his long-awaited third album. Black Messiah was originally set to come out the following year but it was sped up due to the public outcry surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. D’Angelo’s return was met with rave reviews and commercial success, hitting the top 5 of the Billboard 200 and topping the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
 

#7: “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late” (2015)
Drake

Drake is a prolific artist to say the least, seemingly releasing a new single or mixtape every other week. In 2015 though, everyone was looking forward to his fourth solo album, rumored to be called Views From The 6, due later that year. But much to everyone’s surprise on February 13th of that year, Drizzy dropped his cryptically titled fourth mixtape to an unsuspecting audience. While Drake insisted on calling it a mixtape, it was fully featured enough to be considered an album. Fans meanwhile were more than tided over and the project debuted at the top of the Billboard 200.
 

#6: “Star Wars” (2015)
Wilco

On July 16th, 2015, alt-rock fans woke up to find that acclaimed band Wilco had just released a new album online, and they were giving it away for free. This was the second album the band had released through their own label, but the first one they had dropped without any warning. While it wasn’t a huge chart success by mainstream standards, it was an indie darling that received rave reviews. Many publications even named it as one of the best albums of 2015. And as it is probably expected from the tracklist and the cover's rather unspacey cat, the album has nothing to do with Star Wars. Go figure.
 

#5: “To Pimp A Butterfly” (2015)
Kendrick Lamar

Following the wild success of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar took his time with his follow-up record. As he began to release new singles near the end of 2014 and early 2015, Kendrick announced the album just two weeks before it was set to come out on March 23rd. However, the album was leaked onto Spotify and iTunes a full eight days before that, apparently caused by a mistake on the part of the record label. It was quickly taken off iTunes after its initial release, but remained on Spotify, where it broke several streaming records and received rave reviews, with many calling it an instant classic.
 

#4: “Songs of Innocence” (2014)
U2

This is the album on the list that a majority of you have probably heard, whether you wanted to or not. At an Apple press conference in September 2014, U2 came onstage to perform a song from their upcoming album. Then Apple CEO Tim Cook joined them to drop a bombshell: The album was finished, and already sitting in the iTunes library of every user, free of charge. Even though it might have seemed like Apple and U2 were doing fans a favor, Songs of Innocence became infamous due to its unexpected digital release, which even resulted in thousands of iTunes customers rallying against Apple for putting an album in their library without their consent.
 
 

#3: “The Life of Pablo” (2016)
Kanye West

After 2013’s minimalist Yeezus, the enigmatic Kanye West built up hype for his seventh solo album for a long period of time. He quenched his fans appetite with sporadic single releases and constant title changes, with the album starting development as So Help Me God, then changing to SWISH and Waves, before settling on a title influenced by Pablo Picasso. And then during his performance on Saturday Night Live on February 13th, 2016, The Life of Pablo finally dropped exclusively on Tidal. Except this wouldn’t be its only release, as Kanye has modified and added several tracks onto the album since its debut, making The Life of Pablo the first album fully released album that might never be fully finished. Typical Yeezy move.
 

#2: “In Rainbows” (2007)
Radiohead

For their seventh album, the famously weird and experimental alt-rock legends Radiohead decided to forgo industry practices leading to its release. Since their contract with label EMI had ended at that point, Radiohead decided to keep information about their upcoming project secret until ten days before its October release. They announced that the album would be released digitally while also saying that people will be able to pay whatever they want for it, including the ability to pay nothing at all for it. In Rainbows became a major game changer for the industry, and the band kept up the secret release schedule with their next two albums, 2011’s The King of Limbs and 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool.
 
Before we reveal our top pick, here are a couple honorable mentions:
“Vulnicura” (2015)
Björk
 
“Magna Cara Holy Grail” (2013)
Jay-Z
 
“Anti” (2016)
Rihanna
 

#1: “Beyoncé” (2013)
Beyoncé

All hail the queen. On the early morning of December 13th, 2013, Beyoncé blindsided the music industry by releasing her fifth studio album with no announcement, hype, or fanfare, becoming the biggest pop star to drop a record literally out of nowhere. Once the world recovered from the shock, they sent the album to number 1 on the Billboard 200, and many artists soon adopted the practice of unexpected album releases. There’s a reason why a majority of the entries on this list came out after 2013. Queen Bey started a phenomenon with her self-titled record, and expanded on the practice she started by doing the same thing with her 2016 follow-up, Lemonade.
 
Do you agree with our list? What albums caught you by surprise? For more top tens posted every day be sure to subscribe toWatchMojo.com.
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