2014: Following the release of Beyoncé in December 2013, Bey continued her Mrs. Carter world tour before linking up with hubby Jay Z for the On The Run stadium tour in the summer of 2014. The ‘platinum’ edition of Beyoncé, released in November 2014, included “7/11,” another radio hit with a video nominated for Video of the Year at the MTV VMAs in 2015.
Early 2015: Beyoncé performed “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at the 2015 GRAMMY Awards, and Beyoncé lost album of the year to Beck’s Morning Phase at the ceremony. The rest of 2015 was a (relatively) minor Bey year: a remix of “Crazy In Love” makes the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, Bey was among the celebs launching Tidal as a new streaming platform, she popped up in Nicki Minaj’s awesome "Feeling Myself” video and Madonna’s very good “Bitch I’m Madonna” video, and performed at Made In America fest for the second time. She also guested on the Naughty Boy song "Runnin' (Lose It All)."
August 2015: Rumors spread that Bey had purchased a pair of $200,000 stilettos for a new music video. Those rumors quickly dissipate.
December 2015: Beyoncé pops up on Coldplay’s “Hymn for the Weekend,” from the band’s A Head Full of Dreams album, and whispers spread that she’ll join the band at their Super Bowl halftime performance in February.
January 2016: Beyoncé is confirmed as a guest at the Super Bowl. She headlined the show in 2013.
February 2016: On Feb. 6, one day before Super Bowl 50, Beyoncé surprise-releases a new song and video titled “Formation.” The song was made available as a free download on Tidal, and one day later, Bey performed “Formation” at the Super Bowl halftime show. During the show, she announced the Formation world tour, which kicks off in April and will be Beyoncé’s first solo stadium tour.
March 2016: Choreographer Anthony Burrell posted an Instagram caption that has fans believing that a Beyoncé-Mariah Carey collaboration is coming. “Thankful for these amazing beauties for respecting my craft and allowing me to be apart of their project,” he wrote (via Idolator). Could Bey's next opus include a dream diva duet?
A few days after Beyoncé dropped her “Formation” single and announced her world tour, her stylist, Ty Hunter, appeared on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live and declared, "I've heard the new album and it's beyond awesome.” Ring the alarm: a new Beyoncé album is coming.
On Mar. 31, Beyoncé launches her 'Ivy Park' active wear brand, and sports the new apparel on the cover of Elle. She doesn't give much away about her new music in a rare interview, but rumors start swirling that an album release is imminent.
April 2016: Beyoncé teases a mysterious "Lemonade" project, dropping on HBO on Saturday, Apr. 23 and lasting one hour. You can watch the trailer here.
Big Freedia: Star of Fuse’s Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce and New Orleans legend who can be heard on “Formation.” She exclusively told Fuse after the song dropped, "It was a total shocker when I got a call from Beyonce’s publicist and she said Beyoncé wanted me to get on this track. When I heard the track and the concept behind it, which was Beyoncé paying homage to her roots (New Iberia, La.), I was even more excited! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was beyond honored to work with the original Queen B. I think it turned out amazing too!"
Swae Lee: One half of rap duo Rae Sremmurd, who co-wrote “Formation.”
Messy Mya: New Orleans bounce artist who gives “Formation” its opening voice-over
Diplo: The bulletproof producer mashed up elements of “Can’t Get Used To Losing You,” “Turn My Swag Up” and “Maps” on the breezy “Hold Up,” and also snatching the “Spottieottiedopalicious” horns for the devastatingly lush “All Night,” both of which he co-produced and co-wrote.
Mike Dean: “Love Drought” may get overshadowed by some of the showier tracks on Lemonade, but make no mistake, the spiraling production is awe-inspiring and has the "Mercy" producer's fingerprints all over it.
Ezra Koenig: “Produced by Diplo, Beyoncé and Ezra Koenig” is a dream to write, but that’s how “Hold Up” is credited, and hearing the Vampire Weekend leader mold a slinky Bey track is, indeed, a dream come true.
The Weeknd: Abel Tesfaye has been a must-have featured artist ever since House of Balloons dropped, and to hear him on a Beyoncé track—especially one that’s as empowering to women as “6 Inch”—causes a nod of approval or two.
Kendrick Lamar: We won’t say anything as trite as “Aside from Beyoncé,” but… the sound of Kendrick Lamar busting out over a scorching Just Blaze beat is worth the price of admission for “Freedom.”
Wynter Gordon: The "Dirty Talk" singer/The Righteous Young frontwoman contributed to a hefty amount of the album, snagging writing credits on "Don't Hurt Yourself," "Sorry," and "Daddy Lessons," credited as Diana "Wynter" Gordon. Meanwhile, she's also listed as a co-producer on "Sorry" with Bey and Melo-X.
Jack White: The White Stripes virtuoso and Third Man Records creator not only duets with Bey on the saucy rock-R&B mashup of "Don’t Hurt Yourself," but is a co-producer alongside the superstar.
Father John Misty: The recently anointed indie saint is here in a writerly capacity for "Hold Up." Lemonade's second song. Tapping him for the Ezra Koenig/Diplo–produced number is interesting, considering how arch, acerbic and even antagonistic Father John Misty's public relationship to pop music has been in the year since I Love You, Honeybear thrust him into the spotlight.
Just Blaze: So the guy who allowed Jay Z to reintroduce himself ("MY NAME IS HOV") on The Black Album's "Public Service Announcement (Interlude)" just made a cathedral-crumbler with Queen Bey. It's Beyoncé's first time working with the 38-year-old production king, and it's a crazy full-circle feeling for any fan of the Carters. Few producers are as permanently intertwined with Jay Z's discography as Just Blaze, and every time he jumps on a major modern-day track (Drake's Rick Ross–featuring "Lord Knows," Kendrick Lamar's Dre–featuring "Compton") is an event.
1. Pray You Catch Me
2. Hold Up
3. Don't Hurt Yourself ft. Jack White
5. 6 Inch ft. The Weeknd
6. Daddy Lessons
7. Love Drought
9. Forward ft. James Blake
10. Freedom ft. Kendrick Lamar
11. All Night
April 23, 2016
For more, try:
–The Complete Guide to Kanye West's The Life of Pablo
–The Complete Guide to Drake's Views From The 6
–The Complete Guide to Zayn Malik's Mind of Mine
–The Complete Guide to Frank Ocean's Upcoming Second Album