The date was November 4, 2019. It was a cold, rainy day, but things were about to start looking up. A few of my friends and I were sitting in their classroom across the hall from the math class I was in. We were having a casual conversation when all of a sudden, a notification on my phone from Harry Styles caught my attention. “FINE LINE. THE ALBUM. DEC 13,” it read. I let out a shriek as I opened my phone to a photo of a pink and blue album cover featuring Styles in the center of it. For me, there are very few things that are greater than that feeling of opening your phone to the news of your favorite artist or band announcing a new project. Of course I love seeing the classic Apple Music announcement, but the most exciting moments are when there’s suspense, a build up to the news. There have been so many creative ways that artists have announced and teased new music, but today I will be breaking down my personal favorites.
First of all, let’s talk about my favorite artist of all time: Ariana Grande. Miss “thank u, next” herself. I believe that her music, personality, and ponytail are more iconic than her announcements, but looking back, she teased music for songs we didn’t even know existed at the time. In November 2018, she casually tweeted the words “thank u, next.” The tweet was not an announcement, just her sharing some words of wisdom. Just a few nights later, she randomly dropped the song titled those very words at 9 p.m. on that Saturday night with no prior official promotion. The song ended up being her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, she has had 3 more hits top the chart. Though to some her “thank u, next” tweet may have seemed insignificant at the time, it was the start of her most successful era to date.
Harry Styles. Fashion icon, heartthrob, and ex-boybander. Last October, Styles’ team plastered posters on walls, billboards, and train stations in various metropolises all over the world etched with the words “Do You Know Who You Are.” The bottom of each poster was signed with the letters “TPWK,” meaning “treat people with kindness,” his unofficial slogan. These posters hinted to the world that he had new music coming soon. Shortly after the posters were put up, the website doyouknowwhoyouare.com was created. In the site, the user typed in their name, and it would give you a positive affirmation for yourself. One of my personal favorites that I received was “Sophia, You are ravishing. TPWK. Love, H.” A few nights after the website’s creation, Styles released the lead single off of Fine Line, “Lights Up,” without any official announcement prior to the song’s release. In case you are interested in visiting the website, it is still active and currently has a “Watermelon Sugar” theme!
R&B/ Pop artist Frank Ocean takes the prize for the most elongated announcement. On Aug. 1, 2016, a 140 hour live stream appeared on Youtube featuring Ocean woodworking with his final result being a staircase. The stream was used to promote his visual album, Endlessness. Though the visual album only takes about 40 minutes of the stream, it was his way to create suspense and keep viewers excited. Right before the conclusion of the stream, he announced that his second studio album, Blonde, would be released the following night at midnight.
While we’re giving out “awards”, twenty one pilots deserves the award for most confusing and complicated announcement. You probably know them for their radio hits “Heathens” and “Stressed Out,” but there is so much more to them. Though I am a big fan of the band, I don’t even compare to those who cracked the following codes for us all. In July 2017, the band did their final concert for Blurryface. That show was the end of the Blurryface era and the beginning of their one year long disappearance. But one day, a new link hidden in their merchandise site caught the attention of a fan. It then led fans of the band on a wild goose chase, leading them around the internet to various websites and codes. A reddit user had found a hidden gif on the merchandise website that gave out a series of numbers, the words “found” and “clancy”, and lastly tells fans to visit a website. In the site (http://dmaorg.info/), it told fans that they are in “violation” and “no one should ever find out about this.” The fans continued to play around with the numbers and keywords, resulting in the creation of a new link, http://dmaorg.info/found/15398642_14/clancy.html. In this new site, a series of letters from a character named “Clancy” were uploaded. As days went on, more letters and images were uploaded. One day, a gif of a cheetah was uploaded, hinting to the upcoming track “Pet Cheetah.” Other clues included a photo of a vulture (the animal featured on their upcoming album cover), an audio clip of lead singer Tyler Joseph saying “we are banditos” played backwards hinting at the existence of the song “Bandito,” and a photo from their upcoming music video for the song “Jumpsuit.” Clues continued to be released up until the release of the first two singles off of their album “Trench.”. The two singles, Jumpsuit and Nico and the Niners were released on a random weekday at around 10 in the morning with no prior promotion. This may seem weird to a casual radio listener of the band, but this is not off brand whatsoever. Remember the 2017 Grammys? The band accepted their award with their pants off because they said that they used to watch the show without pants, so they thought that it would remind them of how far they have come. They are unconventional and they march to the beat of their own drum
Last but certainly not least, we have Taylor Swift. I grew up with her music, I’ve witnessed her switch genres countless times, and I’ve lived through multiple of her elaborate new music announcements. She’s always reinventing herself in a creative way, and this theme leads to perhaps one of the most iconic album announcements in history. Get ready for a trip down memory lane. The date is Aug. 21, 2017. A series of videos picturing a snake are posted to Miss Swift’s newly-wiped social media pages throwing the world into a frenzy. People began speculating what this could mean for the following few days. On Aug. 23, Swift announced that the lead single titled “Look What You Made Me Do” off of her upcoming album reputation, would be released the following night. I actually still listen to the song daily. It holds so much power and it’s a great way to start your day.
Now this isn’t the only iconic way Swift has announced new music. Of course I would love to go into detail about all of the ways that she’s surprised us all, but I’ll just tell you about my personal favorite. On July 23 of this year, I woke up, ready to start an amazing day. It was the 10 year anniversary of One Direction, and my friends and I were going to celebrate the momentous occasion. I opened my phone to look up when I was supposed to pick up my One Direction cake, and my jaw dropped. I saw three words that presented the biggest musical surprise of 2020. No, it wasn’t a One Direction reunion or anything (though that would have easily taken the top prize if it did happen). Instead, I saw the words “folklore at midnight” in an Apple Music notification (Apple Music is superior but that’s an argument for another time). Swift had outdone herself. She created a whole album during quarantine and announced it 17 hours before its release. Nowadays, artists begin promoting new singles at least a week in advance, and for albums this is around two months. For Swift to skip the promotional stages for an album and still be successful in sales and streams is something unheard of.
An announcement is a first impression, a first glimpse into the future. When an artist puts time and creativity into their announcement, it builds anticipation and leaves fans even more excited for what is to come. The more surprising and thought out the announcement is, the more it gets people talking, resulting in more publicity for the artist. Though there are so many more albums and artists that I would love to talk about, these are the most iconic in my mind, and the greatest, most memorable starts to their most successful eras. This may have been nostalgic for some of you, but for others this may be your first glimpse into the life of an artist you don’t keep up with. Wherever you stand, I hope that your favorite artist releases something new very soon so you too will have something to look forward to.