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<p>Evil genius Beyonce</p>

Evil genius Beyonce

Credit: Beyonce.com

11 reasons why Beyonce's new surprise album is genius and insane

Grammys, videos, Jay Z and giving the finger to year-end with 'Beyonce'

At precisely midnight on Friday the 13th (of December 2013), Beyonce dropped her fifth studio album, self-titled, and it was a total surprise. The album is available exclusively through iTunes through Dec. 20, when it will then be available as individual tracks. Beyonce said that CD copies will be available by Christmas.

And that sound of your Twitter feed blowing up is because it's insane. And kind of a genius move. Below are my initial thoughts on why:

1. Beyonce's husband Jay Z imparted unto the world "Magna Carta Holy Grail" amid much hype this summer -- the noise was not because of the strength of the songs (seriously, not in the least), but because of his groundbreaking deal with Samsung, offering the set as a free download to Samsung users who downloaded its app. No doubt, Beyonce's hype cycle is undeniably, erm, shorter, but it's a huge get for Apple who is -- you guessed it -- a competitor to Samsung, in the mobile market. His album featured Beyonce, and hers features Hov. His app downloads couldn't be counted toward the Billboard 200. Hers will. Adorable. Maddening.

2. Sure, Grammy Awards, go ahead and have your enormously slow Friday night to post your nominations last week. Beyonce is using the slow late-night hours, but her name will be dominating headlines all of Friday. You know what else she'll be dominating? The Grammy Awards, come January. Just as Justin Timberlake had no real reason to overtake the 2013 Grammys ceremony except to promote his new set, Beyonce just got herself a ticket (even though we know Beyonce will never be in want for Grammys tickets, ever). Jay Z's "Part II (On the Run)" featuring his wife is also up for an award, maybe she'll drag him up for her performance for once?

3. Sony certainly is having a wild night: not only is Bey's label home drinking champagne on her behalf, but also decided that Thursday night is a good night to push some fresh, new Spider-Man spinoff news to the world. It's like while everyone else in the world is figuring out how to re-gift this summer's blockbusters on DVD, Sony's still playing Santa Claus. Eggnog for everyone.

4. Kanye West spent pre-album promotion talking all about his methodology of not pushing a radio single and still selling enough copies of "Yeezus" for the No. 1 spot. After he topped the Billboard 200, he then he spent the weeks that followed that mulling "Yeezus'" painful second-week slide and -- you guessed it -- pushing a radio single. Depending on the news cycle between now and the New Year, Beyonce's starpower and staying power may be the echo to West's rebel yell. And she may do it better.

5. I'll bet Rihanna's glad she didn't try to rush yet another in-time-for-Christmas album as she's done with the previous four. She'd have been trampled.

6. Yes, "Beyonce" qualifies for the charts. This b-bomb of news will certainly help in the three days left in the sales week, and could help her easily take the top next week since there are no new or old titles that will sell more than, say, 140,000 copies. The added bonus of 17 (17!) videos makes the $16 price tag look like a steal compared to this week's chart-topper, Garth Brooks' Walmart exclusive boxed set priced at $25-$30. Individual songs go up for sale on Dec. 20. Physical will be ready in time for stocking stuffers, but she's pissed off brick & mortar stores (including big boxes like Best Buy and Target) something awful. Beyonce could be looking at least three weeks at the top since One Direction, Britney Spears and various Christmas albums no longer seem like a threat, but she can't expect a big push from other retailers since her love affair is squarely with iTunes.

7. What's insane is that everyone involved kept mum. Literally every outlet I've heard from got one or two hours max heads up time on this release. Drake hasn't posted to Twitter in a couple of days. Beyonce's been on tour and you're like, Yeah, of course you're stone-cold. Nobody's talked to Frank Ocean lately because Frank's not talking. It feels almost like a betrayal. What fun.

8. No countdowns to a music video release, no video teasers, no behind-the-scenes prequels. Beyonce has her career partially on the strength of her videos, and she's released 17 all at once. It's a lot to behold, which may effect each visuals' staying power. But again, Beyonce is trying to challenge the status quo and the listening experience. Who knows if that Terry Richardson joint will get lost in the fray, but his last outing was with Miley Cyrus and we all know how that went. Video is Beyonce's painterly medium, and "Beyonce" is a "Visual Album." Just remember there's a "clean" version download for the faint of heart.

9. Tonight was Queen B's 100th concert on her Mrs. Carter Tour. Every show's special, right?

10. A few other big surprise albums come to mind from 2013: David Bowie's "The Next Day" and My Bloody Valentines' "m b v" were from fairly dormant artists but enjoyed their news and critical cycles. Sleigh Bells and Four Tet are much smaller scale and the surprise didn't seem to benefit them much. Jay Z and Kanye had their surprise announcement but still had some promo time. Radiohead is still the gold standard as far as surprise album drops go, and they're the same headlining, A-list scale as Beyonce -- different genres. Will fans take to it like Radiohead or Bowie fans did to those bands' experiments?

11. I pity the long leads. Many a critic have already made up their top 10 lists, many are posted, many are about to appear in print or other intricate, well-thought-out form of featured gray matter. Beyonce doesn't care about your top 10 list. Beyonce has 14 songs on her list and their all hers.

Bonus: Her rapping on "Drunk in Love" (feat. Jay Z) makes my head herrrt. "Haunted" is dope.

Here's the tracklist for" Beyoncé":

1. Pretty Hurts
2. Haunted
3. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z)
4. Blow
5. No Angel
6. Partition
7. Jealous
8. Rocket
9. Mine (feat. Drake)
10. XO
11. Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)
12. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)
13. Heaven
14. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)

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<p>The Milk Carton&nbsp;Kids' Kenneth Pattengale (left)&nbsp;and T Bone Burnett in &quot;Another Day,&nbsp;Another Time:&nbsp;Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis'&quot;</p>

The Milk Carton Kids' Kenneth Pattengale (left) and T Bone Burnett in "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'"

Credit: Showtime

T Bone Burnett on a New York evening of music and magic: 'Another Day, Another Time'

The documentary airs Friday night on Showtime

LOS ANGELES — When I spoke to "Inside Llewyn Davis" star Oscar Isaac a few weeks back, he had just come from seeing "Another Day, Another Time." The music documentary, which airs on Showtime Friday night, covers the Sept. 29 concert celebration of American folk music held at New York's Town Hall in honor of the Coen brothers' latest film.

At the time, Isaac noted how T Bone Burnett, the mind behind the film's soundtrack and the concert, seemed to hover over the proceedings like an ethereal presence. "I don't think he even really says anything but he's just floating around," the actor said. "I mean, literally, sometimes he just walks up behind someone that's playing and just stands there, feeds the mojo, and walks away."

Talking over a cappuccino at one of his favorite Brentwood haunts, the music maestro laughs at the quote. "There is a bit of that," he concedes in his smooth yet weathered tone. "I feel like I walk around until it sounds exactly right. Especially when a lot of musicians are playing, you walk around until you can sort of hear everybody. You become sort of a conduit."

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Book Thief&quot;&nbsp;looks like it could bring John&nbsp;Williams his 49th nomination to date.</p>

"The Book Thief" looks like it could bring John Williams his 49th nomination to date.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tech Support: John Williams, Arcade Fire and Hans Zimmer (x2) duke it out for Best Original Score

And can Thomas Newman land his first win to date for 'Saving Mr. Banks?'

Earlier today the list of eligible original score Oscar contenders was revealed by the Academy, so consider it great timing as we focus on the category today in our final craft category analysis of the season.

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<p>Jason &amp; Amy celebrate their &quot;Amazing Race&quot; win</p>

Jason & Amy celebrate their "Amazing Race" win

Credit: CBS

Interview: Amy & Jason talk 'The Amazing Race'

This season's champs talk alliances, second place finishes and more
The "Amazing Race" exit interview season concludes, naturally, with our winners, Team Rhode Island, dating couple Jason & Amy. 
 
Through much of the season, as the Leg victories were going to quickly eliminated teams like Chester & Ephraim and Brandon & Adam, as well as eventual finalists Tim & Marie and Travis & Nicole, it seemed like Jason & Amy were destined to go down as the greatest second place team in "Amazing Race" history. By the last Leg, Jason & Amy had six second place finishes, meaning they spent half of the Race in second. 
 
But Jason & Amy got tough when it counted, winning two of the last three Legs, as the only thing that seemed to be able to stop them was their alliance with Travis & Nicole. One Leg after another it seemed like Amy was sacrificing valuable time assisting Nicole, as Jason stood on the sidelines getting increasingly flummoxed. 
 
In the last Roadblock, though, all three participants were in separate planes dropping bags of flour onto a small target and there was nothing Amy could do to help Nicole. Instead, Amy finished the Roadblock far ahead of Marie and Nicole and built a lead that the pair never relinquished. In fact, as you'll see from their first answer, the final result wasn't even close.
 
In their interview, Jason & Amy talk about their strength as a team, explain the dual value of their alliance with Travis & Nicole and discuss the frustration of all of those second place finishes.
 
Click through for the full Q&A...
 
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News Update: Golden Globes salute 'Orphan Black,' snub 'Homeland' and more

News Update: Golden Globes salute 'Orphan Black,' snub 'Homeland' and more

HitFix's Dan Fienberg and Greg Ellwood discuss the TV nominations
We've had a whirlwind two mornings of awards news on Wednesday and Thursday.
 
On Wednesday, the Screen Actors Guild announced a pretty dull slate of nominees on the TV side, a boring field that I discussed with HitFix's Greg Ellwood.
 
Fortunately, the Golden Globes made things interesting on Thursday, with a field that was loaded with pleasant surprises -- Monica Potter! Tatiana Maslany! Taylor Schilling! -- and variably shocking snubs -- Jon Hamm! Claire Danes!
 
That gave me and Greg plenty to talk about on Thursday morning when we chatted in the HitFix video studio. Check out my TV Golden Globes analysis above.
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'American Hustle's' Christian Bale says other actors ask him for weight loss advice

'American Hustle's' Christian Bale says other actors ask him for weight loss advice

And gaining 40 pounds was completely his idea

Have you caught any interviews with Christian Bale over the past year or so?  Something's changed. During his Batman years Bale was almost always a tough chat. Often it was because he seemed loathe to answer questions about the Nolan franchise when he was promoting other films, but even when he was doing press for "The Dark Knight" or "The Dark Knight Rises" he seemed well, for lack of a better descriptor, "oh, so serious."  Due to two the fact he has two films releasing within two weeks of each other, an unusual occurrence for any star, Bale has been on something of a media blitz.  And, shockingly, he's being more candid and friendly than ever.

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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'Vampire Diaries' recap: Is Damon really a monster?

Can Elena escape Wes' grasp?

Poor, poor Katherine. As we know, she's getting older by the minute, much like the rest of us. Of course, she doesn't have as much time as most people do to wrestle with fading eyesight, wrinkles, grey hair and diminished physical strength. Geez, you would think she'd be able to slide into old age like everyone else! Darn that hard vampire living thing! 

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Has 'Scandal' become 'torture porn'?


Has "Scandal" become "torture porn"?
Colette Gaiter says of the recent gratuitous violence: "More and more, I find myself averting my eyes during some of the show's disturbing violent scenes, then continuing to watch when those sequences are over. I think about how much I'm willing to overlook, as well as how much I just can't watch." PLUS: Guillermo Diaz & Katie Lowes on shooting the torture scenes, play the midseason finale drinking game, and how Jeff Perry became "Scandal's" evil henchman.


Watch John Goodman's "SNL" promos with Kings of Leon
"How are things in Leon?" PLUS: Check out Goodman's best "SNL" sketches.


"Survivor" Michael Skupin accused of running a ponzi scheme, also has a warrant out for his arrest
Michigan's attorney general is investigating the two-time "Survivor's" investment business, called "Pay It Forward." On Wednesday, Skupin was confronted by his local Fox affiliate.


Andy Samberg was surprisingly not bummed by his Best Actor nomination
The "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" star found out about his Golden Globes nomination at 11 am this morning.


"General Hospital" overtakes "The Young and the Restless" for the first time in years
It's been more than six years since "GH" was on top.


Why are TV's gay characters so sexless?
Where is the portrayal of same-sex intimacy?


Mayim Bialik tweets an old photo with her former sitcom co-star, Jennifer Aniston
Before "Blossom," Bialik starred in the short-lived 1990 Fox summer comedy "Molloy," with Aniston playing her step-sister.


"Survivor's" Katie Collins talks about coping with her brother's death
Collins, the daughter of Tina Wesson, says she's received an outpouring of support since her brother's car accident last week.


Bob Barker's return to "The Price is Right" was pretty special
It's being described as "instantly magical." PLUS: Barker films a political ad for a GOP candidate.


"The Goldbergs" casts AJ Michalka
She'll play Erica's new best friend, a "wild child."


Why Animal Planet is backing away from "Whale Wars"

Friday's 6th season premiere amounts to a two-hour special amid the Sea Shepherd's ongoing legal battles.


Why is "The Good Wife" the only network drama to earn a Golden Globes nomination?
Season 5 could be seen as a comeback for the ABC drama, which wasn't nominated the past two seasons.


Walter White and Olivia Pope are among the most influential fictional characters of 2013
Other influential characters: Frank Underwood, Brian Griffin and Sophia Burset.


DirecTV is set to extend NFL Sunday Ticket

After rumors that the Sunday Ticket package might go to Google, DirecTV is closing in on a deal to renew the expensive package, a loss-leader that's used to attract customers.


Is "Party Down South" the Southern "Jersey Shore"?
Check out the cast of the CMT reality show, from "Jersey Shore's" creator.


Daniel Dae Kim answers burning "Lost" and "Hawaii Five-0" questions

Read his Reddit Ask Me Anything.


Watch Aziz Ansari help announce the Golden Globe nominations

He was joined early this morning by Olivia Wilde and Zoe Saldana.


Zach Braff is Donald Faison's son's godfather
The "Scrubs" stars remain best buds.


"Duck Dynasty" Christmas special grabs 9M
That's up from the Robertson clan's season average.


"Awkward" side braid is not coming back
Ashley Rickards says her character will stick with a new hairstyle.


MTV unveils "Teen Wolf's" trailer
Check out the new two-minute preview of Season 3.


"Buffy" alum Clare Kremer welcomes her 4th child
Kremer gave birth to a son on Wednesday.

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"All is Lost," a Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Score.
"All is Lost," a Golden Globe nominee for Best Original Score.
Credit: Lionsgate Films

From 'All is Lost' to 'The Wolverine,' 114 films vying for the Best Original Score Oscar

But don't look for 'Frozen,' 'Nebraska' or 'The Lone Ranger'

The Academy has just announced the 114 films eligible for this year's Best Original Score Oscar, and all the usual suspects are present. That includes the five films nominated this morning in the category at the Golden Globes: Hans Zimmer for "12 Years a Slave," Steven Price for "Gravity," John Williams for "The Book Thief," Alex Ebert for "All is Lost" and Alex Heffes for "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." At least the first three of those are widely predicted to score Oscar nominations too.

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Lorne Michaels: 'SNL' is definitely adding a black female in January -- we're down to 7 to 8 finalists


Lorne Michaels: "SNL" is definitely adding a black female in January -- we're down to 7 to 8 finalists

Michaels said today it's "100 percent good for the show to have an African-American woman" in the cast -- and it's possible more black females could be added, but he notes that the cast already has five females. "All told we've seen about 25 people," Michaels said of auditioning black female comedians. "A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully we'll come out of the process well."


"The Bastard's Executioner" is Kurt Sutter's FX follow-up to "Sons of Anarchy"
Sutter is teaming with Brian Grazer on a period drama pilot about "a warrior knight in King Edward III's charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword," according to Deadline. Sutter says of the project: "I love the network. I love the world. I love the blood."

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<p>Will War Machine take Iron Man's place in 'Avengers:&nbsp;Age Of Ultron,' or will he play some other role in the upcoming mega-sequel?</p>

Will War Machine take Iron Man's place in 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' or will he play some other role in the upcoming mega-sequel?

Credit: Marvel Studios

CONFIRMED: Don Cheadle will suit up again as War Machine for 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron'

Will this be his final time wearing the armor?

It seems weird to me to think that "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" is getting ready to shoot, but of course it is. After all, they plan to be in theaters for the summer of 2015, and if they shoot this spring, they'll have about a year of post-production to bring the gargantuan production to life.

And trust me… this one's going to make the first film look like "Stranger Than Paradise" by comparison.

As we enter this home stretch, there will be some big announcements coming about cast, and I'm curious to see how well the film protects some of its biggest secrets. Bleeding Cool reported a rumor today that Rhodey (Don Cheadle) will play a part in the film, and HitFix can confirm that Col. Rhodes, aka War Machine, has a key role in the conflict with Ultron that is the main focus of the sequel.

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<p>Martin Freeman may be playing a darker version of Bilbo than we're used to, but he was in good spirits when we sat down to discuss 'The Hobbit:&nbsp;The&nbsp;Desolation Of Smaug'</p>

Martin Freeman may be playing a darker version of Bilbo than we're used to, but he was in good spirits when we sat down to discuss 'The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug'

Credit: HitFix

Martin Freeman talks about being a more capable Bilbo in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug'

Our second go-round with Bilbo deals with the way he's evolving

There have been several reviews for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" that criticize the film because they feel like Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins gets lost in the film.

While I'm not sure I agree, I can see why that would frustrate. After all, Bilbo is the Hobbit that the title refers to, and ultimately, this is him telling the story of his adventures in book form. It definitely makes the structure of the film tricker, because there are so many things that happen in these films that Bilbo is not present to witness that you have to wonder when he finally heard all of these details and how he remembered all of them so vividly to write them down.

What I like about Freeman's take on Bilbo is that it really isn't what I expected. After all, when Freeman played Arthur Dent in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy," he played him as the complaining, vaguely incompetent Arthur that we all know and love. With Bilbo, though, there's a very different character emerging over the course of the films than what I expected.

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