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Full disclosure: I'm already a big Beyoncé fan. Waking up last Friday to see that Beyoncé had released a new album felt a little bit like an early Christmas gift. No promotion, no warning; Bey had basically put the album in my stocking with a wink and a nod. At that, I'd have been pleased even if the album was just okay.

But it's not. It's better than okay; it's pretty incredible. I wanted to give it some time before I tried to review it because I knew I was riding so high off of the shock element... and the fact that her new album was finally here. But even after the surprise elements fade away, I haven't been able to turn this record off. The only other albums this year that have been like that for me have been Janelle Monae's The Electric Lady and Jay Z's Magna Carta... Holy Grail — so Bey is in good company.

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