Beyoncé Knowles has released a shock album.

The 32-year-old singer was thought to be working on new music, but the launch of her self-titled fifth solo record on iTunes in the early hours of Friday morning came as a total surprise.

It boasts 14 songs and collaborations with the likes of her husband Jay Z, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams and Frank Ocean. There are also 17 videos - one for each track plus three bonus promos - and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy features on the final song.

"I see music," the star explained in a statement. "It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music."

Those who have been fans of the star throughout her career will be thrilled to see her former Destiny's Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popping up in the video for Superpower.

The singer also explained why she chose to release her new album with no fanfare. She believes the usual way of doing things is becoming dated and hopes fans will appreciate her decision.

"I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that," she stated. "I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”

Also included is a lot of digital artwork, including a shot of Beyoncé in a yellow swimsuit, with over-the-elbow white gloves and her hair in a funky quiff. A dash of bold pink lipstick finishes her look.

Beyoncé’s last record 4 hit stores in 2011 and she is currently staging shows as part of her The Mrs Carter Show World Tour.

The star's sister Solange was quick to congratulate her on Twitter, admitting she was amazed the star had managed to pull off the project in secret.

"So my sister is a f**king G. Beyoncé , the visual album out now," she wrote. "I'm sitting here watching THE most artful and perfect project ever.... @Beyonce (sic)."

Although the record has shocked music lovers, there were rumours the superstar was working on something surprising. In October there was speculation she was planning to release a single over the holidays, in an effort to compete with the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus who all have records out.

“Many in the music industry have gotten intel that Beyoncé will put out a single in the fourth quarter, sometime from late November to early December,” a source told New York Daily News’ Confidenti@l. “It’s an official single and it’s timed perfectly to push out all the others. It will be out before the end of the year.”