Beyoncé obliterates download record with new album: Apple

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They don't call her "Queen Bey" for nothing.

The album that superstar Beyoncé dropped in the dead of night Friday has smashed iTunes records, Apple announced Monday. It is the online store's fastest-selling digital album, with more than 800,000 sold in just three days.

The album, titled "Beyoncé," also shattered the record for U.S. first-week album sales, the company said, and has scaled to No. 1 in 104 countries.

(Read more: A competitor to iTunes?)

The feat is considerable, given that Beyoncé released the album—her fifth solo—with no discernible press or marketing campaigns. And there were neither leaked tracks nor advance airplay. The new album's 828,773 downloads yielded more than $13 million in sales, and eclipsed the previous record holder: Justin Timberlake, whose "20/20 Experience" sold a comparatively paltry 586,000 downloads earlier in 2013.

The achievement raises questions about the viability and assumptions underpinning the promotion of big-name stars.

(Read more: What this tells us about the music business)

Lady Gaga's recent launch of "Artpop" was accompanied by a marketing blitz with a reported price tag of $25 million, yet music critics blistered the album, while her fan base shunned it. After barely a month, "Artpop" is widely considered a commercial flop that some say could tarnish the megastar's brand.

While Beyoncé's album has gotten mixed fan reviews, the stealth effort generated a social media frenzy in its wake.

"Beyoncé" launch rewrites rules on promotion
"Beyoncé" launch rewrites rules on promotion

Beyoncé mentions skyrocketed on Twitter after the so-called visual album was unveiled, which dwarfed the online buzz by the memorial for South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. According to Twitter, 1.2 million tweets referred to the former Destiny's Child frontwoman within the first 12 hours—more than the social phenomenon "Sharknado" earlier this year.

The 14-track, 17 video album was released exclusively on iTunes. It was the biggest sales week of Beyoncé's career.

—By CNBC's Javier E. David