The campaign for Beyoncé's forthcoming fifth solo album has so far involved a Super Bowl halftime performance, a HBO documentary about Beyoncé's greatness directed by the woman herself and the announcement of a world tour that starts in just over a month. There have been magazine covers (GQ, Vogue, the Gentlewoman) and the little matter of performing at Barack Obama's inauguration. All of this has served to keep the Beyoncé brand in the headlines, but what's been missing so far is any actual music. In fact, much of what's happened has seemed to be in support of Beyoncé's last album, 4 – an album that was critically acclaimed but commercially less successful than a star of her magnitude would like. Suddenly, last night, this strange musical silence ended with a simple post on her Instagram showing a picture of a young Beyoncé surrounded by awards and a link to her official website. Among the pictures of Beyoncé, inexplicably sat in a JCB wearing a hard hat, was a Soundcloud player streaming a new "song", Bow Down/I Been On.
While Beyoncé has flirted with her more aggressive side on her B'Day album and I Am's Diva, she has never sounded quite as deliciously unhinged as on Bow Down, the Hit-Boy-produced first half of what seems to be two interludes squashed together. "I know when you were little girls, you dreamed of being in my world," she croons over trap-style drum claps, strangely pitched vocals and a siren-esque synth, her gaze focused presumably on Rita Ora, Rihanna and poor Michelle Williams. There's also the repeated line "bow down bitches", which seems a mile away from all that independent women and single ladies business, while people who've criticised her decision to name her tour Mrs Carter are also asked to have a think about what they've done: "I took some time to live my life, but don't think I'm just his little wife." Just as the song seems to be getting going it fades down and is replaced by the less interesting, Timabaland-produced I Been On, which uses the strange orchestral backing of her recent 02 adverts as a soundbed for an odd Beyoncé rap that's been pitched down so she sounds like a drunk male robot. While clearly not single material, both Bow Down and I Been On are interesting enough to move the focus back to the fact that Beyoncé is really good at this being-a-pop-star lark.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk