Beyoncé has spent the majority of 2013 in full-blown promotion mode, performing at the Super Bowl, debuting a documentary, appearing in (at least) three high-profile ad campaigns, premiering new songs and, oh yeah, launching a world tour. The only question seems to be: Just what is she promoting?
According to her reps, it's not a new album. Earlier this week, they denied reports that Bey had scrapped upwards of 50 songs intended for the record, and shot down rumors that her label, Columbia Records, were growing concerned by the project's continued delays, adding that an official release date has never been set.
That may be true, though based on everything we've witnessed Bey do this year, it certainly appears as if she was setting up something. There were rumors that the follow-up to 4 was due in the spring, and her spate of early-year activity — the halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVII (which came on the heels of a Pepsi partnership), her highly-rated "Life Is But a Dream" doc, the premiere of "Bow Down/I Been On," etc — certainly lends credence to those theories. But, as her legions of fans are well aware, all that momentum ultimately led nowhere, and spring came and went without news of an album.
And since then, there have been more soft-launches of songs, each tied to a particular advertising campaign: "Grown Woman" was teased in a Pepsi ad, and "Standing on the Sun" was released in conjunction with an H&M campaign. "Woman" was initially reported to be the first single off her album, but her reps quickly clarified that the song would instead merely feature on the disc. Both tracks have subsequently leaked, and Beyoncé has performed "Grown Woman" in concert.
There have also been rare breaches in protocol from Beyoncé's collaborators, including producer Diplo, who made waves when he told The Sun "I just did two songs for her new album ... I think she scrapped the record. The record was supposed to be done and they have been hitting me up for brand-new ideas" (he would eventually clarify that when he said record, he "meant one song").
That seemed to echo comments made by Ne-Yo, who told The Hollwood Reporter that he had contributed songs to the album, but Beyoncé and her team were "still trying to figure out what they want [it] to be."
"Beyoncé's the kind of artist where you're not gonna see it till it's right," he added. "And her fans, they love her so they'll be patient."
Though it appears that anticipation may be at an all-time high: Last month at a meet and greet, a fan asked Beyoncé when her album would be finished, and was told, rather matter-of-factly, "November." The fan, Olivia Krantz, wrote on her blog that she "got a faint feeling that [Beyoncé] disliked the question." Others have even written long essays about the delayed album, referring to its prolonged launch as "more torture than teaser."
All the while, Beyoncé's reps have maintained that she continues to work on the album between stops on the Mrs. Carter world tour, and she's appeared on tracks by The-Dream and her husband, Jay Z (she's officially credited on two Magna Carta tracks, but contributed backing vocals several more songs under the name "Third Ward Trill.") Will we end up seeing her record in stores by November? Her spokesperson did not respond to MTV News' request for comment by press time, though if she has scrapped the entire project, getting anything out by the end of the year would require her to work overtime.
Then again, as she's continually proven throughout her career, Beyoncé isn't adverse to hard work ... and there's still time to turn the tide on the project. Can she regain the throne and silence the naysayers? Shoot, would you bet against her?