BEYONCE Knowles's two jarring new songs, Bow Down and I Been On, aren't going to please fans of the American singer's glossy pop, says James Lachno.
Last night Beyoncé Knowles posted snippets of two new songs, Bow Down and I Been On, on her website ahead of the release of her fifth album, and many fans will be left bemused by her apparent new direction.
The songs, which were posted under what appears to be a picture of the American singer as youngster in a child beauty pageant-style dress, feature only brief glimmers of the signature infectious hooks and glossy pop sheen of her most popular work.
I Been On is full of queasy synth lines and juddering beats, with barely any vocals from Beyoncé. It sounds like a half-finished studio experiment between her and producer Timberland, with the latter taking the lead.
But it's Bow Down that could really alienate her millions of adoring fans. It starts with shrill autotuned vocal effects and high-pitched electronic whirrs, before Beyoncé's powerful vocals kick-in, trash-talking: "I know when you were little girls / You dreamed of being in my world / Don't forget it, don't forget it / Respect that, bow down, b-tches".
It's a song more in keeping with the provocative style of young rappers like Azaelia Banks and Angel Haze than a pop star who has been hand-picked to performed at successive inauguration ceremonies for President Obama, and whose singles Crazy in Love and Single Ladies are among the best selling of all time.
Bow Down has met with a stern response online. It prompted BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills to tweet "Is that Beyoncé song a joke?", followed by "Self indulgent nonsense, calm down dear", and other commenters on social media outlets have criticised the profane lyrics and dissonant sound.
But perhaps fans shouldn't be too disheartened. Reinvention has long been a feature of the pop world, from Madonna to Bowie, and Beyoncé hasn't been afraid to mix things up in the past. After being in hugely successful R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, her first music as a solo artist had an edgier sound, incorporating elements of hip-hop. Later, she released half of her ballad-heavy third solo album under the alter ego Sasha Fierce.
But both times, she retained her pop sensibilities. The two new songs could easily be a brash statement to get people talking about her new album before she unveils the sure-fire pop hits. They might not even be on the as-yet-untitled record. We'll have to wait and see, but don't count on Beyoncé giving up on pop just yet.
James Lachno Telegraph.co.uk