Beyonce has already had quite the year.
She made international headlines when she sang -- yes, she sang -- "The Star-Spangled Banner" at President Obama's inauguration. She performed the Super Bowl's halftime show. And she finished and released "Life Is but a Dream," an HBO documentary about her life that she produced.
It seemed like one of the most impressive promotional campaigns for a new album and tour ever launched. One problem: The album still hasn't come out. In fact, the album, her fifth solo effort, currently has no title, no release date and no lead single yet -- even though she is set to wrap up the second leg of her tour with three shows at Barclays Center starting Saturday.
So what is Beyonce up to? Is she working under a set of new rules similar to the ones her husband, Jay-Z, created for the release of his album "Magna Carta Holy Grail," which went platinum in its first week, after Samsung agreed to buy 1 million copies to give to its Galaxy phone users? Is she simply letting all the high-profile opportunities and the tour help build interest in the album? Or is there a problem?
It's hard to tell.
Matte Babel, co-host of "Fuse News," the Fuse network's nightly news show, says it could all work for her. "She's always going to be Beyonce," he says. "As long as she keeps the rumors going, all it does is increase the anticipation. It's all anybody's talking about now: When do we get some new music from Beyonce?"
Even her husband, who was promoting a record of his own, gets asked about it.
"Right now, B has 100,000 amazing songs," Jay-Z told Angie Martinez on Hot 97 earlier this month.
"When do we get to hear them?" Martinez asked.
"Whenever she's ready," responded Jay. "She's a bit busy."
At this point, though, it's likely going to be a while -- maybe not until November, along with the annual barrage of other superstar releases.
Diplo, who produced Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)," says she is still looking for songs for the album. "The record was supposed to be done, and they have been hitting me up for brand new ideas," he told The Sun earlier this month. "I like to work from scratch, sometimes I get called in to fix songs."
Diplo says he had worked on two songs for Beyonce's album, but thinks one of them has been scrapped.
B ISN'T SAYING MUCH
Though Beyonce herself has been tight-lipped about the album and hasn't really discussed it in the handful of interviews she has done this year, some of her collaborators have offered some insight. She started work on the album last summer on Long Island, assembling a superstar team of producers and songwriters -- including, depending on who you believe, Pharrell, Timbaland, Ryan Tedder, The-Dream, Greg Kurstin and Sia -- in the Hamptons.
Ne-Yo, who co-wrote Beyonce's smash "Irreplaceable," recently told Billboard that Beyonce and her team are still working on the album. "They're still trying to figure out what they want that to be, which I'm not mad at," he said. "Beyonce's the kind of artist where you're not gonna see it till it's right. And her fans -- they love her so they'll be patient."
However, that's not necessarily guaranteed. Her album "4" was seen as a disappointment, with none of its singles cracking the Top 10. Fuse's Babel says that album's performance puts more pressure on the follow-up.
BEING MRS. CARTER WORKS
"I think she's going through rebranding right now," Babel says. "For a lot of R&B singers -- the Ushers, the other stars -- they get married, and it kind of hurts that sex appeal and that idea of being available. For her, she grabbed on to that 'Mrs.' title and owned it. She showed that you can make that transition and be sexy, be a mom and a wife and still continue on. She's in the second phase of her career. I think she just wants to be sure."
The songs that have leaked from the album or have been used in various commercials are all over the musical map -- ranging from the surprising, aggressive hip-hop of "Bow Down" to the dance-pop of "Standing on the Sun."
One thing for sure is that her "Mrs. Carter" tour isn't suffering without new music. Though she has been performing the Timbaland-produced "Grown Woman" in her set, and the entrance music is the Dirty South- influenced hip-hop of "I Been On," the bulk of the set is hits from throughout her career, including some from her time with Destiny's Child.
And reviews of the tour from the press and from her fans have been overwhelmingly positive. "Nobody is going to say, 'I don't want to see Beyonce because she's only doing old songs'," Babel says. "It all works out for her."
WHEN | WHERE
8 p.m. Wednesday, Izod Center, 50 S.R. 120, East Rutherford, N.J.
8 p.m. Aug.3-5, Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
INFO $45-$254.50; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Who said she has nothing new?
While Beyonce may not have any new music that you can actually buy just yet, she has revealed some new songs to encourage you to buy some other stuff. Here's a look at some of her latest material:
'STANDING ON THE SUN'
USED FOR H&M's summer collection rollout
SOUNDS LIKE A lush, slightly world-beat-tinged pop number that is like a smoothed-out "Baby Boy"
COULD IT BE THE SINGLE? Well, from the H&M commercial snippet, it sounded a little too low-key, but in concert, she's added a sassier bit and a reggae break, so it's possible.
USED FOR Pepsi commercial
SOUNDS LIKE An up-tempo, clattering Timbaland-
produced joint that is similar lyrically and musically to "Run the World (Girls)"
COULD IT BE THE SINGLE? Maybe. B doesn't like to repeat herself, though, and we've seemingly seen this kind of female-empowerment jam before from her.
'I BEEN ON'
USED FOR The commercials for the "Mrs. Carter World Tour"
SOUNDS LIKE Beyonce channeling the Dirty South, doing her own rapping as she shouts out Texas rap duo UGK and boasting as well as you'd expect from Mrs. Jay-Z.
COULD IT BE THE SINGLE? Uh, not likely. As cool as it sounds, it's a little too hard-core hip-hop for the masses. Then again, maybe that's what B wants. Hmm.