For many of us, the phrase ''new Beyoncé single'' triggers a Pavlovian response. It starts with frantic mouse clicks, followed by a mad grab for headphones and a total loss of awareness of the outside world for the next four minutes (at minimum). That's because we know what the reward can be: a sui generis jam like ''Crazy in Love'' or ''Single Ladies'' that lifts pop music to a new level of perfectly controlled chaos.
But lately, Queen Bey hasn't given us much to drool over or at least, anything new. After owning the Super Bowl halftime show and launching the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in April, she failed to deliver what seemed like a natural next step: a real opening salvo from her planned 2013 album (now on track for a November release). Instead we've been left with a string of semi-official tracks that feel more like intriguing puzzles. March's ''Bow Down/I Been On'' was a cerebral meditation on power; April's ''Standing on the Sun'' and May's ''Grown Woman'' boogied to intricate West African-inspired beats that sounded (and sadly stayed) miles away from Top 40.
It's no surprise that her most recent offering, the pandering ballad ''Rise Up,'' isn't top-shelf Beyoncé; it's a tie-in to the animated movie Epic, which she has a role in, and sounds every bit as rigid as the contract clause that probably made her record it. But she'll be back on her own terms soon: She's already reportedly logged studio time with Kanye, Miguel, and Justin Timberlake fellow trailblazers who surely spark Bey's creativity more than, say, a bit part in a CG movie about forest sprites. So even though ''Rise Up'' is a solid C, we're willing to scratch it from her permanent record and wait for her to bring her A game again.