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This Ain’t a Country Album. This is a Beyoncé Album.”: Beyoncé Returns with Cowboy Carter


     On March 29, Beyoncé released her highly anticipated eighth studio album, COWBOY CARTER. This album marks the second installment of a three-part album series after the release of RENAISSANCE in July 2022. Although released nearly two years after RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé has been recording material for COWBOY CARTER since 2019. The album also sees a departure from the sound that is commonly associated with Beyoncé. Although Beyoncé has stated that she does not wish for this project to be confined to a singular genre, it is mostly comprised of country music with elements of hip-hop, rock, and Americana as well. With 2022’s RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé sought to create an album that took inspiration from and paid homage to Black and queer ball culture, dance music, and club culture. On COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé wished to spotlight and celebrate the contributions of Black pioneers to the genres of both country and Americana music.

On February 11, Beyoncé simultaneously released the first two singles from COWBOY CARTER. The lively “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and more intimate, “16 CARRIAGES,” were met with critical acclaim as many heads turned with Beyoncé switched genres. “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” quickly rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Beyoncé’s ninth number-one single and making her the first Black woman with a number-one country song in Billboard history.

As many know, Beyoncé was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and has mentioned her home city throughout her entire discography. Beyoncé notes that the cowboy, country, and zydeco cultures that her hometown possesses have played a significant role in her upbringing. She would dress up in Western clothing each year to attend the renowned Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with her family. Beyoncé recounts many positive memories from the rodeo including the performances and culinary staples such as Houston-style fried Snickers and fried turkey legs. The often-overlooked history of the Black cowboy in turn provided Beyoncé with much inspiration for the album. During the creation of COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé made it a point to research the history of Black Western culture while also exploring the roots of Black musicians in the genre of country music in depth.

In 2016, Beyoncé took to the stage at the Country Music Awards with The Chicks to perform a country song from her album, Lemonade, titled “Daddy Lessons.” While the performance saw the highest viewership in CMA history, it was met with much criticism as many felt that Beyoncé did not belong at a country music award show. Veteran country singer Alan Jackson even walked out of Beyoncé’s performance and claimed that it was because the heart of country music was fading and that it was moving away from its roots. Many found Jackson’s actions and comments to be racist and it was an experience that Beyoncé cited as one of her reasons for pursuing this project.

Beyoncé opens the album with the song, “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” in which she calls out the hypocrisy of the concept of freedom that so many Americans pride themselves on when the country was built by enslaved African Americans. Beyoncé opens the album with this track to address her critics, stating that she is just as American as anyone else. “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” is followed by a cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” Paul McCartney wrote the song in response to the hatred and violence that was hurled at the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black teenagers that attempted to desegregate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. On “BLACKBIIRD,”  Beyoncé covers the famous Beatles song and is accompanied by several newer female country artists, whom she wished to highlight, including Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts.

On “PROTECTOR,” Beyoncé is joined by her daughter Rumi Carter with a song that serves as an homage to their relationship and is dedicated to her. Famed country singer and pioneer Willie Nelson introduces the smash hit, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” on “SMOKE HOUR.” Nelson joins other veteran country artists Dolly Parton and Linda Martell as DJs for a fictional radio station that Beyoncé created known as KNTRY Radio Texas. Of these, Linda Martell is the most notable due to the fact that she is widely considered the first Black female country musician and was the first to perform at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dolly Parton makes her debut on KNTRY Radio Texas with her introduction of, “JOLENE,” — Beyoncé’s spin on Dolly’s hit single and one of the best-selling country songs of all time. With “JOLENE,” Beyoncé reimagines the famous country song as it applies to her experience with her husband, JAY Z, and a mistress who tried to seduce him. While on Dolly Parton’s “JOLENE” she begs the mistress in her story to leave her man alone, Beyoncé’s version twists the narrative and instead warns the mistress in question to stay away from her man. Beyoncé’s cover was met with much criticism, as many felt that it lacked the substance and quality of the original. Despite the criticism, Parton herself praised the song and had been alluding to a potential Beyoncé cover in interviews for years before its release.

While COWBOY CARTER is labeled a country album by many outlets, and in many regards, a plethora of genres are incorporated into the body of work and can be heard throughout it. From trap-influenced, “SPAGHETII” to rock-inspired Americana anthem, “YA YA,” Beyoncé makes it clear that her work cannot be confined to any specific genre. Beyoncé invited several other well-known musicians to collaborate on the project on fan favorites like “II MOST WANTED” with Miley Cyrus and “LEVII’S JEANS” with Post Malone.

Another notable aspect of COWBOY CARTER that was present in Beyoncé’s previous project, RENAISSANCE, as well, are the musical transitions between tracks and how smoothly they connect to one another. Several tracks are intertwined with one another, essentially demanding that listeners appreciate the work in its entirety, and not selectively. One of the most significant examples of this is the transition that spans the length of six songs, from Linda Martell’s introduction on “THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW” to the euphoric, “II HANDS II HEAVEN.” Beyoncé collaborates with northern Virginia local, Shaboozey, on “SWEET ⭐️ HONEY ⭐️ BUCKIIN’” which incorporates three different songs into one, a concept popularized by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but not often found in today’s popular music.

Beyoncé closes off COWBOY CARTER with a full circle moment, incorporating elements of the opening track, “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” on “AMEN.” A gospel influence is found on the track, in which Beyoncé pleads for mercy and redemption while telling of the price she had to pay for this project to come to fruition and pave the way for Black female country artists of tomorrow. With COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé spotlights the contributions of Black artists to country music and acknowledges Black people as the rightful inventors of the genre, a notion that is often dismissed or ignored. She incorporates several different genres and themes to narrate this story and fully represent what it means to be a Black artist in country music.  Despite stirring up controversy among those who many feel have outdated views and are not particularly relevant or necessary, this project is an example of Beyoncé yet again bringing to light conversations in music that have needed to be addressed.

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About the Contributor
Christian Jordan
Christian Jordan, News Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Christian and I am a senior here at Liberty High School. This will be my third and final year working with the Patriot Press. Although I was not born in Fauquier County, living here has inspired me to explore the history and geography of the county. I enjoy researching and visiting historic sites, as well as local businesses and new developments. I love music as well. My favorite artists are Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and M.I.A. I love traveling and learning about different parts of the world.

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