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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Weekly Music Spotlight: “COWBOY CARTER” by Beyoncé

On “COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé defies genre limits, proving herself a multifaceted musician.
Cover art for “COWBOY CARTER” by Beyoncé. Courtesy of Apple Music.

On March 29, Beyoncé released her first full-length country album, “COWBOY CARTER,” a play on the singer’s last name, Knowles-Carter. 

“COWBOY CARTER,” serves as Act II of the Renaissance trilogy project. The first act was that of Beyoncé’s record-breaking album Renaissance, which peaked at the no. 1 position on the Billboard 200 chart and spent almost two years on the chart. This album celebrated the contributions of the Black transgender community to the house music genre, reminding the world of the historical roots of this genre.

“This a reminder,” starts off the track “COZY”, a single that celebrates individuality and feeling “cozy” within one’s skin. 

However, with “COWBOY CARTER,” the singer released her second installment of Renaissance, this time celebrating the contributions of the African American community to the popularization of the Country Music genre. 

This is not Beyoncé’s first country track; “Daddy Lessons” from the singer’s chart-topping album “Lemonade” was her first. However, following the singer’s live performance of the song alongside the group, the Chicks at the 2016 CMAs, where she received a lot of backlash, especially due to many felt that Beyoncé should not have any involvement with the Country genre due to her involvement in different activist movements including police reform and Black Lives Matter, many even recalling the singer being booed throughout the performance.

In an Instagram post released 10 days before the grand release of “COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé states that the album was “born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t,” which many speculate to be that very performance. 

On the powerful opening track, “AMERICAN REQUIEM,” Beyoncé states, “They used to say I spoke, ‘Too country.’/ And the rejection came,/ said I wasn’t, ‘Country ‘nough’/ Said I wouldn’t saddle up but/ But if that ain’t country, tell me, what is?”

Similarly to Act I: Renaissance, Cowboy Carter demonstrates Beyoncé’s ability to lean into multiple genres at once. On the track ”SPAGHETTI,” Beyoncé proves this ability by mixing background instrumentation of violins with a strong hip-hop beat. The beginning of the song features the iconic country music pioneer, Linda Martell stating, “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?/ Yes, they are.”

Martell’s monologue is featured again later on the track “THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW” where she introduces the show-stopping track “YA YA” which samples the 1966 track “These Boots are Made for Walkin,” by the genre-bending country-pop artist Nancy Sinatra

Like Sinatra, Beyoncé also merges country, pop, and soft-rock in the track “BODYGUARD” by combining a soft guitar strum with pop background vocals. What was perhaps the most captivating on the track was the background vocals, which many believed were sung by singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It has since been confirmed that these vocals are Beyonce herself.

On the track “DAUGHTER,” Beyoncé demonstrates her wide vocal range by performing an opera-like tune with a country hymn in the background.

Through Beyoncé’s incorporation of various artists, genres, and periods of time, she further showcases her ability to try different things and make something new out of them.

Throughout the album, Beyoncé makes sure to share her many idols within the Country genre, including features from artists like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Most notable are the covers featured on the album, especially that of “Jolene” by Parton, which Beyoncé seemingly reimagined through her change to the tone of the song, which many believe changes the idea of Parton pleading for Jolene to not take her man, to Beyoncé warning Jolene of what’s to come if she tries to take her man.

Parton appears again on the track “TYRANT,” which features both singers’ unique abilities and showcases Parton’s everlasting talent, having been in the industry for a little over five decades

Beyoncé’s rendition of Jolene makes it clear that, although inspired, she will go to the lengths of making this genre-bending album her own. In an Instagram post, she wrote, “This ain’t a Country album. This is a “Beyoncé” album.”

In a 2019 interview with late-show host Jimmy Fallon, Parton revealed that the guitar-string-like rhythm playing in the background of her hit 1980 single, “9-to-5,” was the sound of her fingernails clacking against each other. Beyoncé uses this technique on the track “RIIVERDANCE,” channeling her inner Parton inspiration.

One of Beyoncé’s most vibrant renditions on the album is her cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” a song dedicated by the group to the Black women fighting on the frontlines during the civil rights movement, but especially that of the Little Rock 9. Paul McCartney said in an interview with GQ in 2018 that the name of the song came from people in the United Kingdom calling girls birds, allowing the song name to be a play on the phrase “Black girls.” 

To contribute to celebrating black femininity on the track, Beyoncé featured several Black women in country music, including Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. This highlights the significance of the song and the women who persevere through the hardships of starting a career in country music.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night/ Take these broken wings and learn to fly,” Beyoncé sings over a soft acoustic guitar, expressing the Beatles’ hope directed towards the African American community.

Beyoncé also included other popular artists who are making their way into the Country genre, including Miley Cyrus and Post Malone. Beyoncé’s collaboration with Cyrus on the track “II MOST WANTED” marks a milestone in their friendship, especially as Cyrus has previously stated Beyoncé is one of her greatest musical inspirations.

Beyoncé also makes sure to highlight her heritage through the many references to not only her home state of Texas on tracks like “SWEET HONEY BUCKIN” and the titular “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” but also her mother’s home state of Louisiana through the interlude “OH LOUISIANA,” where the singer samples Chuck Berry’s song by the same name. Berry was another African-American pioneer within not only the country genre but also the then-rising rock ‘n’ roll genre.

With Beyoncé’s current project Renaissance, many fans have been speculating that the final act of this trilogy will be her spin on rock ‘n’ roll. Whether true or not, this truly expresses the singer’s masterful blending of a variety of genres and her liberty from any confinement.

Gabriela Quintero is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information on this story or others, contact her at [email protected].

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