Country Roads Beyoncé Take Me Home: A Review of “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages”

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Queen Bey took it upon herself to surprise drop new music this last Superbowl Weekend. With the singles being teased by Beyoncé saying “Okay, they ready! Drop the new music,” at the end of her Verizon Superbowl commercial, I truly had no idea what to expect. After ignoring the game and refreshing Spotify for an hour, I saw that she not only dropped one single, but two.

Labeled as a part of a mysterious Act II, coming March 29, according to Beyonce’s Instagram bio, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” is a stark departure from the loud sequin-coated 2022 record “Act I: Renaissance.” The superstar takes on the country genre with these singles, much like Lady Gaga’s 2016 masterpiece “Joanne.” However, do not for a second think that these songs are anything less than extraordinary because they are country. While I did not expect two singles, I knew Beyoncé was teasing her country era with her appearance at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards—cowboy hat and all. If that alone was not a hint for her latest project, I do not  know what is.

The first song I listened to was the playful “Texas Hold ‘Em.” After gathering my breath from the first listen, I had to rewind and pay attention to the song. Personal bias as a fan aside, this is easily one of my favorite songs she’s put out so far. Notably, I liked how, in this song, we get to see Beyoncés less serious side. Lyrics such as “It’s a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown / Don’t be a b—-, come take it to the floor now” made me realize this new era she is entering is one where I can see her have fun without feeling the need to prove herself anymore. It is crazy how the song’s instrumentals can be stripped back but still feel as big as her other productions . And can we talk about the shocking runtime? In a world where songs tend to be shorter than ever, “Texas Hold ‘Em” hopefully will set a standard of songs being a proper four minutes.

The next song, “16 Carriages,” is an emotional rollercoaster that I was unprepared for. The song tackles themes of her father’s infidelity, growing up too fast and the downsides of being a performer. I saw Beyoncé get personal with listeners as she sings “At fifteen, the innocence was gone astray / Had to leave my home at an early age,” and “I saw Mama cryin’, I saw Daddy lyin’ / Had to sacrifice and leave my fears behind.” What I love most about this song is the production. It begins vulnerable and builds into a rich, fulfilling sound by the end. If I am being honest, I have not heard a ballad like this since her iconic 2008 hits “Halo” and “If I Were a Boy.” Once again, just because it is a country song does not mean it is bad. In fact, she is not just making a country song, she is forcing the listener to appreciate the genre as a whole.

While these songs are amazing, I feel as though there is a bigger picture to look at. If “Renaissance” was house and disco, and these new singles are country, it seems like Beyoncé is reclaiming genres that originated with the African American community. House and disco saw a resurgence with albums from superstars Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga, but it was nice to see a black artist remind everyone of its roots in the African American community. The same goes with Queen Bey’s recent singles, as country music saw many of its early songs be influenced by African instruments and have melodies adapted from hymns in black churches, according to the Jacksonville Music Experience. It’s a powerful statement to make—especially during Black History Month. If she is keeping this up with an Act III, I hope she takes on rock ‘n’ roll due to its black origins as well. After listening to “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages,” I only have positive things to say about Beyoncé dabbling in country music. I have not been this excited about a music project since, well, her last album. After raising the bar yet again, Beyoncé proved that she can do just about anything. Maybe if she releases music videos for this era, unlike the last one, all will be forgiven. Let’s all be honest—–we don’t want a haircare line, Bey—we want visuals!

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