From Yoncé to Yeehaw: Beyoncé Rides Past Her Competition with New Album ‘COWBOY CARTER

Beyoncé has never been one for limiting herself. From her genre-bending 2011 album “4,” to her unapologetically black album “Lemonade,” she never has had a challenge she backs down from. Released on March 24, her newest album, “COWBOY CARTER,” proves the singer can do any genre. 

According to her album announcement earlier this year, “COWBOY CARTER” is a power move that was intended to shut her haters up. The album was five years in the making and was conceived from the racism Beyoncé faced after her 2016 Country Music Awards performance. In her album announcement, she said feeling unwelcome at the award ceremony made her dive into the world of country music. To my readers who are hesitant to listen to a country album, do not worry. As per Queen Bey’s decree, “This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé album.’”

“COWBOY CARTER” opens with the stellar “AMERIICAN REQUIEM” – yes, all the songs are capitalized, it is Beyoncé we are talking about. The song feels as intricate as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and tackles the hate she received at her 2016 CMA performance. In the song she declares, “Used to say I spoke too country/And the rejection came, said I wasn’t country ‘nough/Said I wouldn’t saddle up, but/If that ain’t country, tell me what is?” Arguably one of the most important songs on the album, “AMERIICAN REQUIEM” sets the tone and theme for the listener immediately.

Another highlight of “COWBOY CARTER” is “II MOST WANTED,” an unexpected collaboration with Miley Cyrus. When I first saw that Miley was featured on the album I was not sure how her raspy voice would mesh with Bey’s deeper voice. However, in “II MOST WANTED,” they manage to harmonize successfully the entire chorus. I am not much of a crier, but when I heard the lyrics, “I know we’re jumpin’ the gun/And we’re both still young/But one day, we won’t be,” I cried for a good minute—or five. If you are a fan of love songs, this is a song you need to listen to. 

Of course, I have to mention the song that I, along with many other people, was most excited about. The rendition of Dolly Parton’s “JOLENE” is a complete flip to the original. While the original “Jolene” shows Dolly begging Jolene to not take her man, “JOLENE” shows Bey warning Jolene not to take her man. In this rendition, Beyoncé says “I can easily understand why you’re attracted to my man/But you don’t want this smoke, so shoot your shot with someone else,” and, “Your peace depends on how you move Jolene.” Despite my opinions on Jay-Z, I loved the new approach she took with “JOLENE.” Songs such as “RIIVERDANCE,” “SPAGHETTII” and “SWEET ★ HONEY ★ BUCKIIN” are other highlights on the album. I could go on and on about the songs I love, but then this review would be over 10 pages long.

Structurally, “COWBOY CARTER” is a refreshing masterpiece. She uses a fictional KNTRY radio station, hosted by country legend Willie Nelson, as a form of interludes between segments of the album. She also includes spoken interludes from other legends such as Dolly Parton and Linda Martell. Her previous house record “RENAISSANCE” was labeled as “act i,” while “COWBOY CARTER” is labeled as “act ii,” according to Beyoncé’s website. I have not seen a modern artist embark on such an ambitious project, let alone do so with ease. It makes me excited to see what “act iii” will bring us in the future. 

Sonically, “COWBOY CARTER” is not just a collection of country music. Beyoncé incorporates trap, opera, blues and even surf rock. In the song “SPAGHETTII” Linda Martell says in a spoken introduction, “Genres are a funny little concept aren’t they/In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand/But in practice, well, some may feel confined.” This explains what “COWBOY CARTER” is as a whole. The album is not just one genre, nor is it a collection of genres. The album blends many genres together, deconstructing the meaning of “country” as a whole. 

The album has a whopping 27 songs and a run time of 78 minutes. This seems excessive at first, but every song is on the record for a reason. They function as stand-alone songs, transitions, and interludes. I see “COWBOY CARTER” as one huge song, where every track plays a role. I advise any listener to listen to the album in full—no skips needed. “COWBOY CARTER” put me on a horse and took me on a ride for the entire duration of the album. Once again, I am blown away by what Beyoncé is capable of as an artist, and to have this much development almost 30 years into a career is insane. If you consider yourself to have good music taste, you better listen to this album!

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