‘Cowboy Carter’: Beyoncé’s country

Beyoncé standing in for her album cover art. Photo courtesy: Rolling Stone

“Cowboy Carter,” Act II in Beyoncé’s three-act album project, is a genre-bending journey through the world of country music in Beyoncé’s eyes. Taking a more personal and unique approach than the album’s predecessor, Renaissance, “Cowboy Carter” takes on a genre that often shuts out black voices and opens a door for these artists to be seen at the same level as their white counterparts.

The album highlights the change growing within the genre, ranging from collaborations with new voices in the country industry, like Shaboozey, Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, Willie Jones, and more. Additionally, it has features from legendary voices such as Linda Martell, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton. Moving through her Texan roots, her journey as an artist, and her identity within the genre shine.

The album is a sonic journey through, in Beyoncé’s words, “a Beyoncé album.” The project, as worded by Parkwood Entertainment’s press release, “is a declarative shift that redefines and rebuilds what is Country and Americana and who gets to be included.”

The first portion of the album includes songs: “AMERICAN REQUIEM,” “DAUGHTER,” and “TEXAS, HOLD ‘EM” which focus more on the country genre and its roots. Live instrumentation, soaring vocals, and vivid storytelling help to establish the album and its knowledge of the country music that has come before. Two-thirds into the album, listeners can experience various forms of southern expression.

With songs like “SPAGHETTI,” “DESERT EAGLE,” and “YA YA,” Beyoncé did an amazing job at combining various genres of music. This section of the album served as the shifting point to share how Black music, specifically Southern Black music, helps shape many different genres, including country.

The final third of the album goes into a more modern, hip-hop, and house-influenced vibe. As heard in songs like “RIVERDANCE,” “TYRANT,” and “SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN’”. These sections flow seamlessly into each other, playing like one long radio broadcast. The album closer, “AMEN,” serves as a reprise of “AMERICAN REQUIEM,” which helps to close out this musical journey and leaves room for what Act Three can hold sonically.

The album has received rave reviews from critics, receiving a 91 on Metacritic and being touted as powerful and ambitious. “Cowboy Carter” is on track to have one of the most significant album sales debuts of the year and continues to show how much of a force Beyoncé is in the music industry. From the rave to the rodeo, her reign continues to grow and expand far beyond the confines of one genre.