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Beyoncé - Cowboy Carter (Album Review)

Thursday, 04 April 2024 Written by Katie Macbeth

Photo: Mason Poole

“This is not a country album,” Beyoncé writes in the liner notes to ‘Cowboy Carter’. “This is a Beyoncé album.” There aren’t many artists who can pull off that sort of statement but, then again, there aren’t many artists who can pull whole styles of music into their orbit as she can. This is the second instalment in a shapeshifting trilogy that began with 2022’s disco-infused ‘Renaissance’ and across its mammoth 27 track running order Beyoncé leans into country history in fascinating fashion.

At the start of Spaghettii Linda Martell — a groundbreaking country artist and the first Black female solo performer to play the Grand Ole Opry — says: “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they? In theory, they have a simple definition that is easy to understand but in practice, some may feel confined.”

It’s a mission statement and, alongside the track's sample of the Brazilian funk track Aquecimento - Vem Vem Vai Vai, perhaps an acknowledgement of Beyoncé’s approach to reshaping any genre she puts her cowboy boots into. 

The album begins with Ameriican Requiem, where Beyoncé harmonises with herself, creating a heavenly sound and a statement of intent.

The lyrics reflect upon the furore surrounding her appearance at the 2016 Country Music Awards with The Chicks, which revealed underlying racism while also drawing attention to her collaborators being ostracised for speaking out against George W. Bush years earlier. “There’s a lot of talking goin’ on, whilst I try to sing my song,” she laments.

Beyoncé pays homage to Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, meanwhile, in radio static interludes. Parton mentions having her own “hussy with the good hair” in the past before Beyoncé's version of  Jolene, while a reworked version of The Beatles’ Blackbird acts as a showcase for Black country musicians Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts, and Tiera Kennedy.

Further highlights come in the form of II Most Wanted, featuring Miley Cyrus and the War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, where a pair of lovers say that they will be each other’s “shotgun rider” till the day they die, and the fierce and sensual Ya Ya, home to an ingenious Good Vibrations interpolation and a very effective Tina Turner-esque growl. 

‘Cowboy Carter’ is a clap-back to those who said Beyoncé couldn’t pull it off, and a tipped cowboy hat to those who paved the way for Black country artists today. Leaving the door open to whatever Act III may hold, it is another triumph. 


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