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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Review: ‘COWBOY CARTER’ is Kntry, not Country

Beyoncé recently released her first country album, despite the backlash she’s faced from the country music community

 

By AALIYAH ESPANOL-RIVAS — arts@theaggie.org 

 

Amongst many people’s 2024 predictions, Beyoncé releasing a country album was not one of them. After announcing the release of new songs during a Verizon commercial at the 2024 Super Bowl, fans were shocked to hear two country songs. Following the release of the two singles, “TEXAS HOLD EM” and “16 CARRIAGES,” Beyoncé announced the album “COWBOY CARTER,” the second installation in her trilogy project to be released on March 29, 2024. 

“COWBOY CARTER” is Beyoncé’s eighth album, with 27 tracks that explore the criticism Beyoncé has received, the embracement of her heritage and calls to disrupt the traditional ideals people have when listening to country music. Similar to the first release in the trilogy, “RENAISSANCE,” Beyoncé has strived to go above and beyond expectations in both the house music genre and now country. While many may think this album came out of nowhere, according to a post on Instagram by Beyoncé, “COWBOY CARTER” has been five years in the making. 

“This album has been over five years in the making,” Beyoncé said. “It 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.” 

Additionally, the album features multiple collaborations with other country music artists such as Dolly Parton, Willie Jones and Shaboozey. While “COWBOY CARTER” seems like a complete 180 for Beyoncé’s discography, the album proves her versatility as an artist, proving she is Kntry. 

“COWBOY CARTER” starts with “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” a gospel-inspired song with accompaniment from instruments like the organ to the guitar and sitar. The song’s title serves as a hint of what’s to come in the album, as a requiem is a traditional Catholic mass held to rest the souls of those who have passed. 

With lyrics such as “For things to stay the same, they have to change again,” the song is a callout to the close-mindedness of the country genre itself and the warning that the album will bring forth change in ideas. The song becomes increasingly intense as Beyoncé cites those who said she was “too country” and yet not “country ‘nough,” as she discusses how hard she’s fought to be heard and create the project. As the song concludes, Beyoncé once again tells the listeners to bury the “big ideas” they have before the following songs.

Amongst the album’s diverse tracklist, Beyoncé drew back to many country influences and artists to extensively display the different mediums of country music, the history and the oppression Black country artists have received. An example of this is in the second track, “BLACKBIIRD,” a cover of the Beatles song that was created as a hopeful message during the civil rights movement. Beyoncé, joined by Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts, four other Black country music artists, the song takes on an even deeper meaning. 

Furthermore, the 10th track, “JOLENE” is a rendition of the same popular song by Dolly Parton, one of the most prominent female artists in country music. In Beyoncé’s rendition, the song turns into more of a warning instead of the begging tone the original has. 

In addition to music collaborations, the album also features interlude tracks from prominent names in the country industry, such as Dolly Parton, Linda Martell and Willie Nelson. The interludes serve as mini radio segments for her “Kntry” radio station in between certain songs, with the artist sharing their sentiment for Beyoncé’s dedication to the genre. \

Specifically, in “SMOKE HOUR II” with Willie Nelson, he says, “Sometimes you don’t know what you like until someone you trust turns you on to some real good sh*t.” With major names verbally supporting the album, it shows how respected Beyoncé is as an artist in multiple genres. 

While tracks like “16 CARRIAGES,” “PROTECTOR,” “MY ROSE” and “II HANDS II HEAVEN,” are on the slower side with some minor country influences, the album also includes tracks that tiptoe on other genres such as folk, pop and rock. Tracks such as “SPAGHETTI,” “YA YA,” “TYRANT” and “SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN’” emulate both country and hip-hop, giving the audience a taste of the Beyoncé sound they are accustomed to. 

Personally, I found “TEXAS HOLD EM’” to be my favorite track on the entire album, despite the backlash it has received in the media. The song is spunky, fun and a great tune to dance to while getting ready. The banjo and guitar notes work perfectly with Beyoncé’s vocals creating a Hannah Montana “Hoedown Throwdown-esque” sound. 

“COWBOY CARTER” ends with “AMEN,” a sort of bookend with “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” another gospel song that discusses the fall of the idea of country music with her album. Notable lyrics include “Tell me, can you hear me now?” and “This house was built with blood and bones and it crumbled, yes, it crumbled.” 

“COWBOY CARTER” is an amalgamation of everything Beyoncé. From upbeat to sultry to country twang, the album reminds us that there are no limitations in any music genre. Barriers need to be pushed in order to be heard, and Beyoncé has just done that. Now, going on to her 27th year in her music career, Beyoncé has proven time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with. While one may view this album as simply country, it serves entirely Beyoncé and Kntry.

 

Written by: Aaliyah Espanol-Rivas — arts@theaggie.org 

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