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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Beyoncé lassos in a classic with ‘Cowboy Carter’

Alex Kendall

“This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”

These were the words Beyoncé Knowles-Carter used in a March 19 Instagram post to describe her newest album, “Cowboy Carter,” which released March 29. After the first listen to the 27-track album, it’s clear that truer words have never been spoken.

While “Cowboy Carter” is the second part of “Renaissance”’s beginnings, the album actually came to fruition after Beyoncé’s experience performing with The Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Awards. She was met with serious backlash, from those who paid no attention to the performance to critics and artists alike claiming that the singer didn’t have a space in country.

The world of country made it clear that they were not welcoming her. So she made it even clearer that she didn’t need their permission to step fully into the genre.

This message of empowerment and reclamation is clear from the first track, “AMERICAN REQUIEM,” a clear letter to the country genre and the nay-sayers that tried to keep her out. With lyrics like “Can you stand me? / Can you stand with me?” paired with a twangy guitar, Beyoncé introduces listeners beautifully to the album ahead.

The next track, “BLACKBIIRD,” is a powerful continuation of the themes explored throughout this new era. The song is a cover of “Blackbird” by The Beatles and Beyoncé’s vocals are goosebump-raisingly good.

The meaning behind the song is about much more than stellar singing: Paul McCartney revealed in a 2018 interview that he wrote the song about the experiences of Black women in the U.S. during the Civil Rights Movement, which makes the “Cowboy Carter” version even more powerful.

Beyoncé is joined on the track by Tanner Addell, Brittany Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts — four Black female country artists — and their incredible talents only serve the track’s overall message: they are here to stay.

And thus begins the set-up of “Cowboy Carter;” much like the classic country song set-up of storytelling through song, the album does the very same throughout the hour and 18 minute run-time. Each grouping of songs bleeds into the next, creating a journey of the artist, following her beginnings, her relationships, her losses and her power.

Beyoncé pays incredible respect to country throughout the album, proving that she clearly did her research. Not only are country legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton featured throughout the album, but “Cowboy Carter” makes incredible usage of the country classics — from the emotional ballad to songs that make you want to throw on your cowboy boots and line-dance.

Parton’s involvement on the album is a bright spot. The legend — who’s been wanting Beyoncé to cover one of her classics for years — orates intros to several songs on “Cowboy Carter,” including the much-awaited cover of “JOLENE.” With altered lyrics and enhanced instrumentals featuring R&B elements, the homage to one of country’s greatest is nothing short of a classic in its own right.

That’s also one of the strongest elements of “Cowboy Carter” and what cements the album as a Beyoncé original; the use of genre-bending components pay respect to the music that not only made the singer a household name, but Black music as a whole.

There’s a diverse mix of genres highlighted, from Italian opera (“DAUGHTER,” one of the album’s most impressive, features Beyoncé singing the famous aria “Caro Mio Ben”) to classic rock (“II MOST WANTED,” which features Miley Cyrus, interpolates “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac). But there are perhaps no outside genres as respected throughout the album as R&B and hip-hop.

“TYRANT” features a hip-hop beat that lies beautifully beneath classic country elements, like a sizzling violin and tell-all lyrics, to create a truly excellent duet of genres.

Similarly, “YA YA” — which is undeniably one of the best tracks on the album — is an ode to the musicians of the Chitlin Circuit, which was a series of venues throughout the South that provided Black musicians with a platform during the height of segregation. Through a sample of “These Boots Were Made for Walking” and a pounding rock guitar, Beyoncé tells the story of American music that’s often swept far under the rug.

However, the project has just as many moments of pure, country fun as it does groundbreaking music revelations. “BODYGUARD” is one of the album standouts and is guaranteed to be replayed for days. Its sultry guitar and smooth-as-honey vocals make it an instant earworm and the perfect sexy country hit.

As a whole, “Cowboy Carter” is a true triumph of music, made by an artist who clearly respects her peers and the history of the genres she works in just as much as her ability to break records. It’s an album with longevity, sure to be referred to as a triumph in the world of country for years to come. It’s equal parts homage to the deep history of country and Black musicians as it is musical excellence, the only good part of the end of the album is the promise of “Act III” soon to come.

After all, not many artists can enrich themselves so wholly and so successfully in a new genre. But then again, most artists aren’t Beyoncé.

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Zoe Leone
Zoe Leone, Arts & Life Editor

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