Beyonce digs in her heels for country with new album‘Cowboy Carter’

(Pakwood/Columbia/Sony via AP)

“If that ain’t country, then I don’t know what is.”

Beyonce has established that this is indeed a country album. What does “going country” mean for a well-known pop artist? For Beyonce, it means exploring musical freedom and dismantling genre rules. It means being able to test your limits and abilities as an artist. “Cowboy Carter” is Beyonce’s eighth studio album with an extensive 27-track listing that runs 80 minutes long. It is officially marked as Act II in her three-act trilogy, with “Renaissance” being Act I. While the album tests the limits of what country music can be, one thing is clear: Beyonce is as free as a cowboy on this album.

As mentioned by Black country legend Linda Martell in “Spaghetti,” “[Genres] In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand/ But in practice, well, some may feel confined.” For many artists, genres restrict creativity. “Cowboy Carter”  challenges music barriers not only from the artist’s standpoint, but the things we believe should be part of establishing categories. While this album features songs that don’t have a country feel to it, it is still an artistically positioned album about country music.

The album starts off strong with the first track, “American Requiem.” 

“Used to say I spoke ‘too country’/ And then the rejection came, said I wasn’t country enough,” Beyonce sings on “Requiem,” setting the tone and theme for “Cowboy Carter.” This album is the perfect response to Beyonce’s unwelcoming experience at the 2016 Country Music Awards. Being booed and belittled sparked the fire Beyonce needed.

“This album has been over five years in the making,” she wrote. “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. But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

Through this album, fans learn “Cowboy Carter” was a way to not only prove herself to the country audience but also teach that African Americans should not be excluded from the culture the same way she was. “Cowboy Carter” is a true homage to her Southern roots including tracks “Oh Louisiana” and “Texas Hold Em” that reinforces her connection to her culture. 

Featuring a number of cameos from country legends such as Dolly Parton, Martell, and Willie Nelson, along with surprise features from Miley Cyrus and Post Malone, these not only cosign that country feel, but can also serve as a bridge between different audiences. Beyonce, known for doing extensive research before dropping an album, paid homage to many classics throughout “Cowboy Carter.” But not only did she pay homage, she also “Beyoncified” them. 

She covers Parton’s “Jolene” while adding her “Lemonade”-esque flair to it. Her cover of The Beatles “Blackbird,” written by Paul McCartney after the Beatle was inspired by the 1960s Civil Rights movement, proves her song choices are ultimately strategic and intentional.

Fans on social media speculate that Beyonce could potentially dive into rock for her third act, which would also reinforce African American’s right to be in the genre. It is obvious that following the release of “Lemonade,” Beyonce has proved that she is not afraid to experiment and that she isn’t a one trick pony. “Renaissance” and “Cowboy Carter” are celebrations of cultural diversity and artistic freedom. Beyonce will continue to leave a lasting impact on the music industry, whether or not country fans believe she has the right.

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