Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter is here, and it’s much more than country

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Apr 02, 2024, 01:00 PM


Apr 02, 2024, 01:00 PM

NEW YORK – Beyonce has gone country, sure. But that is only the half of it.

For months, the American superstar, who made her name in R&B and pop, has been telegraphing her version of country music and style.

There was the “disco” cowboy hat at her Renaissance World Tour in 2023, and her “western” look at the Grammys in February, complete with a white Stetson and black studded jacket.

Then, on the night of the Super Bowl, the 42-year-old released two new songs and sent one of them, Texas Hold ’Em – with plucked banjos and lines about Texas and hoedowns – to country radio stations, sparking an industry-wide debate about the defensive moat that has long surrounded Nashville’s musical institutions.

On March 29, Beyonce finally released her new album Cowboy Carter, which officially became Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day in 2024, and marked the most first-day streams for a country album by a female artiste in the history of Amazon Music.

And the country bona fides were certainly there. Singer-songwriter Dolly Parton provides a cameo introduction to Beyonce’s version of Jolene, Parton’s 1972 classic about a woman confronting a romantic rival. Singer and guitarist Willie Nelson pops in twice as a grizzled DJ.

Yet Cowboy Carter is far broader than simply a country album. Beyonce does a version of The Beatles’ Blackbird and, on the track Ya Ya, draws from Nancy Sinatra and The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. Desert Eagle is glistening funk, and the upbeat Bodyguard would not be out of place on a modern rock radio station.

The album’s range suggests a broad essay on contemporary pop music, and on the nature of genre itself.

That theory is made clear on the partly spoken track Spaghettii, featuring the pione...

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