Cowboy Carter breaks all barriers for what a Beyoncé album can be

Cowboy Carter breaks all barriers for what a Beyoncé album can be

Beyoncé has proven time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with; rare would it be to find anyone who would disagree with such a statement. Her versatility on previous albums, such as the house music-inspired “Renaissance,” and the emotionally trifling “Lemonade,” has solidified her rightful place as music industry royalty. In “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé not only showcases the very best of her musicianship but refuses to be consolidated to a single genre, which she communicates flawlessly.

On Feb. 11, Beyoncé surprised the world with her sudden release of the singles “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and “16 Carriages,” which debuted at No. 2 and No. 9 respectively on Billboard’s Country Charts before soaring to the respective No. 1 and No. 2 spots within days after release. This makes her the first-ever Black woman to accomplish this feat

Immediately following these single releases, the internet was set abuzz. Was Beyoncé turning country? 

On March 19, exactly ten days before the album’s release, Beyoncé took to Instagram to reveal her inspiration behind “Cowboy Carter.” She shared the album, which has not only been five years in the making, but was born from a negative experience received from the country music industry which she wrote “she felt incredibly unwelcome in.” This inspired her to take a deep dive into how music can unite and divide, and urged her to craft an album that pushed the boundaries of what musical genres can and could be. 

“Cowboy Carter,” released on all platforms March 29, and in it, we see Beyoncé’s storytelling and artistry at its peak. There are country influences all throughout the tracklist, but genres such as Americana, funk, gospel, soul, blues, trap and even Opera shine through as well.

In the first track, “American Requiem,” Beyoncé leans into tight, gospel-inspired harmonies and sets up the themes that run through the entire album: Beyoncé has a story to tell, and a burning desire to share her experiences, despite those who want to silence her. In this song, she expands upon the thought of being consistently talked over and disrespected. “It’s a lot of talkin’ goin’ on / While I sing my song / Can you hear me? / I said “Do you hear me?”

Beyoncé makes her respect for the historical music archive known through “Cowboy Carter,”as well. Her renditions of The Beatles’ “Blackbiird” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” are dedicated revivals of the source material, but include her own unique touches to the tracks. In “Jolene,” Beyoncé edits the lyrics of the original song, adding a confidence and strength that was not in Parton’s original lyrics. “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / I’m warnin’ you don’t come for my man (Jolene) / Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / Don’t take the chance because you think you can.” 

In track 11, “Daughter,” Beyoncé’s point of view shines through in her clever lyricism. “They keep sayin’ that I’m nothing like my father / But I’m the furthest thing from choir boys and alters / If you cross me, I’m just like my father / I am colder than Titanic water.” The song has a slow, yet steady grandeur about it, which climaxes in an operatic refrain,referencing the popular Italian aria “Caro Mio Ben.” This is unlike anything we have heard in Beyoncé’s discography so far and it showcases her utter talent as a vocalist.

Collaborations are sprinkled all throughout the album, almost as Beyoncé’s love letters to each artist she presents on the tracklist. From the nostalgia-filled “II Most Wanted,” featuring Miley Cyrus, to the flirtatious “Levii’s Jeans,” with Post Malone, to the strikingly powerful “Tyrant,” featuring Dolly Parton, Beyoncé presents each feature with a dignified sense of respect for her collaborators, helping the tracklist flow together in utter perfection. She even showcases country music legend Willie Nelson in tracks “Smoke Hour Willie Nelson” and “Smoke Hour II.” Although Nelson does no singing, he provides charismatic narration in a radio station style, which is a fun addition to the tracklist as a whole. “Cowboy Carter,” is already breaking major records within days of its release.

The album is officially Spotify’s most streamed album in a single day in 2024, and this is the first time a country album has achieved this feat. The album debuted at 76.13 million streams its first day on Spotify, which is double the number of streams that “Renaissance,” debuted at in its release in 2022.

It’s needless to say that “Cowboy Carter” is Beyoncé’s greatest musical feat yet. The 32 Grammy award winner is no newcomer to surpassing expectations, but she triumphed in making a cohesive, record-breaking album for all ages to enjoy. Even for those who might not call themselves country music fans, “Cowboy Carter” is an album that has something for everyone and a must-listen for any enjoyer of music.

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