Beyoncé Reimagines Country Music with “Cowboy Carter”

Following the critical acclaim of her dance-focused “RENAISSANCE,” “act ii COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé’s eighth studio album, marks a bold artistic shift, venturing deep into the heart of country music.

“Cowboy Carter” is a deeply personal exploration of Beyoncé’s Texas roots.

The cover, for example, pays homage to The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the rodeo queens who carry the American flag in the grand entry.

I grew up going to the Houston rodeo every year. It was this amazing diverse and multicultural experience where there was something for every member of the family, including great performances, Houston-style fried Snickers, and fried turkey legs. One of my inspirations came from the overlooked history of the American Black cowboy. Many of them were originally called cowhands, who experienced great discrimination and were often forced to work with the worst, most temperamental horses. They took their talents and formed the Soul Circuit. Through time, these Black rodeos showcased incredible performers and helped us reclaim our place in western history and culture.

— From Beyoncés interview in Harper’s Bazaar in 2021

“Cowboy Carter” is a rich gumbo of sounds simmering with country, blues, zydeco, and folk.

Country Music’s Black Roots

With its twangy guitars and tales of pickup trucks, country music might seem far removed from Black musical traditions: however, Black artists shaped the genre from the beginning.

The banjo, an instrument closely associated with country music, originated in West Africa, where instruments with similar characteristics, often crafted from gourds and animal skins, were played for generations.

Africans brought this instrument to the Americas and it eventually merged with European instruments like the lute and evolved into the modern 5-stringed banjo.

Early string bands in the South featured both Black and white musicians, sharing and influencing each other’s styles.

Black spirituals, characterized by call-and-response vocals and storytelling lyrics, are clear ancestors to country music’s heart-wrenching ballads and foot-stomping anthems.

Pioneering Black artists like Charley Patton blurred the lines between genres in the early 20th century. His powerful vocals and fingerpicking guitar style, infused with elements of ragtime and field hollers, influenced countless country and blues musicians.

The Memphis Jug Band, a racially integrated group, achieved significant commercial success in the 1920s and 30s. Their lively mix of blues, ragtime, and the unique sounds of jugs (used as percussion) further popularized country music and helped diversify its instrumentation.

Sadly, as the music industry became more segregated, Black artists were largely excluded from the genre they helped create.

The rich history of Black influence in country music clearly resonates with Beyoncé. “Cowboy Carter” isn’t just an album; it’s a reclamation project.

Drawing inspiration from this often-overlooked chapter in American music, Beyoncé challenges the narrow definitions of country that have long excluded Black voices.

The Creativity of “Cowboy Carter”

The creation of “Cowboy Carter” spanned over five years, a testament to Beyoncé’s meticulous approach to her craft.

She assembled a dream team of collaborators, including longtime producers The-Dream and Pharrell Williams, alongside her husband Jay-Z.

The guest list is equally impressive, boasting music legends like Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder alongside contemporary stars like Post Malone.

Musically, “Cowboy Carter” is a far cry from the polished perfection often associated with pop music.

Beyoncé embraces a raw, organic sound, using traditional instruments like the accordion, harmonica, and washboard alongside the banjo and pedal steel guitar.

The album opens with the powerful “American Requiem,” a hymn-like anthem that shatters traditional boundaries and demands a reexamination of who gets to define American music.

“Cowboy Carter” seamlessly blends genres, effortlessly transitioning from the soulful balladry of “Blackbird” (a reimagining of the Beatles classic) to the playful zydeco of “Sweet Honey Buckin’.”

Beyonce reimagines Dolly Parton’s classic song, “Jolene,” as a message of empowerment.

Whereas, Parton’s “Jolene” is a heart-wrenching plea begging Jolene, the other woman, to “please don’t take my man,” Beyoncé confronts the threat and asserts her ownership of the relationship.

One of the most surprising songs on the album is “Spaghettii.” The song starts with a quote from Linda Martell, the first commercially successful Black woman in country music.

Martell calls genres “a funny little concept” before Beyonce launches into high-energy trap country with fellow genre-bender Shaboozey.

“The joy of creating music is that there are no rules,” says Beyoncé in the album’s liner notes.

My favorite song on the album is “II Most Wanted,” an unexpected duet between Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus opens with a raw, Stevie Nicks-esque wail, before transitioning seamlessly to Beyoncé’s powerhouse vocals.

The song’s magic lies in how their seemingly contrasting styles intertwine.

Cyrus’ raspy edge acts as a counterpoint to Beyoncé’s rich tones, creating a dynamic tension that builds throughout the song. Their voices come together harmoniously, particularly during the layered choruses, creating a wave of emotion.

This song is a surefire contender for song of the year.

“Cowboy Carter” is a Classic

With “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé continues her role as a leading voice in contemporary music. This ambitious project pushes boundaries, defies expectations, and cements her status as one of the top artists of all time.

Mocha Man Style

Solverwp- WordPress Theme and Plugin