Just for Fun: A Review of “Cowboy Carter" by Beyoncé


Beyonce had turned the Country Music Genre on its head  with a new album released in full on March 29th, 2024 with 27 titles listed  on the album, Beyoncé's longest by far.

Ms. Beyonce is already shattering records and creating controversy in the Country Music world and within the music industry in general. 

Per reports in the Guardian, Beyoncé has become the first Black woman to reach the US No 1 spot with a country song with her new single Texas Hold ’Em, after debuting last week at No 2.

The lighthearted country song is the musician’s ninth solo No 1 (after four as a member of Destiny’s Child), and the first of two tracks to be released from Act II, the second in a rumoured trilogy following the release of Renaissance: Act I in 2022.

Texas Hold ’Em made Beyoncé the first Black woman to top Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, despite some country radio programmers pushing back against the song’s inclusion. It makes Beyoncé the first woman to top both that list and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list since the rundowns began in 1958.

Earlier this month, one Oklahoma station that had originally refused to play the song added it to rotation after Beyoncé fans petitioned the station online. Their success led to the song being officially promoted to country radio.

Amid the controversy over whether the song belongs on notoriously conservative country radio, where women have long struggled for representation – and Black artists face even more discrimination – Dolly Parton endorsed Beyoncé’s country phase: “I’m a big fan of Beyoncé and very excited that she’s done a country album,” she posted on Instagram. “So congratulations on your Billboard Hot Country No 1 single. Can’t wait to hear the full album!”

The album Beyoncé's eighth studio album "Cowboy Carter" dropped at midnight 3-29-24. It's the second album in her planned trilogy after 2022's "Renaissance.”
Rene Sepulveda, a big Beyonce fan, contributed to this review as to another chapter in Beyonce shattering the norm. The complete 27 tracks can be heard on Apple Music and other select streaming services…

1. "Ameriican Requiem"

Beyonce opens up with the second longest track on the album at over 5 minutes. It begins with multifaceted layers and an atmospheric instrumentation not quite the normal introduction to a country album. The launch of a powerful opening salvo builds as the song progresses with a response to people who claim she's not country:

Look it there, look it in my hand

The grandbaby of a moonshine man

Gadsden, Alabama

Got folks in Galveston, rooted in Louisiana

They used to say I spoke "too country"

And the rejection came, said I wasn't "country 'nough"

Said I wouldn't saddle up, but

If that ain't country, tell me, what is?

Plant my bare feet on solid ground for years

They don't, don't know how hard I had to fight for this

When I sing my song

This track is a shot against the bow solidly a throw down piece “if it ain’t country tell me what is?”

2. "Blackbiird"

This is remake of the cover of the John Lennon-McCartney classic with a haunting interpretation.  It has the bones of the original acoustic guitar to begin with added harmonizing soft vocalizing and soft strings.

It features Brittney Spencer, Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts,  all four of whom are respected Black women in the country music genre. Soft and comfortable. 

3. "16 Carriages" 

Is a transition from Blackbird a mixture of good country mixed with solid R&B overtones into a mix that expands far more than its part. Listen twice you’ll appreciate the the transitions and nuances. Beyonce is telling us she “has something to prove and to remember me”  threading a storyline with her musical roots in both genres. Interesting and unique not the traditional country song but worth the trip.

4. "Protector"

This is a wonderful ballad dedicated to her daughter Rumi, who's now six. It opens up with audio of Rumi's voice and quickly moves into soft, warm acoustic guitar. It's a comforting listen. Soothing and satisfying. 

5. "My Rose"

This is a 53-second interlude. Beautiful harmonizing over hushed guitar. As a followup to the previous song this is a message also for her daughter Rumi:

So many roses but none to be picked without thorns

So be fond of your flaws, dear

6. "Smoke Hour Willie Nelson" (featuring Willie Nelson)

This is a 51-second interlude. Truly country.

It starts outs with the listener turning the dial through several channels featuring snippets of prominent and pioneering Black voices in early country and rock: Son House ("Grinnin' In Your Face"), Sister Rosetta Tharpe ("Down by the Riverside"), Chuck Berry ("Maybellene"), and Roy Hamilton ("Don't Let Go").

There's also an early Black yodeler. 

Beyoncé  pays homage to classic country but also saying: “I'm not new, we've been here.”

The dial turns to the final station: Willie Nelson lends his voice as the jockey of an old timey country station program ("The Smoke Hour" on K-NTRY Radio Texas) and introduces the next track with a true old fashioned country feel.

7. "Texas Hold 'Em"

This is Beyoncé's smash country hit that was released last month, becoming her ninth solo #1 hit on Billboard Hot 100. It also made her the first Black woman with a #1 country song in Billboard history. This will become a line dancing standard. 

8. "Bodyguard"

Piano-pulsing love song with a relaxing beat. “They couldn’t have me and they never will, Davis in my bones.”  Expansive vocals I could be your Kevlar,I’ll protect you in the mosh pit” “Turn around and John Wayne is as-“ Catchy and fun” 

9. "Dolly P"

This is a 23-second interlude from Dolly Parton: "Hey, Ms. Honey B, it's Dolly P. You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? It reminded me of someone I knew back when, except she has flamin' locks of auburn hair, bless her heart. Just her hair's a different color, but it's her, just the same."

And then of course Dolly’s counting the dollars about to come in a Beyonce launches "Jolene" 

10. "Jolene"

This will be another chart stopper and expect Dolly and Beyonce on stage at the CMA’s t together. Beyoncé keeps the driving spirit of Dolly's original with some gorgeous vocalizing and thumping beat. It wounds down with chorale backup. Simmering and a tribute to Dolly’s performance awesome! 

11. "Daughter"

A perfect transition and country meets opera from Jolene with heavy gospel tones and Beyoncé giving a certain someone the business “if you cross me I’m just like my fatherI’m colder than a titanic water.”reflecting on her father's influence in not backing down. Also: a gorgeous bridge singing the Italian aria "Caro Mio Ben." 

12. "Spaghettii"

This opens with Linda Martell, the first commercially successful Black woman in country music and first to play at the Grand Ole Opry, saying the following: "Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they? Yes, they are! In theory, they have a simple definition that's easy to understand, but in practice, well, some may feel confined."

Beyonce the dives into an unapologetic rap track featuring Shaboozey, yes I dare and I’m going to break the lines of genre on this country and opera before now country and rap! Yes indeed! Soft rap but still a blend of rap and country. With a long pause to make you wonder. 

13. "Alliigator Tears"

Then we tradition back to breathy country to country without a blink of an eye. This is a good love track, pleasing and unapologetic. It sounds like an influence of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" smooth jazz like at times and soothing. “I adore your alligator tears”

14. "Smoke Hour II" (featuring Willie Nelson)

This is a 30-second interlude from Willie Nelson, playing his country jock character and saying the following: "You're turned into K-NRTY Texas, home of The Real Deal. If there's one thing you can take away from my set today, let it be this: sometimes, you don't know what you like and someone you trust turns you on to some real good stuff. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm here. Up next on The Smoke Hour is "Just for Fun" by Beyoncé. You're welcome."

15. "Just for Fun" (featuring Willie Jones)

Willie Jones is an artist who performs across genres, notably country, R&B, and hip-hop and now joining Beyonce in the country genre with a soft ballad like intro. Beyoncé made it a point to once again feature a notable Black country artist and elevate their presence, The song is a gorgeous country ballad with Jones' vocals featured in the second verse. There's a touch of gospel and much warmth. “time heals everything… I pray to her”

16. "II Most Wanted"

This is a country pop duet with Miley Cyrus, and it's a definite be a chart-topper. I absolutely cannot wait for the inevitable internet-breaking live performance of this. It's balm for the ear drums. “I’ll be a shot gun runner till I die” Perfectly harmonized and each singer complimented each other note by note. One of our favorites on the album. WOW excellent performance one can visualize them in the studio together or on stage together with this song and huge smiles. 

17. "Levii's Jeans"

Good vibes with a perfect complement in Post Malone's vocals. “You call me pretty little thing, and I love to turn him on” fun lyrics and softly sensual in a fun pop country type of way but with the influence of soul. A fun and flip song for a younger audience. 

18. "Flamenco"

A nugget of glitter and flamenco guitar, not even two minutes in length, fun and a cool transition into the nontraditional of county. Fun and enjoyable. 

19. "The Linda Martell Show" (featuring Linda Martell)

Ms. Martell is back in a 30-second interlude, telling an appreciative audience: "Okay (laughs), thank you so very much. Ladies and gentlemen, this particular tune stretches across a range of genres, and that's what makes it a unique listening experience. Yes, indeed. It's called 'Ya Ya.'"

20. "Ya Ya"

Ms. Martell introduced it right a unique listening experience with no regard for genre boundaries with a mixture of a slowed down sample from Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and accelerates into a genre-bending dance hit, finding time along the way to nod to The Beach Boys. This is not grandma’s country album.

21. "Oh Louisiana"

We transfer to the one and only Chuck Berry, featuring a high-pitched 52-sec. interlude of "Oh Louisiana" after a vocalizing intro from Queen Bey, with some awesome guitar work layered on it. Fun and engaging. 

22. "Desert Eagle"

Fun sexy short teaser of a 72-second interlude of Beyoncé seducing with some Texas spice and funky bass. Awesome stuff! 

23. "Riiverdance"

A shout back to Renaissance with a country twist. Is this the bridge between the two albums the mesh of what’s next? It's a solid track and sure to be a favorite on the dance floor. 

24. "II Hands II Heaven"

Gorgeous lyrics with pleasing instrumentals. Memorable lyrics that an audience can sing along with. We”ll be singing this one in the shower in the morning. 

25. "Tyrant"

Dolly Parton intros this: "Cowboy Carter, time to strike a match, and light up this juke joint."

Beyoncé does. it justice. Country sex lyrics over a hip-hop beat and backing strings.  Hot, inspiring and yes uniquely Beyonce. 

26. "Sweet Honey Buckiin'"

Sensual, sexy and beautiful as a love song. Beyoncé intros with a snippet cover of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" and then Shaboozey joins in with his great work. It's sexy, sensual and fun. 

27. "Amen"

The closing track leaves you with music in your heart and delivers a message of what may happen on Beyoncé's next album in the trilogy. It's beautiful and sends a message to the listeners…

“This house was built with blood and bone

And it crumbled, yes, it crumbled

The statues they made were beautiful

But they were lies of stone, they were lies of stone

Trumpets blare with silent sound I need to make you proud

Tell me, can you hear me now?” It will be interesting how those lyrics are interpreted by various audiences. 

Beyonce  then closes with the verse that opened "American Requiem" and wow an experience unlike any other in the country genre

“Cowboy Carter" is already controversial with country purest but may be the injection country needs to keep it relevant to a broader and younger generation of listeners  Beyoncé follows the example of Country Music legend Dolly Parton in stretching her repertoire across a variety of genres and not giving a damn about purest. Beyonce breaks the boundaries with respect including Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson and she pays tribute by inviting respected Black artist from the county music community to join her journey. 

The Beyonce country album may become noted as a breakthrough moment in the landscape of American music as more doors may now be opened to Black female artists in the Country Music genre. 

Review by Chris Edwards and Rene Sepulveda AlamogordoTownNews.com and KRAZY KALHRadio.org 

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It was years before Charlie Pride ventured to put his picture on his albums because of racism.  Linda Martell never could quite participate because of discrimination. It's so cringy when I hear people say, "I haven't heard her country music and I'm not gonna!" We know what you're saying without saying it!

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