Album Review: Beyoncé - “Cowboy Carter”

One of the world’s biggest stars leans into country music’s roots with several songs on 27 track album which features the mega hit “Texas Hold ‘Em.”

Yes, it’s true, Beyoncé has made an album with country music on it. Now, if you expect COWBOY CARTER to be some classic country album, go look elsewhere as this isn’t it. That being said, there are acoustic guitars, country instruments like Dobro and fiddle in the mix on several songs but in all honesty, this is an artist making an artistic statement with a subgenre of music which hasn’t always been kind to people who look like her (just look at featured guest Linda Martell’s career within country music). The features on Cowboy Carter are mostly country artists like, Shaboozey, Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts, Linda Martell, Willie Jones, country icons Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton and, finally, Bey’s fellow genre-bending stars Miley Cyrus and Post Malone. These features aren’t dominating the album but the album does interpolates or cover several songs like The Beatles “Blackbird” (a song titled “Blackbiird” and takes the title literal as it’s all black female country artists performing the iconic song with Beyoncé), “Ya Ya” features a country rock chant-a-long lyric with the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” there while “I Fall To Pieces” is interpolated and mixed into “Sweet*Honey*Buckin’.” We also “Landslide” a little bit on “II Most Wanted” while the most-talked about interpolation/cover is definitely “Jolene,” a mostly-re-written version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” (the melody and parts of the lyrics are intact but Beyoncé’s lyrics are put in.

Cowboy Carter’s two lead singles “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” are definitely country music songs, in our modern context of the genre and Beyoncé is one of the best vocalists (and entertainers) in all of music. As usual, it’s all subjective with other highlights on the record including the opener “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” “Protector” “Daughter,” (with its acoustic/strings/Steel guitar-laced melody that continues the “Jolene” as it’s mostly a prayer to God). “ALLIIGATOR TEARS” has a country rock vibe to the melody that’s appealing to my ears while Beyoncé’s jam with Willie Jones, “Just For Fun” feels like it could be a hit in the making. The latter quarter of the album comes across as a country disco record and there’s nothing wrong with that and it’ll certainly feel good on a roadtrip playlist.

Overall, Cowboy Carter from Beyoncé is a remarkable piece of music making. It’s not likely to make new fans of her out of longtime country music fans but it might make country music more open for other black country music artists and it’s high time that the genre just gets the best music possible and as Linda Martell says on the beginning of the country trap track “SPAGHETTII,” ‘genre’s are a funny little concept aren’t they?’ And it’s true. Genres, after all, were created at the beginning of the music buying era around 100 years ago to keep “race records” separate from “pop records” and “hillbilly records.” The first genre evolved into R&B while the latter into country but me, as a modern 21st century man, I’ve preferred to describe music as either “good” or “bad” and not in need of so many labels and Cowboy Carter is most definitely in the “Good” realm of the equation.