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She’s our Huckleberry - Beyoncé’s “COWBOY CARTER” takes us for a wild ride


A woman in a red white and blue outfit sitting on a white horse in a black void.
Ben Hurney / THE GATEPOST

By Antonio Carlos Machado

Staff Writer


The Queen Bee, more commonly known as Beyoncé, finally released the long-awaited second installation of her three-act musical project, “COWBOY CARTER,” on March 29 after an alarming five years in the vault. 


The 27-track LP demonstrates Beyoncé’s musicality as she breaks through the limitations of genre, stating in an Instagram post, “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album,” and it shows. 


Similar to its predecessor, “RENAISSANCE,” “COWBOY CARTER” features decades worth of musical history, which Beyoncé reimagines throughout the entire record. Riddled with spoken-word interludes by country music legends and features from rising Black country music stars, the album seeks to honor the originators of the country genre and uplift those who will continue the art form.


Previously shunned at the 2016 Country Music Awards (CMA) for her “Daddy Lessons” performance with The Chicks, Beyoncé has a familiarity with both the country genre and its deeply rooted racist history, which inspired the creation of this album. 


The opening track, “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” alludes to her experience in the CMA’s when she states, “Used to say I spoke ‘Too Country’ / And then the rejection came, said I wasn’t country enough / Said I wouldn’t saddle up, but / If that ain’t country tell me what is.” Fueled by a bit of pettiness, Beyonce created this record to break through the barriers imposed on her by racist America and redefine the meaning of “country.” 


Accompanied by Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts, Beyoncé’s cover of The Beatles’ 1968 hit, “Blackbird,” highlights the song's original intention of uplifting Black women in times of hardship, not just by being told through their eyes, but by empowering lesser-known Black women in the country industry, giving them the grace she was not afforded. 


A spoken-word interlude by the legendary Dolly Parton referencing the iconic “Becky with the good hair” precedes Beyoncé’s cover of “Jolene,” revising the song into a threatening warning for Jolene not to come for her man in a surprising, but not unwelcome, change to the original song.


In a career-highlight vocal performance, Beyoncé demonstrates the flexibility of the country genre with her take on the vengeful country ballad. “DAUGHTER,” a standout track on the record and my personal favorite, has Beyoncé put her instrument on display with a cover of the 18th-century Italian aria “Caro Mio Ben” by Giuseppe Giordani in the song’s bridge. 


The singer takes a trip from Texas all the way south to Brazil, where she samples DJ Xarophino’s “Acquecimento Das Danadas” in a Brazilian funk-inspired hip-hop track, “SPAGHETTII,” featuring country rapper Shaboozey. Although my least favorite track, it serves as an ode to Spaghetti Western films and an apt demonstration of Beyoncé’s rap skills.

 

Paired with singer-songwriter Post Malone, Beyoncé delivers an ode to Levi’s, who sponsored her during her Destiny’s Child days when other brands refused to, in a raunchy duet titled “LEVII’S JEANS.” Malone delivers an incredible vocal performance that, when accompanied by Beyoncé’s pitch-perfect harmonies, elevates the track to near perfection. 


The entire latter half of the album shows Beyoncé having fun with her instrument, creating some of the most odd yet entertaining songs of the album. Tracks like “YA YA,” “TYRANT,” and “SWEET ★ HONEY ★ BUCKIIN’” are among some of my favorites due to their unique genre-spanning sonics. 


My singular critique of this project lies with the spectacular shorter tracks like “MY ROSE,” “FLAMENCO,” and “DESERT EAGLE,” which are sprinkled throughout the album, leaving me hungry for more, but considering the album’s runtime sits at an astounding hour and 19 minutes, it could be for the best.


The closing track, “AMEN,” begs for mercy in the face of pain and offers concealed criticisms of a nation built on oppression and lies. Beyoncé ends the album with a reprisal of the opening track, symbolizing the completion of her quest to push the boundaries of country and shed light on its history.

 

Continuing to shatter any expectations of her, Beyoncé explores every flavor of country music in a manner that keeps her sounding just like pure honey. “COWBOY CARTER” is not just a masterfully constructed album, but a question - “Can you hear me?”


Rating: A+

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