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Beyoncé knocks the house down with “Cowboy Carter”

(Photo courtesy of: The Hollywood Reporter) “Beyoncé receives high praise for her eighth studio album.”

Anastasia Maynard
Connector Contributor 

“Cowboy Carter” is Beyoncé’s eighth solo studio album and the second in the trilogy she started working on five years ago. While “Renaissance” was a more straightforward dance pop album, “Cowboy Carter” takes off in a different direction incorporating elements of blues and americana as well as sonic collage. For people unfamiliar with Beyonce’s work on this trilogy the inclusion of “ii” in many of the song titles seems like a strange choice, but it is her way of marking the album as the second of the trilogy.

“Cowboy Carter” was touted as Beyonce’s country album before release, with singles “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES”, but the album explores more genres than just country. “SPAGHETTII”, a country rap song, starts with a spoken word intro by Linda Martell, the first commercially successful black female country artist, which says “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they? In theory that have a simple definition that is easy to understand but in practice, well, some may feel confined.” Public reaction to Beyonce releasing a country album was not positive with a lot of critics expressing doubt that she would be able to break out of her typical box, however “Cowboy Carter” displays Beyonce’s broad musical knowledge.

The album starts with “AMERIICAN REQIUEM” a gospel and psychedelic soul blend with beautiful choral accompaniment, followed by a cover of “BLACKBIRD” originally done by the Beatles. Beyonce is joined on this cover by several African American female country artists: Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts.

There are two covers on the album—“BLACKBIRD” which comes as the second track on the album and “JOLENE” originally done and written by Dolly Parton which is the ninth track on the album. “JOLENE” is preceded by “DOLLY P”, an interlude with a speaking part by Dolly Parton that alludes to “that hussy with the good hair,” a reference to “Jenny with the Good Hair” from “Sorry”. “Sorry,” in turn, is a song off Beyonce’s album “Lemonade” about her husband Jay Z’s infidelity. “JOLENE” then incorporates “Sorry” and a cover of the original “Jolene” to create an original blend.

The first half of the album up until track 13 “ALLIGATOR TEARS” flows with occasional interludes but does not explore styles aside from country and pop too wildly. “DAUGHTER” incorporates Italian Opera with a song about Beyonce’s issues with her father, a man who has a complicated history with his daughter. Additionally, “BODYGUARD” and the single, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM,” provide a break of pop relief that allows for levity despite more serious subjects on the album.

“SMOKE HOUR II” provides an interlude and a switch in the format of the album. Willie Nelson speaks and says, “you are listening to KNTRY radio”, after this interlude there is a significant tonal shift, and all the songs take on a more experimental but emotionally heavy tone. “JUST FOR FUN” and “II MOST WANTED” are the heaviest songs on the album, but after this and “LEVII’S JEANS,” a surprising collaboration with Post Malone, the album becomes a myriad of samples and references.

Both “FLAMENCO” and “RIIVERDANCE” incorporate inspiration from both the Spanish Flamenco tradition and the Irish Step Dance tradition, something that Beyonce still manages to make her own. Before “YA YA” Linda Martell returns on a track entitled “THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW” where she introduces the next song and says, “This particular tune stretches across a range of genres, and that’s what makes it a unique listening experience”. And “YA YA” certainly does provide that experience, incorporating samples from “These Boots were Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra as well as “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys.

The tracks in this last portion of the album delve more into Beyonce’s traditional inspirations of club music, rhythm, blues and hip hop. “TYRANT” relying on house roots and hip hop and “II HANDS TO HEAVEN” delving more into pop. “SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN” references her previous album “Renaissance” and serves as a final dance break before the gospel worship music finish that “AMEN” provides.

At an hour and twenty-two-minute run time, “Cowboy Carter” is an ambitious entry into Beyonce’s discography that proves Beyonce’s impressive appreciation of country and the other genres she draws from is not a fluke. She is able to utilize all of her references to create an ode to Texas through her music, something that she has wanted to pay homage to for the majority of her career. While not all of it is for everyone, the artistry and five years of work that went into this project are admirable and impressive.

Overall Grade: A

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