‘COWBOY CARTER’ redefines genre

Beyoncé’s latest album tributes country music and other genres as an avenue to celebrate her accomplishments and those dear to her heart.


(Vivienne Tran / Daily Trojan)

Being born out of an unpleasant experience, “COWBOY CARTER” demonstrates that Beyoncé’s resilience is a force to be reckoned with.

In 2016, Beyoncé performed with The Chicks at the Country Music Awards. The performance was received with negative and racist comments. It is rumored that the reaction to her CMAs performance was what prompted her to work on “COWBOY CARTER.” Instead of giving up, she found a way to go outside her comfort zone to turn adversity into something positive.

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Even though a lot of the songs use country elements, this is authentically a Beyoncé album, mixing and bending genres to create art.

The album opens up with “AMERIICAN REQUIEM,” a welcoming into the new world Beyoncé has built. With lyrics like “If that ain’t country, tell me what is?,” she declares that she is here to stay, regardless of public opinion about her country status.

The most interesting attribute of the album are the interludes featuring Willie Nelson, Linda Martell and Dolly Parton, making the album feel like it is being played by an old-timey radio station. Each interlude adds context to the song that is playing next, making the album cohesive when the songs shift tones.

“BODYGUARD” leans towards Beyoncé’s sensual side, where she dissects her charismatic persona. It is a fun pop song that draws attention to the highs of being in love and having someone she will always defend. Continuing the trend of her previous album “RENAISSANCE,” her flirtatious delivery adds to the vibe, creating a catchy melody. Her vocal arrangement alongside the soft melody contains the exact amount of seductiveness for the song to feel like a potential modern pop classic.

With interlude “DOLLY P,” Parton makes an allusion to Becky with the good hair, from Beyoncé’s song “Sorry,” and how she had a similar situation with another woman. Following the interlude, “JOLENE” is a rendition of Parton’s country classic of the same name. The song contains themes of infidelity and self-worth, as Beyoncé has dealt with turbulence in her marriage. While Parton’s version sounds like a plea towards Jolene, Beyoncé seems to warn Jolene with a vindictive tone. Her delivery adds a more personal approach to a classic, standing on its own.

“YA YA” encompasses the idea that Beyoncé is not confined to a single genre. It pays homage to classics like “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera and “Walk It Talk It” by Migos by including iconic lines from each song. The track begins with a guitar riff and tambourines in the background, inspired by rock-and-roll elements. Additionally, it pays homage to her mother’s lineage as she keeps spelling out “Beyincé,” her mother’s maiden name.

If it was not for “LEVII’S JEANS” with Post Malone, this album would be perfect. Beyoncé and Malone do not seem to have any chemistry together, and the lyrics do not help. The song is supposed to be a seductive duet, but it sounds corny. The track feels distracting, but it is not the worst thing in the world. It definitely should have been shorter, but it did not completely ruin the album’s flow.

Finally, she ends the album with “AMEN,” a ballad that beautifully wraps the album around. Encompassing all of Beyoncé’s struggles, loves, failures and successes, the song humanizes her, bringing to light that even though she is in the public eye, she is still human.

“COWBOY CARTER” showcases her vocal ability, managing to have a wide variety of range from her soft, more reserved voice to her more raspy belting voice. Beyoncé knows how to intertwine her voice with the music, working together to create a marriage between them. Neither one of them overtakes the other, but they both still have their own time to shine.

The album serves as a love letter to her heritage: being Black, being from the South, being a daughter. All of these factors make up who Beyoncé is as a person, so she decides to embark on a journey where she embraces all parts of herself, especially her parents and ancestors. In “DAUGHTER,” she takes on all of the people who have shaped her and honors them through what she does best: music.

One of the biggest topics she brings up is family. Through this album, Beyoncé highlights how important family is to her. From her children and husband to her parents, all of these people have shaped her in some form, so she details how important they are to her through songs like “PROTECTOR” where she expresses her love for her children.

Since the start of the three-act series, starting with “RENAISSANCE,” Beyoncé seems to have nothing to prove anymore. She has accomplished what few others could in terms of fame and artistry, so both “RENAISSANCE” and “COWBOY CARTER” feel like projects that she wants to make, instead of them being required by her studio.

White men dominate the country genre, but Beyoncé fearlessly inserted herself into the conversation, dominating in spaces where she was previously denied. Through this album, she acknowledges Black country icons like Linda Martell and those who may have been denied a place at the table because of their race or gender.

However, “COWBOY CARTER” is not confined by one genre but instead, it mixes and combines multiple musical styles to produce an album that proves her versatility. Beyoncé’s vocals are the best they have been, and the production is impeccable as they experiment with different sounds. From trap beats to string instruments, there are various instruments used that make the album feel like an unique experience, never knowing what sound she will try next.

The album’s beauty extends to its cohesiveness, as each song transitions to the others with ease. Even with the abrupt changes in tone, the interludes help the transition go smoother, so the switch will not feel blunt.

To be growing and setting new bars at this stage in her career, Beyoncé has reached new heights that seem impossible to reach. Every single song has a part of Beyoncé’s signature in them, not only because she sings them but because she lives them.

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