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‘16 CARRIAGES’ by Beyoncé - Lyrics & Meaning

February 26, 2024 6:33 pm GMT

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Beyoncé - '16 CARRIAGES'

Label: Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records

Release Date: February 11th, 2024

Album: Renaissance: Act II

Producers: Beyoncé, Dave Hamelin, Ink, Raphael Saadiq & Stuart White

Songwriters: Atia Boggs, Dave Hamelin, Raphael Saadiq & Beyoncé

Chart Performance:

  • No. 9 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs
  • No. 38 on Billboard's Hot 100
  • No. 56 on Billboard's Global 200

The Background:

Since she dropped ‘16 CARRIAGES’ and ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’ in early February, Beyoncé’s latest offerings have been heavy on our minds and rolling repeatedly off our tongues.

The two twanged-up singles mark the pop icon’s first official foray into the country genre, her forthcoming Renaissance: Act II reportedly an even deeper exploration of the style.

This venture has, at the same time, sparked applause and pause from fans and purists the world over, the new songs even seeing some pushback from country radio. Even still, ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’ has skyrocketed up a number of charts, including topping Billboard’s Hot Country Songs, making Bey the first Black female artist to sit atop such a chart.

‘16 CARRIAGES’ has been following closely behind and is currently positioned in the Hot Country Songs’ Top 10.

While it is the more subdued of the two tracks, the song, with its dust-rustling backbeat, building harmonies and soul-stirring narrative, packs the greatest punch. Like any great country song, ‘16 CARRIAGES’ mines the depths, pulling from experience in order to tackle themes regarding loss and hardship but also strength.

The song plays like a divine epic, chronicling Beyoncé’s rise to fame, her decades-long career and everything she’s had to sacrifice – innocence, time, well-being – to be where she is today.

The Sound:

‘16 CARRIAGES’ starkly contrasts its sibling song ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’.

Where the latter is all gas – a banjo-fueled banger battered by infectious “Woo’s” and “Hey’s” – ‘16 CARRIAGES’’ is slow-burning and soulful, taking form as less of a dance floor worthy ditty and more of an unguarded glimpse at the deeply revered but enigmatic figure.

It’s a song listeners should take their time with.

The track opens with deft strings and a simple but powerful beat like hoof to earth. As the song builds into an explosive gospel, that rhythm remains, steadily galloping against Beyoncé’s trilling vocals and exposing lyrics.

More expansive sounds and layered harmonies become interwoven and interspersed throughout, but for the most part, the arrangement is pared-down and direct, allowing the story to shine.

The Meaning:

“Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my dreams away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight
Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my dreams away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long black road, all the tears I fight”

Against the thudding beat, the song opens with its chorus. The words first hint at something lost, the artist’s dreams being carted away.

The exact meaning behind the 16 carriages is unclear, but fans have speculated the number could be in reference to the age at which she entered the spotlight as a member of the early aughts R&B trio Destiny’s Child.

These lines reemerge throughout the track, the word “dreams” being traded for “fears”, but all the while reinforcing the idea of loss.

“At fifteen, the innocence was gone astray
Had to leave my home at an early age
I saw Mama prayin', I saw Daddy grind
All my tender problems, had to leave behind”

The next verse traces Beyoncé’s beginnings.

Having been a part of Destiny’s Child – which first had a life as Girl's Tyme – at such a young age, Beyoncé probably had to grow up fast and give up a lot, her innocence and all of its “tender problems” becoming hindrances to life in the limelight.

She witnessed her parents having to make sacrifices at the same time. The lines “I saw Mama prayin', I saw Daddy grind” likely allude to her father, Matthew, dedicating his time to her career as her manager.

“It's been umpteen summers, and I'm not in my bed
On the back of the bus in a bunk with the band
Goin' so hard, gotta choose myself
Undеrpaid and overwhelmed
I might cook, clеan, but still won't fold
Still workin' all my life, you know
Only God knows, only God knows
Only God knows”

She then sings of the grind, the work she put in, the months of being “undеrpaid and overwhelmed” in order to make it.

This sentiment is reiterated throughout the song, the verses changing slightly in order to mirror her life now. “Umpteen summers” becomes “thirty-eight summers,” and instead of being “undеrpaid and overwhelmed,” she’s “overworked and overwhelmed” and missing her kids.

The job and its demands haven’t changed, but neither has her work ethic. She’s persevered through it all and say so in the song: “Ain't got time to waste, I got art to make / I got love to create on this holy night / They won't dim my light, all these years I fight.”

“Sixteen carriages driving away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight
Sixteen carriages driving away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all these tears I fight”

‘16 CARRIAGES’ feels so much more than an autobiography. The deeply personal track may soundtrack Beyoncé’s past and present, where she’s been and how she came to be here now, but in it, she also inadvertently argues in favor of herself.

Laying it all out in song, she lets it be known to anyone who would argue otherwise: whether she’s pop, hip-hop, R&B or country, she’s Queen Bey for a reason.

What has Beyoncé said about ‘16 CARRIAGES’?

In her trademark enigmatic fashion, Beyoncé has remained tight-lipped as to the inspiration behind both '16 CARRIAGES' and ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’, as well as Renaissance Act II as a whole.

At the end of her 2024 Super Bowl Verizon commercial, she teased, “Okay, they ready. Drop the music”, but beyond this, she hasn't offered much in the way of hints about the project.

For the full lyrics to Beyoncé's ‘16 CARRIAGES’, see below:

“Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my dreams away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight
Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my dreams away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long black road, all the tears I fight

At fifteen, the innocence was gone astray
Had to leave my home at an early age
I saw Mama prayin', I saw Daddy grind
All my tender problems, had to leave behind

It's been umpteen summers, and I'm not in my bed
On the back of the bus in a bunk with the band
Goin' so hard, gotta choose myself
Undеrpaid and overwhelmed
I might cook, clеan, but still won't fold
Still workin' all my life, you know
Only God knows, only God knows
Only God knows

Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight
Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight

Sixteen dollars, workin' all day
Ain't got time to waste, I got art to make
I got love to create on this holy night
They won't dim my light, all these years I fight

It's been thirty-eight summers, and I'm not in my bed
On the back of the bus in a bunk with the band
Goin' so hard, now I miss my kids
Overworked and overwhelmed
I might cook, clean, but still won't fold
Still workin' all my life, you know
Only God knows, only God knows
Only God knows

Sixteen carriages driving away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all the tears I fight
Sixteen carriages driving away
While I watch them ride with my fears away
To the summer sunset on a holy night
On a long back road, all these tears I fight

Oh, oh
Oh

At fifteen, the innocence was gone astray
Had to take care of home at an early age
I saw Mama cryin', I saw Daddy lyin'
Had to sacrifice and leave my fears behind
For legacy, if it's the last thing I do
You'll remember me 'cause we got somethin' to prove
In your memory, on the highway to truth
Still see our faces when you close your eyes

Sixteen carriages drivin' away
While I watch them ride with my dreams away”

––

For more on Beyoncé, see below:

Written by Alli Patton
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