Album Review

Beyoncé - Renaissance Act II: COWBOY CARTER

In the end, the artist was right when she said ACT II: COWBOY CARTER was a “Beyoncé album” rather than a country one. Country alone doesn’t deserve to claim this masterpiece.

Cowboy Carter Artwork
March 29, 2024 7:06 am GMT
Last Edited April 3, 2024 3:46 pm GMT

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Beyoncé - Renaissance Act II: COWBOY CARTER

Label: Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia

Producer: Beyoncé, Dave Hamelin, Killa B, Atia Boggs & Nathan Ferraro

Release Date: March 29, 2024

Tracklisting:

1. AMERIICAN REQUIEM

2. BLACKBIIRD (Ft. Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts) (The Beatles Cover)

3. 16 CARRIAGES

4. PROTECTOR (Feat. Rumi Carter)

5. MY ROSE

6. SMOKE HOUR ★ WILLIE NELSON (Feat. Willie Nelson)

7. TEXAS HOLD 'EM

8. BODYGUARD

9. DOLLY P (Feat. Dolly Parton)

10. JOLENE (Feat. Dolly Parton)

11. DAUGHTER

12. SPAGHETTII (Feat. Linda Martell and Shaboozey)

13. ALLIIGATOR TEARS

14. SMOKE HOUR II (Feat. Willie Nelson)

15. JUST FOR FUN (Feat. Willie Jones)

16. II MOST WANTED (feat. Miley Cyrus)

17. LEVII’S JEANS (Feat. Post Malone)

18. FLAMENCO

19. THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW (Feat. Linda Martell)

20. YA YA

21. OH LOUISIANA

22. DESERT EAGLE

23. RIIVERDANCE

24. II HANDS II HEAVEN

25. TYRANT

26. SWEET ★ HONEY ★ BUCKIN’ (Feat. Shaboozey)

27. AMEN

“We don’t want you in country music”.

This statement, full of spite and bile, flashed among the comments of one of Beyoncé’s Instagram posts. Sandwiched between the words of anticipation and praise that poured in just days before the release of her ACT II: COWBOY CARTER, there it was. We. Don’t. Want. You – written as if country music is some kind of exclusive club, like this person is the mouthpiece for all fans of the genre, and like the genre could ever stand a chance against Beyoncé in the first place.

This remark, flung bitterly into the void, has been a recurring one since the icon first teased her Renaissance follow-up with the album’s lead singles, the history-making ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’ and the history-tracing ‘16 CARRIAGES’. Maybe the words haven’t come out as seething or hateful, but some self-proclaimed purists have been quick to delineate what is and isn’t country music.

Is her new album country? Honestly, who gives a damn? Beyoncé challenges the argument anyway on the record’s opening track, ‘AMERIICAN REQUIEM’. She dares listeners with the line: “If I ain’t country, tell me what is.” Right now, any mulleted male who can halfway strum a guitar is considered the pinnacle of the genre, so why can’t Beyoncé have a place among them?

At the end of the day, country is as country does, and on ACT II: COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé does country better than most have in recent years.

And “country” goes far beyond just the sound of the record. While many of the 27 tracks feature those hallmark flourishes of twang and steel as heard on songs like ‘PROTECTOR’ and ‘ALLIIGATOR TEARS’, thematically, COWBOY CARTER is as country as it gets. Exhumed through earth-moving harmonies and stirring vocal feats, like those in ‘DAUGHTER’ and ‘JUST FOR FUN’, the artist reveals her depths, each track a personal reflection as she tackles loss and hardship, strength and triumph, lust and longing, all the while, dropping history lessons as she moves.

Throughout, Beyoncé retraces the past – her own, country music’s, America’s – paying tribute to several icons along the way. She amps up Dolly Parton’s 1973 classic ‘JOLENE,’ while punctuating the record with the voices of Willie Nelson and Linda Martell, who act as inviting and thought-provoking radio DJs. Importantly, she also makes space on the album to look forward.

She welcomes a couple of contemporary trailblazers; artists who have perhaps had complicated relationships with the genre themselves. Miley Cyrus, who has existed on country music’s fringes since she shed her child star image, appears on the goosebump-inducing ‘II MOST WANTED.’ Post Malone, who is also presently making moves into the genre as an “outsider”, is tapped for the buoyant ‘LEVII’S JEANS’.

Their voices all exist alongside Shaboozey’s, who peppers the album with his deep, rich baritone, samplings of Chuck Berry, nods to The Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, Patsy Cline and more. Everyone, every sound, every style has a place on COWBOY CARTER, just like everyone should have a place in country music.

Overall, the album is a stunning opus, not only a true pop culture moment but a work of art that is all-consuming in both sound and sentiment, enrapturing from beginning to end. Brutally honest and striking in its vulnerability, it brings people together and aims for the heart. Its everything a country album, no, any album, should aspire to.

In the end, the artist was right when she said ACT II: COWBOY CARTER was a “Beyoncé album” rather than a country one. Country alone doesn’t deserve to claim this masterpiece.

10/10

For more on Beyoncé, see below:

Written by Alli Patton
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