Beyoncé's ‘Cowboy Carter’ reclaims country roots

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Beyoncé Cowboy Carter
Beyoncé for Cowboy Carter.

Beyoncé’s latest album ‘Cowboy Carter’ challenges the traditional boundaries of country music, blending genres and honoring Black roots



Since the surprise release of Beyoncé’s single “Texas Hold ‘Em” during the 2024 Super Bowl, the pop superstar’s latest venture into country music has been making waves worldwide.

The track, a blend of uptempo country pop with elements of soul and folk, quickly became a sensation online, sparking TikTok dance trends and reaching the top of the charts. 

This success laid the groundwork for her eighth studio album, “Cowboy Carter,” which dropped on Mar. 29, marking the second part of her trilogy project following the release of “Renaissance” in 2022 and making her the first Black woman to top the country albums chart.

Beyoncé Cowboy Carter
Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter.’ Photo: Blair Caldwell of Parkwood Entertainment LLC

The album cover of “Cowboy Carter” features Western visuals as the Queen Bey dons red, white, and blue, while sitting sidesaddle on a horse and holding an American flag. 

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé has always had a connection to her Southern roots and often showcases them in her music—citing the Texan city with a heritage of cowboys and zydeco music (a genre by rural Afro-Americans of Creole heritage in Louisiana).

Her earlier tracks that show Southern Roots include the funky, heavy, country song “Daddy Lessons” from “Lemonade” (2016) and “Black Parade” (2020), which reflects her pride in her heritage (“I’m goin’ back south where my roots ain’t watered down, grown’ like a Baobab tree of life on fertile ground”).

Beyonce cowboy
Adidas x Ivy Park

In collaboration with Adidas in 2021, she even launched the Ivy Park collection, inspired by the culture of Americana and Black cowboys and cowgirls. 

However, the artist’s journey into country music hasn’t been without its challenges. Beyoncé faced criticism for her “liberal-leaning” politics and some downright racist backlash, particularly after her performance at the Country Music Awards in 2016 with the Dixie Chicks, where her political stance and racial identity became focal points of controversy. Especially since Trump was at the helm of the country at this time, and racial tension in America was rife. 

Yet, these experiences only fueled her determination to reclaim her space in the genre. In her announcement on the upcoming “Act II: Cowboy Carter,” she posted on Instagram that she was inspired to make the country songs after “an experience [she] had years ago where [she] did not feel welcomed.”


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Nashville’s gatekeepers have long tried to promote a rigid view of country music that is overwhelmingly white and male. This is despite the historical fact that country music was a genre created by the African-American community, with its origins in the banjo, which hailed from the West African lute. In response to the skepticism and exclusion she has encountered, Beyoncé announced “Cowboy Carter” as a stand against the unyielding boundaries of country music traditionally dominated by white male artists. 

Inspired by her own experiences of not feeling welcomed in certain spaces, Beyoncé set out to challenge the status quo and redefine what country music could encompass.

The album, spanning 27 tracks and running over 80 minutes, shows what country could be. Beyoncé blends genres seamlessly, infusing elements of folk, soul, and blues into her country sound. 

“Ameriican Requiem” opens the album with organs and chamber-like music, punctuated by electric rhythms   and a double “ii” in the title symbolizing its second installment of “Renaissance.”.

Dropping ‘Louisiana vernacular like “Looka dere, Looka dere,” Beyoncé introduces her general comments on American society—a dream that pines for a country free of discrimination, where “big ideas are buried here.” 

The song sets the stage for the general tone of the album, as she sings, “Used to say I spoke too country, then the rejection kings said I wasn’t country enough. Said I wouldn’t saddle up… If that ain’t country, tell me what is? Plant my bare feet on solid ground for years. They don’t know how hard I had to fight for this.”

READ MORE: Beyoncé says new album ‘Cowboy Carter’ a stand against AI

One of the album’s most striking features is its collaborations. Beyoncé invites country legend Willie Nelson in a cheeky interlude, referencing his start as a radio DJ when he lived in Texas in “Smoke Hour II.” Fellow pop star Miley Cyrus shows off her powerful vocals in “II Most Wanted,” crooning about driving as a shotgun rider, painting images of that romantic, cross-state American road trip in a song. Post Malone makes a musical appearance too in the incredibly catchy, nostalgic, and sweet “Levii’s Jeans.” 

There are a few notable covers on the album as well, including “Jolene” by the well-loved country singer Dolly Parton and where Stevie Wonder was revealed to have played the harmonica on the track. On “Blackbiird,” a cover of the Beatles song from their 1968 White Album, she reinvents the track with a blend of folk and a little bit more rhythm and blues, thanks to the addition off Black female country singers, Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts, and Brittney Spencer, all referencing the symbol of the blackbird in the context of the American civil rights movement. 

Meanwhile “Alliigator Tears” features heavy banjo plucking and the steady beats characteristic of country music. “Ya Ya” evidently samples Nancy Sinatra’s anthem “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” with a few lines singing The Beach Boys’ psychedelic tune “Good Vibrations.” 

Gentle songs like “Protector” incorporate the voice of her daughter Rumi Carter’s high-pitched, childlike voice in the background. She said she hoped the songs would feel more “organic and human,” sharing that she recorded “probably 100 songs” before deciding which would fit the album’s overall message. “All the sounds were so organic and human, everyday things like the wind, snaps, and even the sound of birds and chickens, the sounds of nature.”

Beyoncé chose for many of her songs to include Linda Martell, considered the first commercially successful Black female artist and the first to play the Grand Ole Opry (a live country-music radio broadcast in Nashville, Tennessee). 

On “Spaghettii,” a sample of Martell’s voice speaks, “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they? In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand, but in practice, well some may feel confined.” 

The closing track “Amen” connects with the album opener with repeating lines that rally listeners to “Say a prayer for what has been. We’ll be the ones to purify our Fathers’ sins.” “Here, Beyonce implies the “fathers” to be the founding fathers of America and their signs of exploitation, suggesting that starting with this music, things can be put right. 

By adding a unique twist to the conventional tenets of country music, the artist honors its Black roots and challenges stereotypes. Beyoncé not only reclaims her country roots in “Cowboy Carter” but also redefines the genre for a new generation— one in which country music is more inclusive.

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