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'COWBOY CARTER' is a rootin'-tootin' success

The ever-evolving Beyoncé has done it again, folks. The highly-anticipated Act II of her album "RENAISSANCE" has finally arrived, surprising fans with a complete 180-degree genre flip.

On "COWBOY CARTER," listeners hear various types of country music and musical legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton making appearances. Beyoncé puts a unique spin on the genre, blending hip-hop beats with old-fashioned guitar while remaining true to her signature sound. 

Similar to Taylor Swift's early discography, this album is country music for people who hate country music.

Like "RENAISSANCE," much of "COWBOY CARTER" must be listened to as a full project rather than a compilation of individual songs. There are several interludes, some of which are short vocalizations by Beyoncé and others that introduce the next song by revolutionary artists like Linda Martell.

These interludes take up a seemingly massive runtime on the one-hour, 18-minute album. Over four minutes of the record are tracks with a runtime of under a minute, and there are two other tracks with a runtime of under two minutes. This makes the album feel more bloated than its predecessor, especially since far fewer interludes directly connect with the following songs. 

Although the album is far longer than it needs to be, the experience is like watching "Oppenheimer" or "Killers of the Flower Moon." Yes, these films take up more time than necessary, but they are tried and true masterpieces and that long runtime tells an important story.

Interestingly, plenty of music critics have criticized the length of "COWBOY CARTER," but these negative reviews are still in the minority. Many other music reviewers are overwhelmingly happy with "COWBOY CARTER."

The album opens with "AMERIICAN REQUIEM," a harmony-stacked epic introduction to the record's sound. The lyrics explain why Beyoncé decided to make a country album. 

They express the rejection from country fans after the singer added a country song, "Daddy Lessons," to her 2016 album "Lemonade:" "Used to say I spoke, 'Too country'/ And the rejection came, said 'I wasn't country 'nough'/ Said I wouldn't saddle up, but/ If that ain't country, tell me what is?"

BLACKBIIRD," a cover of The Beatles song, is heavy with features from Black female country artists. Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts and Brittney Spencer all debuted within the last five years and are already soaring in popularity following their features on the track.

"16 CARRIAGES" debuted alongside "TEXAS HOLD' EM" back in February, and although it did not receive the same virality as "TEXAS HOLD' EM," the song makes a huge impact on its own. The lyrics help the listener get inside Beyoncé's head, showcasing her guilt as a mother when she tours and is away from her children when she performs.

"PROTECTOR" marks the first feature of Beyoncé's daughter Rumi in her discography. Her eldest daughter, Blue Ivy made several appearances in both Beyoncé and Jay-Z's music and on Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour." It's a sweet ballad to follow "16 CARRIAGES," dedicating more time on the album to her children and the internal battle Beyoncé feels about her role as a mother.

"TEXAS HOLD' EM" is one of the album standouts, and for good reason. Not only is the song already a certified banger (it peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and over 900,000 TikToks use the sound), but it plays into the self-parodic nature of post-9/11 country music, leaning into the honky-tonk sound and allusions to country-coded things like square dancing.

The next-biggest standout is Beyoncé's remix of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." The classic country tune you know and love is turned on its head, and instead of feeling scared of Jolene's beauty and her temptation of the narrator's partner, Beyoncé has had enough of this Jolene. 

Rather than begging Jolene not to take her man just because she can, Beyoncé sings, "I'm warnin' you, woman, find you your own man / Jolene, I know I'm a queen, Jolene / I'm still a Creole banjee b- - - - from Louisianne (Don't try me)."

There's already been plenty of discourse surrounding the lyrical changes, with many arguing that the narrator's fascination with Jolene makes the song different from other country songs with a similar subject. In contrast, Beyoncé plays into the stereotype of shaming the female temptress. It will be interesting to see how the public feels about this cover as the years pass.

"COWBOY CARTER" collaborates with modern artists like Post Malone and Miley Cyrus. Two songs also feature Shaboozey, a hip-hop and country artist, and another song features Willie Jones, a young Black country singer. These songs are all incredibly different from one another, showcasing Beyoncé's love of genre-bending.

If "COWBOY CARTER" gave an award for "most genres in one song," that award would go to "YA YA." The song begins with a sample of Nancy Sinatra's classic "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" and quickly turns into an early 2010s-esque upbeat pop dance beat. There's even an interpolation of The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," keeping the track jam-packed with references and twists. It is the most fun song on the album and one of the best in the "RENAISSANCE" series thus far.

Overall, "COWBOY CARTER" is a unique fixture in Beyoncé's discography, and it will be interesting to see where it fits in her ever-changing legacy. It's certainly not for everyone, but it is for Beyoncé fans.

If you are more of a casual Beyoncé listener, you will likely find yourself bored by the interludes but delighted by the album's simultaneous sincerity and wink at the country genre. 


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