Celebrating Black Music Month with Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter

With June being Black Music Month, it is critical that we remember and acknowledge the Black innovators who have pioneered some of the most lucrative and inspirational music genres in our lifetime. As usual, Beyoncé has reached new heights in her artistry thanks to her recent album, Cowboy Carter. Grab your cowboy hats, boots, and denim jeans, because we’re headed to the rodeo!

Beyoncé has blessed us yet again by releasing the second act of her magnum opus entitled Cowboy Carter. A drastic shift from her chrome-coated, Afro-futuristic disco realm of Renaissance, Cowboy Carter transports us to the traditional folklore of the American West. Beyoncé continues to push the boundaries of her musical style. On this album, she takes her reign of the country genre by the bull horns. 

When Beyoncé revealed that act II would be a country album, many onlookers expressed surprise and skepticism of the radical move by the Queen Bee. In the past, she has generally been categorized as a R&B/hip-hop/pop artist. However, true fans recognize that Beyoncé has always maintained a deep connection to her hometown of Houston, Texas. Houston is famous for their rodeo and traditional cowboy culture. In fact, Black Texans are a significant part of the history of cowboys. Nearly a quarter of all cattle workers in Texas in the late 19th century were Black.

In Taylor Crumpton’s piece for TIME Magazine, “Beyoncé Has Always Been Country,” she masterfully articulates the history of gatekeeping and segregation of country music. The genre originated in the early 1900s, blending Indigenous, African, and European sounds. Songs would convey stories of the poor, working-class citizens of the time. Somewhere along the way in the 20th century, the so-called “hillbilly music,” became exclusive to only white artists. Intentional discriminatory practices of radio stations harmed the initial diversity of the genre.

Beyoncé experienced firsthand the racism and misogyny of the country genre and its fandom at 2016’s Country Music Awards. She performed her song “Daddy’s Lessons” with The Chicks but received hateful and racist feedback afterwards. With Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé not only affirms that she with all her Blackness is country music, but she leaves the door open for legendary and upcoming Black country artists to take their rightful seat at the table. 

Click image to enlarge.

Beyoncé opens the project with “AMERIICAN REQUIEM.” The song is a bold, angelic piece that captures the spirit of American folk music. For this reason, her vibrant vocals and rich guitar placements take center stage. It serves as a proclamation of Beyoncé staking her spot in country music with lyrics like: “Comin’ in peace and love y’all/Oh, a lot of takin’ up space/Salty tears beyond my gaze/Can you stand me?” She then directly addresses the criticism she’s faced in regard to her being “country” by saying, “Got folks down in Galveston, rooted in Louisiana/They 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?” 

The second track on the album is a cover of The Beatles song, “Blackbird.” The song features four modern Black female country artists: Brittney Spencer, Tanner Adell, Reyna Roberts, and Tiera Kennedy. Featuring Black female country artists on her project is a testament to Beyoncé’s character. She constantly uses her massive platform to usher in the new generation of Black artists, who are often underrepresented.

Shaboozey, a Black male country artist from Virginia, also features on two tracks, “SPAGHETTII” and “SWEET, HONEY, BUCKIN.” Willie Jones, another Black male country artist, joins Beyonce on the song “JUST FOR FUN.” All of the mentioned artists have since performed at major country music festivals such as Stagecoach and the CMA Festival. They have even experienced a surge in popularity and music streams. Shaboozey’s song “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” recently reached number one on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart. 

All while pushing the newcomers forward, Beyoncé manages to reach back and pay her respects to country music’s greatest legends. Linda Martell, the first commercially successful Black female artist in country music, appears throughout the project. She pushes forward Beyoncé’s initiative of breaking genre barriers with her interludes on “SPAGHETTII” and “THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW.” Country music giants like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton also make appearances throughout the album. Beyoncé performs her own rendition of Dolly Parton’s classic hit “Jolene.” To have such powerful figures co-sign this project only solidifies Beyoncé as a country artist. Who is going to deny Dolly Parton’s or Willie Nelson’s stamp of approval? 

Along with making her presence known in the country music world, Beyoncé uses Cowboy Carter to further eradicate the idea of music genres. The song “YA YA” fuses the rock-n-roll influences of Little Richard and her idol Tina Turner. It features the heavy guitar instrumentation of the blues. Beyoncé continues her genre bending crusade in songs like “RIIVERDANCE,” reminiscent of Renaissance with its stripped house-like beat. Her track titled “TYRANT” boasts a more trap/hip-hop sound.

Cowboy Carter is not Beyonce’s first go at dabbling in different music categories, especially when we look at her previous projects such as Lemonade and her self-titled album. Considering how the music industry has managed to gatekeep certain genres (such as pop, country, rock, and even hip hop) from people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ folks, she proves to be a pioneer in making all music accessible to all people. 

Overall, Beyoncé did not disappoint with the second installment of her three-part project, as Cowboy Carter amounts to be a harmonious, exceptionally produced, inventive album. She reclaimed her well-deserved spot in the country music world. Likewise, she busted down doors for other artists to do the same. She has set a new standard for the next generations of music artists to hopefully exceed for years to come.  

© Courtney Stanley (6/24/2024) FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Listen to Cowboy Carter.

Read Taylor Crumpton’s piece in TIME Magazine, “Beyoncé Has Always Been Country.”

Check out Courtney Stanley’s review of Beyoncé’s concert film Renaissance on FF2 Media.

Watch Beyoncé perform with The Chicks at the CMA Awards in 2016.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured Photo: FF2 crop of main cover art image from Beyoncé’s Act II: Cowboy Carter.

Middle Photo: Main cover art image from Beyoncé’s Act II: Cowboy Carter. © PARKWOOD ENTERTAINMENT LLC. / BEYONCÉ PRESS.

Bottom Photo: Press image from Beyoncé’s Act II: Cowboy Carter. © PARKWOOD ENTERTAINMENT LLC. / BEYONCÉ PRESS.

Tags: album, Beyoncé, Brittney Spencer, Courtney Stanley, Cowboy Carter, Dolly Parton, Jolene, Lemonade, Linda Martell, Little Richard, Renaissance, review, Reyna Roberts, Shaboozey, Tanner Adell, The Beatles, The Chicks, Tiera Kennedy, Tina Turner, Willie Jones, Willie Nelson

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Courtney Stanley is a Maryland native with a huge passion for film, music, and art. Since graduating from Morgan State University in 2022 with her bachelors degree in screenwriting and animation, Courtney has worked on a number of film and television productions in the DMV area as a production assistant. Courtney continues to fuel her passions through writing reviews for FF2. She currently works as a legal assistant, in hopes of pursuing her interest in entertainment law. In her free time, Courtney can be found attending a concert or writing poetry.
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