Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

An analysis of ‘Cowboy Carter’

How Beyoncé transforms into a country star in new studio album
Image courtesy of Pitchfork.

“You’re turned into KNTRY Radio Texas, home of the real deal

And if there’s one thing you can take away from my set today, let it be this:

Sometimes you don’t know what you like until someone you

trust turns you onto some real good s**t

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m here…”

What you just read is an interlude by legendary country star Willie Nelson, entitled “SMOKE HOUR II,” off Beyoncé’s latest album, “COWBOY CARTER.” Nelson is just one of the 10 featured artists on Queen Bey’s newest release, which has gained massive popularity due to its genre-defying nature. Other featured artists include Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts, Dolly Parton, Linda Martell, Shaboozey, Miley Cyrus and Post Malone.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter grew up around prominent influences of gospel and country music throughout her life. She’s referenced her upbringing in songs like “Formation” on her album “Lemonade” and “CHURCH GIRL” on “RENAISSANCE.” Despite her background, when the “Single Ladies” singer announced her ‘switch-up’ of genres on March 12, she received an endless amount of backlash and criticism from the public.

On March 29, “COWBOY CARTER” was released, met with raving reviews from publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. I’ll highlight the standout tracks from “COWBOY CARTER.”


COWBOY CARTER starts with a strong, gospel-like introduction song, filled with beautiful harmonies and lyrics referring to the backlash she has received from critics:

“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?”

Track Two: “BLACKBIIRD” (ft. Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts)

Beyoncé flawlessly covers this Beatles classic, featuring up-and-coming Black country singers harmonizing along with Paul McCartney’s iconic guitar riff and a new feature of violin on this track. In his 2021 book “The Lyrics,”  McCartney stated: “I was very conscious of the terrible racial tensions in the U.S. The year before, 1967, had been a particularly bad year, but 1968 was even worse. The song was written only a few weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. That imagery of the broken wings and the sunken eyes and the general longing for freedom is very much of its moment.” McCartney wrote this song for Black America, envisioning a Black woman gaining her freedom, rather than a bird. What better song to feature on this album?

Track Seven:  “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM”

Queen Bey takes a new spin on her discography with “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM.” On Feb. 20, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, making Beyoncé the first Black woman to have a No. 1 country song. The song provides listeners with western and southern influences, featuring banjo and viola in the background, both played by Rhiannon Giddens.

Track Eight: “BODYGUARD”

This standout track features more rock and pop influences rather than country and R&B inspirations. It features a seductive Beyoncé singing about protecting her lover from anyone who tries to get in between their love, just like a bodyguard:

“I don’t like the way she’s lookin’ at you

Someone better hold me back, oh-oh

Chargin’ ten for a double and I’m talkin’

I’m ‘bout to lose it, turn around and John Wayne that ass”

Track 10: “JOLENE”

Beyoncé shows us her revised lyrics of Dolly Parton’s classic country song, “Jolene.” In Parton’s original song, she shows a softer and more sentimental side towards the other woman that her lover is in love with. In Beyoncé’s version, the main woman takes charge and fights for her man:

The games you play are nothing new

So you don’t want no heat with me, Jolene

We’ve been deep in love for twenty years

I raised that man, I raised his kids”

Track 12: “SPAGHETTII” (ft. Linda Martell and Shaboozey)

Considered one of the only rap songs on “COWBOY CARTER,” “SPAGHETTII” shows off Beyoncé’s songwriting versatility, showing listeners that she can’t be defined by a single genre. Linda Martell, a famous Black country singer, introduces the track by stating:

“Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?

Yes, they are

In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand

But in practice, well, some may feel confined”

Track 17: “LEVII’S JEANS” (ft. Post Malone)

 In this track with Post Malone, Beyoncé uses modern pop and sensual influences to create a more “Beyoncé-esque” song about flirtation and the excitement of touch, filled with innuendos:

“Come on, you pretty little thing

Girl, I wanna take you home

You know I’d like to be your Levi’s jeans

So I can hug that a*s all day long”

Track 20: “YA YA”

 The 60s-esque track is easily the most unique on “COWBOY CARTER” (and my personal favorite). Beyoncé takes samples from “These Boots Are Made For Walkin” by Nancy Sinatra and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, creating a sassy, blast-from-the-past sound that makes numerous references to Southern culture:

“Baby, if you ain’t got no grits, get the f**k up out the South

Life is comin’ at me fast, keep my Bible on the dash

His pistol in my seat, just in case I gotta blast”

 “COWBOY CARTER” is not strictly a “country” album, it is a collection of songs made for anyone to dive into and realize that Beyoncé is more than a Black, pop/R&B artist: she’s an artist of all genres.

Paige Hanson can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @Paige_Hanson1.

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