“COWBOY CARTER” curates cool country culture creation

On Mar. 29, Beyoncé once again shook the music world by releasing her awe-inspiring country music album “COWBOY CARTER” which continues to impact listeners, whether they are fans of her previous work or not.

Filled with country, gospel, and R&B, “COWBOY CARTER” is an ode to Black, American, and country music history. With complex and deep-rooted rhythms, harmonies, and imagery, this album is not a fad but will leave an everlasting legacy on the artist, genre, and society.

In addition to 25 original songs, the album also contains covers and alternate versions of soulful and significant songs such as “Blackbird” written by Paul McCartney of The Beatles, “Jolene” by the world-renowned country artist Dolly Parton, “YAYA” which interpolates some of the music from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin,” and lyrics from The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations.” Parton is also later featured on the song “TYRANT.”

The addition of The Beatles’ “BLACKBIRD” is an important inclusion in this album due to the history of the song. “Blackbird” was written by Paul McCartney about the racism faced in America during the civil rights movement after he heard about the difficulties that child civil rights activist Ruby Bridges faced in Little Rock, Arkansas. The cover highlights Black and country artists’ talent with the addition of other artists such as Tanner Adell, Britney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts.

The sociological forethought of many writers and philosophers such as Alice Randall, the author of books “My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music’s Black Past, Present, and Future,” as well as Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How To Be An Anti-Racist,” and Lauren Michele Jackson who wrote “White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation,” is prominent in the lyrics and overall messaging of the songs on the album. With a long history of Black Americans living in the South and being a part (albeit a largely ignored part) of country music, the issues surrounding race in the genre are not unknown and are something that Beyoncé highlights throughout her work.

The album evokes strong feelings of love; love for herself, her culture, heritage, and family. But there is also a great sense of honesty about where we are as a country, about who we all are and how we act, both to those we call friends and those we see as outsiders. The statements made and actions committed throughout her thoughtful lyricism all while she was promoting the album, show a deep consciousness inserted into the album, and a deep awareness of what America truly is and where she and other African Americans fit into our society.

Featured guest Dolly Parton refrences her hit song “Jolene” on the track “Dolly P,” which comes right before the song “JOLENE”. This song is not a cover of the original, but rather an addition to the original in the style of Beyoncé. There is also an appearance of country artist Willy Nelson on the tracks “SMOKE HOUR * WILLY NELSON” and “SMOKE HOUR II.” Linda Martell, who is considered to be the first commercially successful Black country artist, is featured on “SPAGHETTI” which also features the artist Willy Jones, who later appears on “JUST FOR FUN,” as well. Finally, the feature of rising country artist Shaboozy is heard on the track “SWEET * HONEY * BUCKIIN,” which incorporates lyrics from Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” There are also featured pop artists such as Miley Cyrus who is on “II MOST WANTED,” and Post Malone on “LEVII’S JEANS.”

The lyrics and songs feature all these country artists and music references, but the album title and artwork itself are also country references. The name “Carter” refers to her last name, but it also refers to Amon G. Carter. He started “The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Newspaper” and was considered the personified image of the Texas cowboy in the national mind of Americans in the 1920s and 30s.

The album art is very powerful and invokes a lot of imagery as well. Charles F. Peterson, chair of Africana Studies at Oberlin College, said the “Cowboy Carter” imagery speaks volumes and bolsters the points she’s making throughout the album.

“She’s very good at imprinting upon the viewer the idea and the image that she wants you to embrace of her,” he says. “Beyoncé is from Texas. It seems people forget that’s a huge part of her identity.” The album includes an American flag and country symbols such as a cowboy boot and hat. The colors of the American flag repeat throughout the “Cowboy Carter” imagery. Beyoncé wears a red, white, and blue cowboy outfit on the cover, and in another image, wears nothing but a sash in those same colors. She also holds an American flag as if to underline her point. The white horse is the horse of heroes and famous leaders such as George Washington and Napoleon.

It is also important to note that even though the album is brand new, the effect it is having on fans of Beyoncé, country music, and Black artists is apparent. Since the release on Mar. 29, 2024, the same day as Good Friday, six other Black country artists have since made the Spotify charts. These artists are Shaboozy at 66, Tanner Adell at 117, Reyna Roberts at 124, Britney Spencer at 127, Tiera Kennedy at 128, and Linda Martin at 166. These relatively small artists, after being featured on this monument of music history, now have their names shared with the world. Additionally, Miley Cyrus has now earned the biggest debut of her career on US Spotify with “II MOST WANTED,” since it has surpassed “Flowers” in streams within the first 24 hours.

The album is the second installment of the multi-Grammy award-winning artist’s three-act project, encompassing a theme dedicated to the cultural roots of country music and her familial Texan roots. Five years in the making, “COWBOY CARTER” did not disappoint. With wholesome songs, political importance, and tear-jerking lyrics, “COWBOY CARTER” will go down in history as one of the best and one of the most important country albums of all time.