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The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Cowboy Carter Album Review: ‘Beyonce has done it again’

Photo courtesy of Tangerine Staff.

Beyoncé’s most recent studio album, Cowboy Carter, guides listeners along through a rollercoaster of grief, rage, lust, love, motherhood, betrayal, gratitude and everything else under the umbrella of life. Historically, Beyonce felt push back from country music spaces, despite her southern roots and diverse musical ability. Since then, she’s been curating the masterpiece that is Cowboy Carter. This groundbreaking project has been in the vault since 2020, and its release sparked a high volume of discussion, that I’ll add to.

AMERICAN REQUIEM – The opening song beautifully sets the tone for the rest of the project. American Requiem is a triumphant, momentum-building power track. Beyoncé sings, “And the rejection came, said I wasn’t country enough … Plant my bare feet on solid ground for years – They don’t, don’t know how hard I had to fight for this.” The artist is referencing the rejection she’s faced from various country artists and enjoyers since her performance at the Country Music Awards in 2016. This album is a rejection of such.

BLACKBIIRD – A cover of  The Beatles’ iconic, “Blackbird,” for which Beyoncé has earned praise for crediting four lesser known Black country voices. Through lyrics such as, “You were only waiting for this moment to arrive”, Beyoncé continues to warm listeners up to the storytelling that is Cowboy Carter, illustrating a taxing trek through motherhood, marriage, and one of the most prolific careers in the history of entertainment.

16 CARRIAGES – A highly favored track of the notably lengthy 27 song album, 16 Carriages highlights the relentlessness of life in fame. Beyoncé draws connections between having achieved massive success in her teenage years which seem to increase exponentially with time. There is a sense of “grind culture” to a fault — wishing you didn’t have to be strong all the time, but being able to look back on it all and smile, grateful to be able to harness that strength.

PROTECTOR – Opens with her 6-year-old daughter’s voice, Rumi Carter, saying, “Mom, can I hear the lullaby please?” This is a stunning introduction to a tender chapter of the album in which she explores motherhood and self-love. The two lyrics that really stuck out to me are, “I gave water to the soil and now it feeds me,” as an ode to the cyclical nature of raising children – when you pour out unconditional love and they follow suit. – “I first saw your face in your father’s gaze, there’s a long line of hands carrying your name.” It’s a beautifully poetic approach at loving both your husband and your children.

MY ROSE – The first interlude on the album, falling just short of a minute long, is where Beyoncé takes a moment to deeply and unabashedly love herself. “You’re my love, my sweetie pie, my baby, you’re my heart,” she says to herself. It becomes clear as this project develops that the artist allocates so much energy and thought into everything around her and uses this interlude to selflessly throw herself in the mix.

SMOKE HOUSE * WILLIE NELSON – Another 50-second interlude that drastically shifts the energy. A grainy audio snippet of Willie Nelson welcomes listeners to a country radio station. He includes a line that lets listeners know, if you don’t like it, “…go and find yourself a jukebox!” This interlude briefs listeners that the country style is present, as it leads them to her hit single.

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM – This was the perfect track to release as a single! Texas Hold ‘Em features a very recognizable country cadence, and pairs it with Beyoncé’s danceability. This is the foolproof formula for musical vitality – we saw this with Lil Nas X’s record breaking “Old Town Road.” 

BODYGUARD – This song is explicitly dedicated to her husband, Jay-Z. Beyoncé depicts their marriage in a way that draws a picture of undying passion and unbreakable devotion. This is particularly memorable as the couple has infamously suffered due to her husband’s scandalous infidelity. Nonetheless, it is both a fantastic and vulnerable track. 

DOLLY P – In this short clip, listeners hear the unmissable voice of Dolly Parton. Parton has earned her spot in country music as a living legend, and this encouraging message to Beyoncé serves as a stamp of approval to open the following cover.

JOLENE – This cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” has been discussed with no end in sight. Beyoncé was left with enormous shoes to fill, as “Jolene” sits at an impressive #217 on The Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs Of All Time. The artist took exciting creative liberties here by replacing certain lyrics, such as, “I’m warning you, don’t come for my man,” in comparison to the original, “I’m begging you, please don’t take my man.” The subtle difference entirely transforms the song, especially paired with the old western instrumental backing her vocals, creating a foreboding tone. 

DAUGHTER – This track marks a major turning point in the lineup. Daughter inherently references Beyoncé’s 2016 “Lemonade” album, as she sings of the red hot streak of anger she feels when thinking about her husband’s infidelity. She vulnerably calls herself out, claiming she has her father’s ice cold anger when being crossed. The bridge of this track is sung in Italian – lyrics from “Caro Mio Ben” (My Dear Beloved) show her nearly obsessive love for her husband, in an operatic style. Directly following this are violent, English threats towards anyone who may interfere with their marriage. The inclusion of Italian opera sounds create a feeling of religious authority and worship in her relationship. 

SPAGHETTI – A total pivot  —  Spaghetti is a rap song! The song instantly starts with, “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?”, referring to the status quo that Beyoncé is working on breaking out of. This song is great!

ALLIGATOR TEARS – I instantly picked up on classic country motifs and they were very well done! The artist makes use of acoustic guitar with layered vocals singing traditional country buzzwords such as “boots” and “roots.” Beginning to really feel the story of Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé speaks to the recurrent honeymoon phases that tend to follow a season of agony in her relationship. To sum it all up, she says, “sweet things take time to grow.” At this point in the album she’s remembering what makes it all worth it.

SMOKE HOUR II – More Willie Nelson! In this interlude, Nelson introduces the next song to radio listeners as, “some really good sh**”, whilst reminding them to revel in the new sound Beyoncé is providing.

JUST FOR FUN – With a message in a similar vein as 16 Carriages, Just For Fun is a melancholic country tune that follows the theme of turning to religion when the weight of life feels inescapable. 

II MOST WANTED – The 16th song on the project is a heartfelt summer jam, featuring generational country artist, Miley Cyrus. Beyoncé partnering with Cyrus is a female power move. Cyrus’ legendary roots are in country music, following in the footsteps of her Father (Billy Ray Cyrus). This partnership communicates an air of girl power, as both artists know all too well the tumultuous ways of womanhood under a microscope. In terms of the music, it’s a super catchy tune, parading around the repeated lyric, “I’ll be your shotgun rider till the day I die, smoke out the window flying down the 405” referencing the loyalty she holds in her marriage, while maintaining distinguished country symbols.

LEVII’S JEANS – Two features back to back! This track featuring Post Malone is a raunchy, lustful tale that once again illuminates the wild passion that’s well alive within her marriage. By this point, in the second half of the project, listeners are continuing the musical journey through the cycle of loving and fighting. 

FLAMENCO – I find it unique that there are so many interludes within this album, though with 27 songs, there’s certainly room for short transition pieces like this one. Flamenco is an exercise in gratitude where Beyoncé bravely acknowledges the mortal way of life, as she reminds herself to live and love in the moment. The artist’s vocal technique on this one is truly remarkable.

THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW – Hmm… another interlude… I feel a sarcastic tone in this one, as Linda Martell “states the obvious” by explaining that this project is an expansion across genres, in other words, “Duh! If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll spell it out for you!” When announcing Cowboy Carter’s release in an Instagram post, musical artist Beyoncé remarked that this is not a country album, it’s a Beyoncé album; this interlude includes that message as an integral part of the album.

YA-YA – When curating a largely country themed project, where Americana motifs are heavily valued, Ya-Ya acts as a brave critique on American culture. 

OH LOUISIANNA – Beyonce is a southern woman to her core! With this one, heading towards the tail end of this long album, Beyonce pays tribute to her southern roots that are often overlooked during discourse around her hypothetical place in country music spaces.

DESERT EAGLE – Similar to Levii’s Jeans (feat. Post Malone), the singer lustfully sings about her Husband. What we’re seeing here is Beyonce’s famous, classy yet braggadocious, ways. To me, the star of this track was the opening eagle call, which faded in from the ending of previous track, Oh Lousianna. In addition to this, she continues with the country vibes by using “Do Si Do”, a classic country music phrase, throughout the course of this one.

RIIVERDANCE – I find this fifth to last jam to be very clever and artistic. The song is made up of a repetitive line about dancing, sandwiched between painful remarks about the troubles of her marriage, due to Jay-Z’s unforgettable infidelity. I understood this lyrical set up to be the musical embodiment of “just keep swimming”, or in this case, “just keep dancing”. 

II HANDS II HEAVEN – One of the most prevalent themes of Cowboy Carter is the presence of religion in Beyoncé’s life. This late track is told in two parts: The first includes the artist being lifted by her religion, as it takes off the weight of her myriad of heartbreaks. In the second half, she replaces her husband as her savior instead of her religion. This is rather earnest, as she vulnerably turns to the man creating the hurt in her life, to do the healing. 

TYRANT – This is one of the most intense ballads of Cowboy Carter, and has a similar feel to that of earlier track, Daughter. In Tyrant, Beyonce reclaims the power in her relationship. The assertive song is backed by a folky violin, with a hip-hop beat. The artist boldly sings in reference to the individual her husband was unfaithful with, “I hated you once, I envy you now.” This may seem cold hearted, but it seems that Beyonce is telling her, “I wish I could’ve gotten rid of him, like you were able to.” Prior to this, she sings, “I don’t want him back, but I can’t let go,” this assumes the hallmark position of countless rocky relationships – feeling stuck. However, as the song progresses, she reminds her husband that she is never stuck, she does hold the power, and she could leave whenever she wanted to. But in the end, she’ll never let it get to that.

SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN’ – This second to last song really pushes the boundaries that Beyonce is aiming to knock down. This track is chock-full of Americana classics, such as, “Bought a Chevy and painted it red,” which is immediately followed by hip-hop vernacular with, “Money long it can’t fit in the bed.” The paradoxical nature of this song puts the nail in the coffin when breaking down these barriers.

AMEN – What an amazing journey. Amen resolves the foreshadowing that was born with the opening track American Requiem, through the lyric, “Them old ideas are buried here.” Beyoncé has proved her ability to push the envelope with poise and pride. The title Amen is the perfect name for a closing track on a project that frequently mentions religion as a tool for coping. 

Beyonce has done it again.

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