country music

Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter Is Here

66th GRAMMY Awards - Show
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Cowboy Carter has arrived, y’all. This is hugely exciting for people who grew up on mix CDs that included both “Get Me Bodied” and “Wide Open Spaces.” Now that the album is here, you might still have some questions. Who are all those features? Are we actually going to get visuals this time? Does Post Malone sound kind of sexy on that one song? I don’t know that I want to get into that last one, but trust that I have opinions. Let’s hop into everything else.

What has Beyoncé said about Cowboy Carter?

Ten days before the release of the album, Beyoncé sat us all down to give us a bit of a primer on Instagram. In a lengthy post, she explained the genesis of the album and why she’s not calling it a country album.

“This album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed … and it was very clear that I wasn’t,” Beyoncé wrote. “But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

She continued, saying that Cowboy Carter is “a result of challenging myself, and taking my time to bend and blend genres together to create this body of work.” She also noted that she does not consider Cowboy Carter to be a country album — to her it’s just a Beyoncé album.

In a press release, Beyoncé revealed that the Cowboy Carter project has taken over five years, and that the plan was for it to come out before Renaissance. “It’s been really great to have the time and the grace to be able to take my time with it. I was initially going to put Cowboy Carter out first, but with the pandemic, there was too much heaviness in the world. We wanted to dance. We deserved to dance,” she said. “But I had to trust God’s timing.”

“I think people are going to be surprised because I don’t think this music is what everyone expects,” Beyoncé continued in the release, “but it’s the best music I’ve ever made.”

Who are all these features?

“I have a few surprises on the album, and have collaborated with some brilliant artists who I deeply respect,” Beyoncé wrote on Instagram the week before the album dropped. She was kind of underselling things. Cowboy Carter features country legends like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Linda Martell alongside people like Miley Cyrus and Post Malone, contemporary pop artists with country roots.

Because she understands her power, Beyoncé used Cowboy Carter to spotlight a younger generation of Black country artists. On “BLACKBIIRD,” she’s is joined by Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts to cover the Beatles song inspired by the Little Rock Nine. Singer Willie Jones features on “JUST FOR FUN” and the country-inflected rapper Shaboozey is on “SPAGHETTII” and “SWEET HONEY BUCKIN.’”

Last but not least, you can hear Beyoncé’s younger daughter Rumi as the young voice asking for a lullaby on “PROTECTOR.”

Are there visuals this time?

Not yet, but I have more faith this time because the cinema influence is all over this album. She can’t deprive us like that, can she? Speaking of which …

What’s on the mood board?

Of all things, the 1984 Wim Wenders movie Paris, Texas. In the initial teaser for “Texas Hold ’Em,” we see the vast expanse of Texas and an older man in a red hat coming forward to look at what we eventually see is a Beyoncé billboard. The man in the hat is a clear nod to Harry Dean Stanton’s character in the film, a wayward man searching for his wife.

In the “16 Carriages” cover art, Beyoncé has a short blonde bob, one very similar to the one Nastassja Kinski has in the film.

“Each song is its own version of a reimagined Western film,” Beyoncé said in the press release accompanying the album’s release. She said that she often had movies playing in the studio while working on the album, and drew inspiration from films like Five Fingers for Marseilles, Urban Cowboy, and Killers of the Flower Moon. A cinephile!

How long has she been working on this?

Unlike Taylor and her Tortured Poets Department, this is not something Beyoncé only started working on after Renaissance came out in 2022. Here’s what we know: In “16 Carriages,” she sings about how it’s been “38 summers and I’m not in my bed.” If Beyoncé was 38 when she wrote the song, that would mean it was written about four years ago. Oh, but sometimes people hold onto songs for years. Yeah, I know that. The more interesting piece of evidence is that Tina Knowles — Beyoncé’s mom — posted to Instagram saying that she has loved this album “for years.”

Beyoncé eventually clarified things herself, writing in an Instagram post that she’s been working on this album for more than five years. Do you think that she’s currently cooking up the best album of 2029?

What will Act 3 be?

Well, if Act 1 was house music and ballroom, and Act 2 is country and blues, the Hive believes that Beyoncé’s goal is to revisit genres often credited to white people that are actually rooted in Black history and culture. This is all to say, the BeyHive thinks we’re getting a rock album next. Get ready for a phone call, Jack White.

Does Post Malone sound kind of sexy on “LEVII’S JEANS”?

Yeah, all right, you caught me. He does.

This post has been updated.

Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter Is Here