The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

“Cowboy Carter” Redefines Country Music

Credit%3A+Instagram
Credit: Instagram

Beyoncé was not given a seat at the country table, so she made her own.
“Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé’s new album, is turning heads as she asks people to rethink their definition of country music. The album, released on March 29, 2024, consists of 27 tracks and has features from country icons such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Linda Martell.
“Cowboy Carter” has reached the top of the Billboard Country Music Album chart, according to CBS News, making her the first Black woman to do so. Though many of the songs on “Cowboy Carter” are country, Beyoncé has specified that this is not a country album, but a Beyoncé album, which she made clear in an Instagram post.
In a March 19 post detailing the release of the album, Beyoncé states that “this album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago when I did not feel welcomed … and it was very clear that I wasn’t. But because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of country music and studied our own rich musical archive.”
She goes on to say that the “criticisms that I faced when I entered this genre forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me. Act two is a result of challenging myself and taking my time to bend and bless genres together to create this body of work.”
This “unwelcoming experience” she is referring to is when she received backlash after performing at the 2016 Country Music Awards. Beyoncé, along with the then Dixie Chicks, [now The Chicks] performed “Daddy Lessons,” a track from her 2016 “Lemonade” album with heavy country influences. Many country music listeners revolted, claiming that she wasn’t “country enough,” despite growing up in Houston, Texas, surrounded by the genre.
This isn’t the first time a Black person has busted onto the country scenes only to be met with backlash. In 2019, Lil Nas X released “Old Town Road” featuring 1990s country superstar Billy Ray Cyrus. According to The Washington Post, in March, Billboard removed Lil Nas X’s song from the country charts. Billboard claims they removed the song for failing to embrace “enough elements of today’s country music.” So, how do we define country music, and why is it under more strict parameters compared to any other genre?
Nikki Chambers, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, thinks it is ridiculous for people to leave Black history out of country music’s history.
“What is tired is the gatekeeping of country music from a certain demographic of people who think that they were the origins, innovators, and the creators of country music,” she said. “When you look at the roots of country music, there is Blackness all over it.”
This prompts a whole other conversation about what country music is and where it came from. Whether you like it or not, the roots of country music are Black. The banjo, a backbone and trademark of country music came to the United States from West Africa via the slave trade. Country music was born on plantations and fused folk, blues, and hymns. This is hard for some people to grasp because for a genre that was created in a Black space, nowadays, country music radio, and its recognized stars, are almost 100% white.
Chambers, an avid Beyoncé fan, applauds the superstar for her boldness in making the genre her own.
“Country music, just like any other genre, isn’t stagnant, it’s always changing,” she said. “I think what Beyoncé is doing on this album is taking country music to its limits, and infusing her own talent, lyrics, and beats to mold the genre to fit her.”
Jack Nolan, a country music fan from Arizona, doesn’t see how Beyoncé’s new album can be considered “real” country music.
“A lot of the country that people like and are used to is slower, and has more acoustic elements,” he said. “Old country is seen as real country. I don’t think it’s bad, and it’s not that I don’t like Beyoncé, it’s the fact that it’s not true country. I have the same issue with Morgan Wallen.”
Zh’ky Johnson-Tuzo, an avid member of the “Beyhive,” was surprised to hear that Beyoncé was exploring the genre.
“When I first heard that she was making a country album I was a bit skeptical because I am not a person that typically listens to country music, but she did what she needed to do,” he said. “She proved me wrong … I think she proved all of us wrong.”
Zh’ky loves Beyoncé’s versatility on “Cowboy Carter” specifically his favorite track, “Tyrant.”
“I love the song ‘Tyrant’ because it shows a wide range of musical skill,” he said. “Throughout the album, she displays a lot of musical genres under the country umbrella, and she performs them well. That just goes to show that Beyoncé is the greatest performer of our generation.”
Maya Libraro, a senior from California, agrees with Zh’ky.
I think it’s great,” she said. “A lot of people are quick to dismiss all country music … she [Beyoncé] does it in a way that’s not super traditional, which is really cool.”
I appreciate this album mainly because it is a project that wasn’t for Beyoncé’s own recognition. She partnered with so many talented country artists of all races and made a space for them. She knew that with her fanbase, she had the opportunity to uplift so many silenced voices, something she did especially well on the song “Blackbird,” a cover of the 1968 Beatles song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
The song was written about Black women during the Civil Rights Movement. That message, coupled with the voices of Beyoncé and four other black, female country artists Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts, and Brittney Spencer, makes for a strong, resonant piece of art.
“I am so happy with @beyonce’s version of my song ‘Blackbird.’ I think she does a magnificent version of it, and it reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place,” McCartney said in an Instagram post.
Zh’ky said it best: “The album shows beauty in telling stories with your voice, with music. It’s not an album for ‘bops,’ it’s an album for art.”

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  • M

    Matthew j.Apr 18, 2024 at 2:57 PM

    She’s a pop star. They keep making it about race but the fact is she’s a pop star. So it’s comparable to rappers getting called our when they live the life they claim to represent. This is more along the lines of garth brooks failed foray into rock with his Chris Gaines character. Being country isn’t just wearing a cowboy hat and singing about Jeans it’s a lifestyle not a costume. One she doesn’t live. As for the music itself it’s more in line with pop country. Beyonce and Beyonce fans don’t get to tell country fans what is and isn’t country.

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  • A

    Alexis CApr 16, 2024 at 2:34 PM

    Very well written, Soleil! Loved the analysis of the “Daddy Lessons” performance at the CMAs.

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