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Album Review: Beyoncé – Cowboy Carter

4 min read
Beyoncé releases the second part of her Renaissance trilogy project, Cowboy Carter and R4S's Graeme gives it a spin....

COWBOY CARTER - MAIN COVER ART PHOTOGRAPHER: BLAIR CALDWELL GLAM: HAIR: NAKIA MAKE-UP: ROKEAL NAILS: MIHO STYLING: LATEX STARS AND STRIPES: BUSTED BRAND (HTTPS://BUSTEDBRAND.COM) BOOTS: PARIS TEXAS (HTTPS://PARISTEXASBRAND.COM) COWBOY HAT: STETSON (HTTPS://STETSON.COM) STYLIST / COSTUME DESIGNER: SHIONA TURINI WARDROBE SUPERVISOR: RYAN DODSON MASTER TAILOR: TIMOTHY WHITE ASSISTANT COSTUME DESIGNERS: TARA GREVILLE MOLLY PETERS ERICA RICE FASHION ASSISTANT: JAIIN KANG PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS: TIANA DALEY HOLLY REBOFF LARISSA VASSOLAS SCARLET DUNBAR TOMMY PETRONI MARIAH ALCANTAR

Does she really need any kind of intro?  No, absolutely not!  Beyoncé releases the second part of her Renaissance trilogy project, Cowboy Carter through Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records, seeing the global superstar and Texan native release her first country focussed album.  Part inspired by her upbringing in the Lone Star State, the icon also used criticisms from an appearance at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards, where it was made clear from some quarters that she was not welcome in country music, to fuel the fires of inspiration.  Queen B decided she had a little something to say on the matter … well I say ‘a little something’, the album is 27 tracks deep and almost 80 minutes long, so more like a lotta something!

Starting off on a churchy, gospel vibe, Ameriican Requiem is a stripped back, sermon-like track, with choral harmonies and country undertones to this muted opener.  This is followed Blackbiird, a cover of the Beatles classic… which is fine – but in the post-pop idol era it just sounds like a fantastic audition for the show – I might be being a tad harsh, but if you enjoy this, I implore you to listen to the original.  16 Carriages discusses the pains and trauma of Beyoncé’s mid-teens as she moved away from her home to pursue stardom, whilst Protector (with a cameo from Beyoncé’s daughter, Rumi Carter) is the first true country track of the album, and acts a lullaby of sorts.  Short acoustic track My Rose harmonises itself through to the following track, tuning through radio stations and cuts of country tracks that is Smoke Hour / Willie Nelson, which, in turn, acts as a signal that Beyoncé is about to go full country in the album, and she kicks off with a bang with first single of the album, Texas Hold ‘Em.  This pop-country hit has been a huge success on the singles charts, and is followed by Bodyguard, which has a Sheryl Crow (who in herself is of a country background) vibe to it, and is more pop than country, but an incredibly moreish track.

Dolly Parton in Dolly P, provides a preamble to Beyoncé’s cover of classic hit Jolene, of which Ms. Parton has asked for on multiple occasions – And it’s another true to original cover, with a few minor tweaks to the lyrics and the melody to modernise/personalise the track.  Spanish guitars and (possible or possibly not) hypothetical storytelling of revenge for transgressions Daughter, while Spaghettii is thematically detached from the flow of the album, a heavy beat rap track which honestly feels out of place, especially given Alliigator Tears returns to guitar led, country tracks – and it’s a good one too!  We then have a slew of ‘featuring’ tracks, with Smoke Hour II (Willie Nelson), Just for Fun (Willie Jones), II Most Wanted (Miley Cyrus) and Levii’s Jeans (Post Malone), the former acting as the second country radio intro to three slow, stripped back country tracks, the pick of which being the latter, which was unexpectedly good (given I don’t think of country when I think of Post Malone) and could be a genuine country hit if released.

A return to a Hispanic impression with Flamenco gives us an enjoyable track, with The Linda Martell Show acting as a spoken divider to 1960’s inspired Ya Ya, which heavily leans on Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.  Minute filler tracks Oh Louisiana and Desert Eagle offer little musically, but lead to Riiverdance, which is like more what I would consider a classic Beyoncé R’n’B track, and not a Michael Flatley in sight!!  The theme of Guitar led RnB tracks continue through to II Hands II Heaven and Tyrant – the former lacking any real depth or progression in that it doesn’t really go anywhere, the latter being a really good progression through the track, and could easily be a hit if released.  Penultimate track Sweet / Honey / Buckiin’ is an interesting mash up between R’n’B, Rap (from artist Shaboozey) and Country.  It is an interesting meld of genres, and whilst I don’t love it, I don’t hate it (I didn’t skip the track halfway through, put it like that), and rounding off the album is Amen, which ends the album as it began somewhat – a gospel feeling, with Beyoncé asking for forgiveness.

Cowboy Carter is an album that had me listening attentively.  I loved the Beyoncé take on Country, and thought it was really working.  However, the out of place Spaghettii broke the spell – it was such an oddball track in terms of placement on the album.  I thought putting that and the tracks from Ya Ya onwards (with the exception of Amen which was a great track to round off the album) wasn’t necessary, and actually did the album no favours in standing up as a credible country crossover album.  This could have been a superb fifty minute Beyoncé take on country, rather than an eighty minute jumble of tracks that don’t all work harmoniously on the same album – and that is a huge opportunity missed, and a huge shame.