Saddle up because ‘Yonce is taking over Country. Sort of.

Cowboy Carter led to Beyoncé being the first Black woman to have a number-one country album. Illustration by Gillian Palacios / el Don

Whether it was sitting on my cousin’s bed and watching the Michael Jackson – Number Ones DVD after dinner or listening to Donna Summer’s On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II on the car ride home after a long day at school, music has always been a major part of my life. And one of my absolute favorite things to do is genre hop. 

Still, the one genre I could never, ever hop onto is…country. All that yee-hawin and howdy-ing? Not for me. But then Beyoncé dropped Act ii: Cowboy Carter, a 27-song epic.

I decided, why not listen to the album? And boy…was it a ride. Or should I say…a horse ride.

Her latest masterpiece turns out to be one of my favorite releases of the year. 

In an epic, bold and in-your-face-like manner, Mrs. Knowles Carter let the world know that she will never be the one bound by the limitations present in any genre of music. Even if it is a genre that harshly rejected her during a performance with the Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards.

Cowboy Carter comes as the second installment of Beyoncé’s three-act project recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Act I: Renaissance being an album that explored disco and house music, it’s clear that Beyoncé wanted to tackle genres that she hasn’t traditionally opted for. 

Which is exactly why I loved Cowboy Carter. It was not only far from what you’d expect when you hear the word “country” but also courageous in the sense that when she did sing “traditional” country, she grabbed the bull by its horns and made it her pony. 

Act ii. is essentially an hour and eighteen minutes of Beyoncé absolutely schooling everyone who told her she wasn’t country enough by having yee-haw icons Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson feature in a few of the tracks. While some may see the move to include Dolly in “DOLLY P” and “TYRANT” and Willie in “SMOKE HOUR/II”  as an homage to the work they’ve done within the Country music sphere, I saw it as Beyoncé telling everyone, “Shut up, I got this.” 

I mean, just think of all the keyboard warriors that were ready to fire off some colorful hate comments at our Queen just to hear Willie say, “Sometimes you don’t know what you like, and then someone you trust turns you on to some real good sh*t…you’re welcome.” 

She basically said, if Willie was rocking with her, then so must the rest of us. 

God, I love her. 

Legendary collaborations aside, Beyoncé would’ve done just fine without them. In fact, she technically did. Prior to “SMOKE HOUR II,” she sang 12 of her own country-inspired songs like her voice was going to be stolen the next day. 

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That’s not to say that the collaborations in the album were unnecessary, but rather, Beyoncé proved that she was more than capable of holding her own within the genre with songs like “ALLIGATOR TEARS.” 

Not to mention, she worked wonders with the other featured artists. 

Miley Cyrus and Post Malone? Fire. Shaboozey and Willie Jones? Cooked. Rumi Carter? Ate.  

And that’s not even the best of them. Brittney Spencer, Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts all added to the celestial essence in “BLACKBIIRD” through their background vocals, an ensemble that made me float outside of my body and into the earth’s atmosphere.

While listening to Cowboy Carter could technically be considered a loophole for country haters, I’d like to not only give myself a pat on the back for sitting through all 27 songs but also give Beyoncé a standing ovation for making those 27 songs. After having the entire internet and audience of country enthusiasts go against her for a performance that was more than iconic, she didn’t owe them anything. And yet, she came back and proved everyone wrong, a feat not many artists can say they have done.

Gillian’s Top 3 on Cowboy Carter

  • It was like a kick to the face but in a good way. Beyoncé came out guns blazing, and I was all for it. The melodies she played with were so creative that I couldn’t help but get excited at what was to come. 
  • Hauntingly beautiful. With harmonies that felt like the pearly gates of heaven were left open, I knew I would be changed forever. Not only did she prove why she was named the eighth best vocalist of all time by Rolling Stone, but she gave us yet another song that would immortalize her as one of a kind.
  1. “YA YA”
  • This one was fun from the moment it started. With a sample from “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra, the song immediately takes on a bit of a mischievous tone. It simultaneously works to be an act of resistance by referencing the Chitlin Circuit, which was a collection of venues that was created to serve as a place of acceptance for African-American entertainers amid racial segregation from the 1930s to the 1960s. 

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