Shaboozey, Blackbird Cover and More


“They don’t, don’t know how hard I had to fight for this,” sings Beyoncé on “Ameriican Requiem,” the harmony-laden opener on her eighth album “Cowboy Carter.” Anyone keyed into the promotional cycle leading up to its release knows this well.

A few weeks back, Beyoncé revealed that she came up with the concept for the album, the second in her three-act project that kicked off with 2022’s “Renaissance,” after experiencing an incident where she did not feel “welcomed.” She was likely referring to a performance she gave at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards alongside the Dixie Chicks (as they were then known), which was met with blowback on social media for giving her the spotlight at a country event.

But Beyoncé used the experience as inspiration for “Carter,” which she began working on five years ago. Now, after releasing the singles “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” in early February, she’s finally unveiled the sprawling 27-track project, a country — or in her words, a Beyoncé — album that toys with the conventions of what country can be and infusing it with tropes and signifiers from other genres. At a hearty 80 minutes, “Carter” is a rebuttal to anyone who doubted that Beyoncé belonged in country music; instead, it retrofits country to Beyoncé, bending and stretching what listeners would expect in a contemporary country album, especially from Beyoncé.

To color in the lines, Beyoncé assembles a coterie of artists across “Carter,” spanning country titans to up-and-comers. The marquee appearances materialize as duets and interludes. Post Malone nabs the first of two high-profile features this year on “Levii’s Jeans” (he’s slated to guest on Taylor Swift’s upcoming album “The Tortured Poets Department,” releasing April 19), while Miley Cyrus lends her vocals to the powerful collab “II Most Wanted.”

“Carter” pays homage to country legends by tapping them for a few cameos on interludes and tracks. Dolly Parton, whose 1973 classic “Jolene” gets revamped with new, fiery lyrics, contributes to an interlude entitled “Dolly P” and the opening moments of “Tyrant.” Willie Nelson has old country radio-style appearances on a pair of “Smoke Hour” tracks, while Linda Martell, a foundational Black country artist, gets her own shine with “The Linda Martell Show.” She also appears on “Spaghettii,” referencing the controversy surrounding “Carter” and its designation as a country album when it was announced.

“Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?” says Martell. “Yes they are. In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand. But in practice, well, some may feel confined.”

Beyoncé also makes it a family affair on “Carter.” Her six-year-old daughter, Rumi Carter, can be heard at the start of “Protector,” where she says, “Mom, can I hear the lullaby please?” What follows is a deeply resonant ode to her children, and a touching one at that: “I will lead you down that road if you lose your way / Born to be a protector,” she sings on the chorus. Beyoncé has previously shown love on record to her other daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, who at nine years old became the second-youngest artist to win a Grammy award for her appearance on 2019’s “Brown Skin Girl.”

Beyoncé also centers the spotlight on some newer Black country artists on “Carter.” Tanner Adell stars alongside Beyoncé on a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” (retitled “Blackbiird,” with two “i”‘s like many of the songs on the album to signify that it’s the second installment of the Renaissance project). Additional credited artists on “Blackbiird” include Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts. Adell is best known as a country star with a strong social media following who released her debut album “Buckle Bunny” last July. Her inclusion is notable: In February, shortly after Beyoncé dropped the first two singles from the album, Adell tweeted that she wanted to be considered for a guest appearance on the set.

“As one of the only black girls in country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic for a collab,” she wrote. It seems as though her wish came true.

Alt-country artist Shaboozey stops by for “Spaghettii,” one of the harder hip-hop inflections of “Carter,” which samples the DJ Dedé Mandrake’s Brazilian Funk song “Aquecimento – Vem Vem Vai Vai.” He also features on “Sweet Honey Buckiin’.” A Virginia native, the 28-year-old has released a pair of albums — 2018’s “Lady Wrangler” and 2022’s “Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die” — though his most popular song was a collab with Duckwrth entitled “Start a Riot” that was featured on the 2018 soundtrack for “Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Beyoncé taps Willie Jones for “Ya Ya,” an eclectic blend of bluegrass, Americana and, of course, a very prominent sample of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” It’s unclear where exactly Jones fits into the sonic palette of “Ya Ya,” but the spirit of the tune echoes the Shreveport, La.’s most recent album “Something to Dance To,” which released last June.

The samples don’t start and end with Sinatra on “Ya Ya,” as there are plenty of references and interpolations across “Carter.” On that same track, Beyoncé sings a bit from the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” A sped-up version of what appears to be Chuck Berry’s 1971 song “Oh Louisiana” appears on an interlude of the same name. It’s one of two Berry paeans: On “Smoke Hour – Willie Nelson,” a radio dial scrolls through snippets of songs including Berry’s “Maybellene,” Roy Hamilton’s “Don’t Let Go” and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Down by the River Side.” Beyoncé has two covers — the aforementioned “Jolene” and “Blackbiird” — and on “II Most Wanted,” a purported interpolation of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

There’s a lot to sort through on “Carter,” a record with ambitions as big as its accomplishments. But Beyoncé has managed to bring country into her own world, assembling a crew of musicians to execute her vision along the way.



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