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Change The Record: Beyoncé – Cowboy Carter

I have been waiting a long time to cover this one. I meant to do it two reviews ago, but decided to get Ariana out of the way first. Then Taylor dropped, and I simply had too much bile within me to resist dumping on that album, but now we’re here, finally, and folks, after two reviews of dispassionate apathy and dispassionate ridicule, it feels good to finally cover another album I can say without qualification, is good.

Beyoncé is an artist with more hype around her than the Olympics or nuclear fallout, so any album she releases these days would get press coverage to rival the death of Princess Diana. However, there were a few specific things about this album that put a lot of eyes on its announcement. First off, it was the follow-up to 2022’s Renaissance, to me, her best album ever, with its impressive and sexy combinations of House, RnB, and Pop, with tight, strong grooves and powerful performances. Secondly, this album was announced very soon right after the Super Bowl, immediately overshadowing the game itself, as what always seems to happen these days. Thirdly, and most importantly, the announcement that this would be a genre switch-up from her last album, with it being announced as Beyoncé’s “Country album,” was a prospect that brought many a nervous smile to my face. Beyoncé’s a great artist, but Country seemed like a genre out of her wheelhouse, and it also runs the risk of getting caught up in the massive wave of the 9000 other country songs and albums getting released these days. Nonetheless, I was interested in listening to the album, and now that I have, I can officially say it mostly worked out, with emphasis on mostly.

The first thing we should get out of the way is the big pressing question, “is this actually a Country album?” and the answer is not really, or at least not as much as it wants to be. It’s clear Beyoncé has a love for the genre and the artists therein, getting features from Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton to do these strange interludes at different points in the record. Still, none of that equals the album itself being Country; Big Time Rush aren’t Hip Hop artists just because they featured Snoop Dogg on a song. The album certainly flirts with country stylings, and yeah, it certainly makes sure to have acoustic guitars throughout while referencing Texas and horses, but that’s about as Country as a cowboy hat sticker on a license plate. To be honest, though, none of this genre discourse matters if the music is good, and the music here for the most part is.

The album starts with its best foot forward with “Ameriican Requiem,” a bombastic intro with a powerful instrumental and Beyoncé singing her ass off as best she can, as she muses about her country’s upbringing and the unchanging landscape of American racism. This is bizarrely followed up by a cover of “Blackbird,” by The Beatles. While a great song, and Beyoncé certainly does it justice, it feels like a very strange change of mood from the opener and I wouldn’t say it’s a standout, it just doesn’t have the same power as much of the rest of the album. This does transition well into the next two tracks “16 Carriages,” and “Protector,” which effectively mix her soft and sultry vocals with the pomp and ceremony expected of an album this A-list. The chorus on “16 Carriages” especially explodes into this cathartic yell with the most powerful drums you’ll ever hear. Both are absolute highlights on the album. 

Unfortunately, an album this big can’t really go without some duds during its runtime, and after two short interludes we hit our first one with, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” a song that just feels too commercial for me. By commercial I mean it literally sounds like it’d be used in a car commercial, with those “wooo” adlibs in the background and the very generic chorus and lyrics that don’t really mean anything beyond sounding good on a dance floor. Thankfully, this is followed up by “Bodyguard,” which is another highlight, with great and punchy guitar playing and Beyoncé giving a smooth and infectious vocal performance with the layered vocal effects adding so much to it. Things then take another weird turn, with another cover, this time “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Jolene just might be the most obvious choice of song to cover for something like this, but hey, it makes more sense than “Blackbird” at least. As for how it sounds though, it’s kind of “just good,” being a very serviceable cover of a classic, with at least some spin on it, being more loud and proud overall, and having some nice subtext with Beyonce’s own experiences with cheating husbands and mistresses.

As I reach this point in the review, I’m starting to realize how unfeasible it is to cover an album with 27 songs track by track, which works into one of my big criticisms of the album. It feels bloated, and I’m not entirely sure we really needed all 27 songs of the album, even ignoring the guest interludes and minute-long excursions. Some tracks like “Alliigator Tears,” or “Just For Fun,” don’t stick with me that hard despite being solid tracks on their own. Then other tracks like “Spaghetti,” and “Sweet Honey Buckin,” kind of just confuse me more than anything, even if Beyoncé does go hard as hell on the former track. The album especially feels like it’s dragging in the back half with a somewhat excessive amount of those minute-long interlude tracks that are as substantial as the Green Party is to general American politics. That’s not to say the second half is bad though, in fact, it has probably my favorite song on the album, “II Hands II Heaven,” an amazing five-minute experience of a track with lovely pattering drums and some of Beyoncé’s most emotionally charged vocal performances of her career hats, just charged with so much beauty.

Once again, the track is followed bizarrely by a total tone switch with “Tyrant,” which is more of a self-confident boss-bitch kind of track. It does sting with some nice dark reflections in the second part of the track that gives it nice depth, the song unfortunately does flow awkwardly to me still, and it’s not one of the more memorable numbers overall. For other highlights on the album, “Daughter,” is probably the most emotional song on it, playing as a wonderful dark western with ruminations on her own generational emotions with probably the most authentically Country instrumental palette on the album. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, “Ya Ya” is just a lot of fun, with this bouncy and excitable drum track and the extremely easygoing guitar riffs throughout the track, wonderfully punctuated with the giddy “Ya Ya Ya Yas” throughout the track. “Riiverdance” is another fantastic highlight, feeling like a combination of the guitars and rustic palette of this record with the bouncy infectious danciness of Renaissance, with a chorus that owes my head about a month’s worth of rent money. The ending of the track feels freeing and cathartic. The album’s closer “Amen,” is a solid enough way to finish everything off, with the beautiful angelic vocals you’d expect of a song named that, probably not a song I’d listen to outside of the context of the album, but it’s certainly a nice way to close things out.

I think as I wrote this review, I realized I respect this album more than I specifically like it. There is too much bloat, and some of the musical ideas don’t really work out, but y’know what? Respect is good enough for me. It’s clear that in this stagnating and indistinct industry, she is still pushing boundaries and experimenting far beyond most other mainstream artists, and that’s something I find truly laudable. All this rings especially true after trudging through Taylor and Ariana’s processed music sludge and no amount of genre arguments can take away from just how damn unique this album is. I apologize for the lateness of this review by the way, I got caught up with a lot of personal stuff. But hey, at least that gave you more time to find my address and construct a proper pipe bomb, so we can say it all worked out in the end.


Kate Megathlin

Hello there stranger, this is Kate Megathlin, writer for weekly music reviews for the Seattle Collegian, here to assert how much more important her opinions are than yours. She is a Seattle Central student with a major love of music and music culture, and every week she’ll try to deliver reviews of new albums coming out, if you want to recommend albums for her to review, email her at

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