AFP30 March 2024 | 7:48

Welcome to the Beyoncé rodeo: New country album drops to praise

Beyoncé is receiving widespread praise for her genre-bending country album 'Cowboy Carter', which dropped on Friday.

Welcome to the Beyoncé rodeo: New country album drops to praise

Cover art for Beyoncé’s eighth studio album, ‘Cowboy Carter’. Picture: Facebook/Beyonce

NEW YORK - Fans and critics alike are lavishing praise on Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé's rhinestone-studded, history-rich honky tonk of an album that's rising in the charts after Friday's hotly anticipated release.

A rowdy, wide-ranging homage to her southern heritage, the 27-track second act to her Renaissance trilogy is a genre-bending triumph that vaunts Black country culture.

"No one will mistake this sprawling set for ever following a straight path, or having a remotely dull moment," wrote the critic at entertainment trade publication Variety.

"It's almost as if Beyonce was watching some of the evolutionary leaps and hiccups country has been experiencing as it redefines its boundaries - as the music always has - and said, 'Hold my Armand de Brignac. I've got this.'"

"But it's not just a matter of what Beyoncé can do for country music; it's what her concept of country can do for her, in expanding her musical empire and even her already well-honed sense of self. It's a lot."

It's too early to say where Cowboy Carter and its voluminous tracklist will land on the charts, but streaming service Spotify said that as of Friday evening, it was the platform's "most-streamed album in a single day in 2024 so far."

The Houston-born 42-year-old pioneered and mastered the surprise online album drop, but for the first two Renaissance acts, she turned to a more traditional marketing strategy, with calculated promos and deluxe physical editions for purchase.

Her ode to dance Renaissance soared to Billboard's number one spot when it was released in 2022, and Cowboy Carter appears primed for a repeat.

Add in another blockbuster tour like she did for Act I - the "Beyonce bump" literally was blamed for raising Sweden's inflation rate, and bolstered local economies wherever it rolled into town - and Queen Bey will do-si-do straight to the bank.


Cowboy Carter is a full-color display of just how rich music can grow outside dusty strictures of genre.

Beyoncé deftly skewers the critics - Nashville's gatekeepers have long tried to promote a rigid view of country music that's overwhelmingly white and male - lyrically and sonically.

She ushers listeners through country's evolution from African American spirituals and fiddle tunes to its pioneering women, like collaborator Linda Martell, and a vision of its future.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black and South Asian, lauded Beyoncé for "reminding us to never feel confined to other people's perspective of what our lane is. You have redefined a genre and reclaimed country music's Black roots."

But while it delivers a history lesson, Cowboy Carter is at its core a party.

Amid the hoopla, Beyoncé offers touching portraits of motherhood, celebrations of sex and love, and even a murder revenge fantasy.

She also drafted a mix of youthful stars - Miley Cyrus, Post Malone and Tanner Adell included - and old guard icons for her revue, including none other than Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.

"My admiration runs so much deeper now that I've created alongside of her," Cyrus said on social media.

The elders appear on the album in the form of radio hosts of a fictional broadcast, with Nelson telling listeners: "Now for this next tune, I want y'all to sit back, inhale and go to the good place your mind likes to wander off to."

And Parton introduces the album's take on Jolene, drawing parallels between her own original tale of a lover fearing betrayal with Beyoncé's personalized version that calls back to her 2016 track Sorry about her husband Jay-Z's infidelity.

"Hey, Miss Honey B, it's Dolly P," croons Parton in her interlude. "You know, that hussy with the good hair you sang about reminded me of someone I knew back when. Except she has flaming locks of auburn hair. Bless her heart."

"Just a hair of a different colour, but it hurts just the same."

Then there's Ya Ya, a boisterous, psychedelic soul dance mash-up that manages to sample both Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walkin' and The Beach Boys.

And Sweet Honey Buckiin' - which incorporates hip-hop and house with strums on loop - is among the songs that hat-tip to the first act, Renaissance, which celebrated electronica's Black origins and evolution.

In a nutshell, the album is epic, fresh and, potentially, door-opening.

"With this endlessly entertaining project, she gets to be a warrior of female and Black pride and a sweetheart of the radio," wrote Variety.

"Because being Beyoncé means never having to pretend to be just one thing."