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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Listen to the album below!

Image: Blair Caldwell.

Global superstar Beyoncé has graced us with her eight studio album, Cowboy Carter. Leaning into her Houston roots, the country release is a sonic match made in heaven for the singers bewitching vocals.

The record takes a slight conceptual approach, presenting itself as a broadcast on KNTRY Radio Texas - made complete with 'segments' from country music legends Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. Opening with AMERICAN REQUIEM, rich and textural vocal layering leads us into the albums sonic realm - rooted in country-meets- Americana. On the first listen of her cover of The Beatles' Blackbird, MILKY team member Jazmin Pezzano remarks "One sentence of Blackbird and I'm crying hey." Beyoncé's mesmerising vocals float above the songs iconic guitar melodies, breathing new life into the iconic track. TEXAS HOLD 'EM is built upon a driving beat and lively Americana band sonics, with the singers charming Texan accent shining through, whilst 16 CARRIAGES offers a more atmospheric ballad approach.

Laced with a number of shorter tracks, serving as interludes within the 27 song release. MY ROSE is a lush and layered offering, whilst SMOKE HOUR WILLIE NELSON features audio recordings of the acclaimed country singer, guitarist and songwriter. DOLLY P features a message from beloved country legend Dolly Parton, who shouts out "Miss Honey B" - a name given to Beyoncé in the visual for her 2009 collaboration with Lady Gaga, Telephone. The superstar puts her own spin on Dolly Parton's iconic track JOLENE, penning new lyrics that serve as a warning to the mysterious 'Jolene' to stay away from her man.

"They keep sayin' that ain't nothin' like my father. But I'm the furthest thing from choir boys and alters. If you cross me, I'm just like my father. I am colder than Titanic water" she sings on DAUGHTER, which highlights the lower brooding tones of her vocals that ooze with character before reaching new heights in the songs climax. On II MOST WANTED a heavenly collaboration is born. Beyoncé has teamed up with the record shattering hitmaker, Miley Cyrus. What may seem like an unlikely pairing proves to be one of the albums standout moments. Cyrus' inimitable raspy tone and Beyoncé's honeyed vocals effortlessly intertwine to create one of the strongest musical pairings in recent years.  It's is a song for all the 'ride or dies,' be that with the love of your life or the Thelma to your Louise. Cyrus has previously dabbled with her own country roots on 2017's Younger Now, and has famously showcased her versatility by effortlessly shifting between genres across her discography.

Beyoncé has stated the record was "born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed... But, because of that experience I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive." The opening line of SPAGHETTI rings, "Genres are a funny little concept aren't they?" The track harks back to Formation and serves as the albums most hip-hop leaning track and asserts Beyoncé's proven versatility as an artist who can cross genres to create a spellbinding body of work.

The singer taps beloved musician, Post Malone, on LEVII'S JEANS. The seductive cut is made for all the lust-driven lovers and serves as another perfect collaboration for COWBOY CARTER - made complete with a shoutout to Beyoncé's seventh studio album, RENAISSANCE. Linda Martell introduces the genre-bending YA YA, which samples Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walkin' and The Beach Boys Good Vibrations. It's a listening experience, words cannot do YA YA justice. DESERT EAGLE is built upon a funky bass line, whilst RIIVERDANCE brings traditional country guitar work. The album closes with AMEN, which in itself is a spiritual moment.

COWBOY CARTER is a masterclass. Across the body of work, Beyoncé explores the Black roots of a previously unexplored genre for the singer - in turn reclaiming it and its history whilst ushering in a new era that subverts the contemporary expectations of country music. In the short time since the albums announcement, there’s been a significant increase in how coloured country artists’ music has been embraced. Artists such as Linda Martell, Reyna Roberts and Tanner Adell have all had a boost in streams in excess of 100%, and has opened new doors for Black artists to be heard more on Country music radio stations - following uproar when an Oklahoma-based station denied a request to play TEXAS HOLD EM’.

Furthermore, Beyoncé’s vocals have never sounded more at home. The album showcases not only her range, but the shades of her tone. From the soothing low notes, to soaring high notes, there’s a quality to her vocals that feels reinvigorated, as if the excitement of exploring this musical terrain is deeply rooted within each note whilst still retaining subtlety. Her heart and soul are the true stars of COWBOY CARTER.

Listen to COWBOY CARTER below.


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