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Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ is here! A track-by-track review

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Released March 29th 2024, Cowboy Carter is stated as Beyoncé’s eighth studio album and the second act of her three-act project, following “RENAISSANCE”, her 2022 dance and house album.

With 26 years in the music industry, she made herself known as one of the 2000’s pop icons. However, whenever she can, she can show how multifaceted she is, and this project is a clear example of that. With act one being a more electronic album, in act two she is taking back her southern roots, showing the importance of black history in the south of the United States. 

The album was announced with “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES” as the lead singles, both being released on February 11th of 2024. In this act, she made history in the country genre, being the first black woman to top Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart with “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM”.

Nonetheless, in this one she was able to explore more than just one genre, making it clear how she planned this act flawlessly and how much she was involved in it. Being credited as a co-writer in almost every song and the co-producer of 24 songs out of the total 27 tracks. There couldn’t have been a better definition of this album than Beyoncé herself wrote in an Instagram post: “This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album”. 


This ballad is a perfect opening one. Even though it’s a relatively short track, the melodies and choirs are impactful. With acoustic guitars, drums, and synthesizers that simulate a zither, it makes room for Beyoncé to show how powerful her voice can be and set the pace for “COWBOY CARTER”.

Showing how not only her story, but black people’s history in the South, is important and a huge part of the United States. Dealing with topics such as prejudice she was held against in the industry. With it being shown in the lyrics “They used to say I spoke, ‘Too country’/ And the rejection came, said I wasn’t ‘country ‘nough”.


When some rumors started circulating that the album would have a Beatles cover many fans were mainly confused, as to what Beyoncé and The Beatles have in common. And the answer is actually pretty simple. Paul Mccartney’s Blackbird was mainly inspired by two black women, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, members of the Little Rock Nine, a group who faced discrimination and suffered the impact of segregation after entering an all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957. 

Written in 1968, “Blackbird” is inspired by these women and the ongoing civil rights movement, with the song being a symbol of the struggle black people were suffering in the United States. Understanding this story one concludes that there couldn’t have been a more fitting cover than Beyoncé with other four black women singers, and their striking harmony, to embody the true meaning of this song. 

In addition, Mccartney wrote in an Instagram post “I think she does a magnificent version of it and it reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place.”


It is an acoustic sound that starts this epic ballad, with only her voice, a guitar, and what seems like feet stomping on the ground. The song grows sweetly, slowly adding electric guitars, and piano and doubling her voice in the chorus, so it makes an impactful effect compared to the beginning.

The lyrics are focused on how her entire life she worked hard and always needed to leave her fears behind to move forward: “16 carriages drivin’ away / While I watch them ride with my fears away”.  


“PROTECTOR” is a heartwarming ballad where in the first seconds of the song you can hear Rumi Carter, Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s second daughter, saying in the beginning “Mom, can I hear the lullaby?/ Please?”. This sweet voice recording is followed by emotional lyrics that sound like Bey talking to her daughter:”And even though I know someday you’re gonna shine on your own / I will be your protector“. 

In this track, she shows her mother’s side, one that she always talks about proudly. Being the mother of three children, she has spoken about how raising kids and being present for them can be as stressful as rewarding. And she opens this space, in this very intimate track, to talk about the lasting love for them. 


In this short, but extremely endearing track, with only 53 seconds, she talks to someone dear to her, but this person doesn’t seem to love themselves.

Comparing them to roses and their flaws as thorns she states: “So many roses but none to be picked without thorns/ So be found of your flaws, dear”, she explains how no one is flawless but that’s what makes them perfect. With a beautiful choir, it is noticeable how she recorded her voice in different tones so the harmonies are made by herself, giving an intimate warm tone to the track.


In this interesting track, there is no particular song. In the first half it sounds like someone is changing radio stations until it stops and the iconic voice of the country legend Willie Nelson starts talking, as he is a host of a country station in Texas. In the lyrics, he says: “Welcome to ‘The Smoke Hour’ on KNTRY Radio Texas/ You know my name, no need to know yours’ ‘.


In one of the album’s singles, the banjo in the beginning brings the country most known to many. The term “Texas hold ‘em” is a variant of the card game poker, where she is alluding to the listener to stop playing games and bluffing with her, because it is time to speak the truth.

This ain’t Texas/ Ain’t no hold ‘em / So lay your cards down”, she sings. Overall this is a pretty romantic song where she is simply asking her lover to “stick around” and how she would be damned if they couldn’t dance together. 


In this more relaxed and chilled tune, she presents a love letter. In it, she declares to her lover that, even though they have been hurt, now it’s a happy time. In the lyrics “Honey, honey/ I could be your bodyguard” and “I protect you in the mosh pit”, she is taking the role of the protector of their relationship, in any difficult times they may face.


“DOLLY P” is a sweet voice recording of the legend Dolly Parton to Bey, where she states that “that hussy with good hair” reminded her of someone with “flaming locks of auburn hair”, making a reference to the line “Becky with the good hair” in the outro of Bey’s song “Sorry” and to her lyrics in “Jolene”: “Your beauty is beyond compare/ With flaming locks of auburn hair”. 

In this voice memo, Dolly makes a comparison of both songs allegedly being inspired by cheating in their respective relationships. With this being clear in the end, when she states “Just a hair of different color but it hurts just the same”. 


In this cover of the classic song “Jolene”, Bey keeps the same tempo except in the last minute of the song, where she adds a choir throughout the end. What differentiates the original from this version is certainly the changes in the lyrics and how it changed the tone of the song. 

Dolly’s version shows how scared she feels that this woman could possibly come and get her husband so she says: “I’m beggin’ of you, please don’t take my man”. While in Bey’s version, she adds a more threatening tone: “I’m warnin’ you, don’t come for my man”. 

With “Jolene” being a cover of the album, many speculated that some lyrics could allude to the alleged cheating in Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s relationship, in lyrics such as “I raised that man, I raised his kids”. In the end, she concludes with the message that even if this woman wanted to destroy their relationship, she couldn’t: “I’ma stand by him, he gon’ stand by me, Jolene”.


In this ballad filled with catholic symbols, she brings heavy influences of Latin sounds, with guitars and piano similar to Italian songs. In an almost warning way, she talks about how if someone crosses her, she can be ruthless just like her father. She describes it as being someone cold as “Titanic water”, willing to do something bad as revenge. 

With lyrics such as “Help me, Lord, from these fantasies in my head/ They ain’t ever been safe ones” and the chorus “They keep sayin’ that I ain’t nothing like my father/ But I’m the furthest thing from choir boys and altars”. As a bridge she sings in Italian a popular aria called “Caro Mio Ben ”, written by the composer Tommaso Giordano, showing once more she is more than just a pop singer. 


This is certainly the most different song from an album that people expected it to be labeled as “country”. From the beginning of it, you can hear Linda Martell, the first African-American country artist to gain commercial success, talking about how genres are a “funny little concept”. Even though it is simple to define them, these definitions may lead some people to feel “confined”. 

When the rhythm and the lyrics start, Beyoncé challenges the listener to label this track as just one genre. Featuring Shaboozey, a Nigerian-American artist, they created a hip-hop song with a sample from a Brazilian funk called “Aquecimento das Danadas” by the producer DJ O Mandrake featuring DJ Xaropinho. In this track, she shows how creativity in music should push boundaries to go forward. 

With the song title possibly leading to the same discourse, “SPAGHETTI” may allude to “Spaghetti Westerns”, movies made in Italy, but portraying Western America, serving as an example of the mixture in art, just like COWBOY CARTER.  


On the thirteenth track, the classic country sound of the instruments is more present. With a soothing voice, she explores the topic of manipulation and vulnerability in a relationship, bringing the term “alligator tears”, meaning the fake tears of someone trying to manipulate a situation.

In the lyrics, she talks about how she will do anything this person asks: “You say move a mountain/ And I’ll throw on my boots”. And how even doing all their demands they still took everything from her: “Squeeze every ounce of love from my body”. 


Once again, Willie Nelson voices the radio station host. In the message he says how sometimes you only appreciate great things when someone you trust “turns you on”, and this couldn’t be a clearer message. With Beyoncé doing a “country” album, many people got mad or didn’t quite understand the apparent shift in genres. So with this memo Willie is saying how great this album truly is, due to him being a household name in the country genre he is for most people “someone you trust”.


“JUST FOR FUN” starts with a melancholic tone, only voice, and a piano, with a choir being added later. In this song, Willie Jones, a more recent country star, is featured.

Throughout the melody, they reflect about how you can have a marvelous time while passing through some tough things in your life. In the lyrics it is stated they go out tonight “just for fun” and to enjoy, because they know “time heals everything” and how they “need to get through this”. 


Coming again with a very stereotypical country sound, giving it a great mix up with similar chord progression to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, couldn’t have had a better choice than Miley Cyrus for this song. Not only do their voices fit perfectly together, but she is also the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, one of the country legends of the 80’s, with his career being represented with Miley featured in this song.

This track follows a romantic relationship with very tender lyrics, for example: “Didn’t know what I want ‘till I saw your face” and “I’ll go wherever you take me, seems kinda crazy”. 


In this slower pop song, she brings a more lighter tone to the tracklist, compared to other deeper lyrics in this same album. “LEVII’S JEANS” brings a fun ballad to give balance to the tracks, where she talks about how she loves the person so much that she wishes they could spend all day long together, being exemplified by the lyrics “I love you down to the bone”. Post Malone is featured on this song and gives the perfect match, bringing some fresh energy to the track.


The striking harmonies are once again present at the beginning of this quick song. With a slower pace, the latin melodies are presented with the sound of an acoustic guitar and a violin. In the lyrics she seems to be asking her lover to appreciate what they have because it may not be forever lasting: “I hope you know once it’s over/ And take what you love, so hold me closer/ Realize that you don’t know what you got until it’s gone”. 


This voice recording is pretty similar to Willie and Dolly’s ones. The singer Linda Martell, a black woman and pioneer of the country genre, presents the next track: “This particular tune stretches across a range of genres/ And that’s what makes it a unique listening experience.” The recording makes it sound as if she is in a theater and after she presents it, there is a crowd clapping. 


If you love the 2018 Beychella energy, you’re probably going to love “YA YA”. With loads of drums, claps, horns, guitars, and backing vocals, Beyoncé is able once again to create an extremely fun song to dance while talking about black history in the USA.

Setting the tone with a sample from Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walking” and interpolation from Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”, she alludes to a time when segregation was legal in America. The overall musicality of this song is easy to associate with Little Richard‘s, very energetic and fun to listen to.

Being a song to celebrate black artists who were brave and pushed the boundaries of music, in the very beginning she mentions the rodeo “Chitlin Circuit”, which was when venues in the segregated south of the USA, where black artists could perform creating a safe space for their art. While having an exciting energy, it still presents a political tone with lyrics like “keep the faith” while facing the harsh reality. 


In this one she presents Chuck Berry’s “Oh Louisiana”, from 1971, with some differences. Chuck’s song has a slow pace and represents the mix of blues and country in the south, while Bey’s version is way shorter, cutting a 4-minute song to 52 seconds. Even though her voice is distorted and the cover extremely fast, it was a fun way to bring Chuck Berry, one of the rock precursors, and mix it up to make it sound more recent. 


Presenting some distorted guitars, in this 1 minute and 12 seconds, with a funky beat and a soft voice she talks about loving her partner. Using double-meaning verses to express the strong desire she holds for her partner, she talks about the “Do-si-do”, a square dance move where two partners hold arms and go in a circle.


While speaking about how in her relationship there was ups and downs, in “RIIVERDANCE” she brought a more classic country sound mixed with a pop rhythm and a bit of Irish jig.

In the title, she is alluding to the Irish step dance called Riverdance, where the dancers need to step fast with their arms kept to the side of their body. In the lyrics, she states: “We fight but we must make amends/ Arrest me and read my rights/ I plan to steal your heart again”. 


II HANDS II HEAVEN is a classic pop song. Being on the slower side, the volume of the percussion is quite low causing more focus on Bey’s voice, making it the main character. Having backing vocals that get louder throughout the track, she is talking about a love story.

Some of the lyrics are “In the Arizona heat, summer fling saw your best side” and “Baby, I have been waitin’ my whole life for you, and I”. 


Having once again a blend of music genres, with the hip-hop rhythm mixed with the country violin, a more complex narrative is presented. There is a woman talking while confronting this character who took something precious from her, “hangman”. With this talk, however, she is taking back the power: “Hangman, answer me now”. 


Featuring on this track comes again Shaboozey, but also Pharell Williams. In the beginning, we can hear her doing a cover of the song “I Fall To Pieces” by Patsy Cline, one of the first country singers to transition to pop.

The overall message is to never give up no matter what people say, you can listen to lyrics such as: “This ain’t Clabassas, we don’t need highways/ We can take backroads” and “And I’m still goin’ up like a ladder”. 


On the last track, it is shown how “COWBOY CARTER” is a full cycle. In this strong ballad, with pianos, synthesizers and a choir almost church-like, it is undeniable the similarity with “AMERICAN REQUIIEM”, at the beginning of the album. In the first she states “Can you hear me?/ I said, ‘Do you hear me”, and in “AMEN” she finishes the first verse with “Tell me, can you hear me now?


The article above was edited by Anna Maria Prado .

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Ana Carolina Rutkoski

Casper Libero '26

Oie! Sou Ana, estudante de jornalismo da Cásper :) Amo ler, escrever e falar sobre música!