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Beyonce at the 2021 Grammy Awards
Beyonce at the 2021 Grammy Awards
Photo by Cliff Lipson / CBS

Cowboy Carter Breaks Barriers in Genre Music

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 Washington chapter.

I may not be a country music fan, but “Cowboy Carter” defied the odds and got me hooked from start to finish. Beyoncé nailed a blend of soul, country, folk, hip-hop, and even opera to truly break barriers in genre music. “Cowboy Carter” interrogates what it means to be a country album. When new country is introduced, debates flood online of what makes a song sound or feel country? With modern country-pop and electronic sounds being replaced from live music, the genre has been shifting for quite a while. Beyoncé embraces the new and the old in her Act II following the 2021 “RENAISSANCE” Album. Earlier this year when we heard “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES”, we could already get a taste that this record would not only break barriers in the genre but also in its audience.

The sound

First off, Beyoncé is one of the most talented vocalists in the industry. This has been known since her days in Destiny’s Child. However, drawing back to her Houston roots, the Queen Bee shows off her range and composition in songs like “16 CARRIAGES”, “DAUGHTER”, “II MOST WANTED”, “AMEN”, and her modified cover of “Jolene”. “Cowboy Carter” utilizes a classic guitar, live percussion, strings, the banjo, and more to give the album a true country feel. With Beyoncé tapping into her southern drawls and pushing the limit on blends from other genres, we really see her soul come to life. This is a true return to your roots album that showcases where Beyoncé has been, what she loves, and where she’s going next. Instead of staying comfortable or appealing to the radio, Cowboy Carter allows the audience to ride along and bend their previously held expectations.

The Features

Beyoncé brings in classics of the genre and up-and-coming stars that allows the listener to escape time into the record. Willie Nelson and beloved Dolly Parton work in intermissions to remind the listener of where this genre came from. In “BLACKBIIRD”, itself a cover of the Beatles’ 1968 song “Blackbird,” Beyoncé includes Black country artists in the industry such as Tanner Adell, Britteny Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. “JOLENE” turns Dolly’s cautious words to an explicit warning. This song brings up the painful reminder of Beyoncé’s past as she opened up about JAY-Z’s cheating scandal on her 2016 album, “Lemonade.” A heartfelt ballad between two child stars, “II MOST WANTED” goes back and forth between the two talented voices of Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé. This one is for sure a windows down, riding into the sunset kind of song. Other artists have been venturing out of their traditional genres into the country seen. Post Malone joins in on “LEVII’S JEANS” another song to add to your ‘sunset drive’ playlist.

My personal favorites

I love Beyoncé. Growing up playing Destiny’s Child in the car and failing to keep up with Queen Bee’s vocals in “Four,” I couldn’t imagine the music industry without her. Her songs vary from personal love ballads, breakups, empowering woman, challenging what it means to be a woman in the workplace, and straight up dance hits.

In Cowboy Carter, I couldn’t help but fall in love with “16 CARRIAGES.” While it was one of the first releases, I still think it holds true with beautiful vocals and a classic guitar drop. Telling the story of Beyoncé’s upbringing in the industry and how it shaped and hurt her, the ballad hits the heart and laid out the vibes going into the full release of the album.

“YA YA” is so fun and such a callback to earlier Beyoncé hits. Currently adding this to any playlist I can walk to class, drive, and run with. Any song that makes me want to get up and buy tickets to the next concert to feel the energy live is a must for me. The incorporation of “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys was such an unexpected and familiar cameo.

Stella Olson

Washington '25

My name is Stella Olson and I am a writer for Her Campus University of Washington. I like to cover things like pop culture, movies, activities in Seattle, and encouragement opinion pieces. Currently, I am a sophomore studying Political Science on a pre-law track. Along with preparation in the pre-law track, I work for UW Intramural Sports. I like to swim and run in my free time. I also enjoy trying new cafes with friends or having a movie marathon over the weekends. You can catch me at all the UW football games, at T-Mobile Park, and with my family watching football on Sunday afternoons.