Beyonce
Cowboy Carter


2.5
average

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
April 3rd, 2024 | 206 replies


Release Date: 03/29/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: cowboy cosplay

Let’s briefly look back at the absolute firestorm that broke out when Lil Nas X released “Old Town Road”. Despite the song’s utter commercial dominance and cultural impact, it also became the subject of a major controversy: being expelled from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for – in their words – "not [embracing] enough elements of today's country music". And while this may seem like a minor blip in X’s career today, the discourse back in 2019 was extensive. The backlash against Billboard sparked a lengthy discussion about the inclusion of non-white artists in country music, as well as what actually constitutes “country” in the first place.

But “Old Town Road” is far from the first instance of this happening. In fact, you only need to look back to 2016 for another example: Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons”, featuring The [formerly Dixie] Chicks. And much like “Old Town Road”, it caused quite the uproar when it was released – to the point that the Recording Academy outright refused to classify it as country at all. Then there was the CMA Awards performance of the song, which prompted even more pushback from industry veterans. Unfortunately, I don’t think this debate will end any time soon; as long as Nashville continues to gatekeep and genre traditionalists continue to whine, outsiders will struggle for the sweet taste of credibility. But that doesn’t mean Beyoncé has given up. Just check out Cowboy Carter – the second album in her Trilogy project – for proof of that.

Eight years later, Queen Bey has finally returned to the world of country music – this time on a much grander scale. And say what you want about the previous accusations regarding her authenticity, but her interest in the genre isn’t as strange as you’d think. She was exposed to a wide range of country and zydeco during her upbringing in Houston, influences she was eager to integrate into this new record. And for what it’s worth, “16 Carriages” was an extremely promising lead-off single: a slow-burning, gospel-tinged cross between country and R&B with a flair for the dramatic. Unfortunately, the other lead-off single “Texas Hold ‘Em” took a much less effective approach to this new sound, being a hokey, cliche-ridden piece of folk-pop fluff.

These songs perfectly illustrate how inconsistent Cowboy Carter is, in both style and substance. For every track that comes off as well-executed or faithful to the record’s purported western tone, there’s another that derails the entire mood and takes you out of the experience. Hell, just take a gander at the opening salvo! “Ameriican Requiem” begins the record in glorious fashion, a sweeping ballad awash with rich harmonies and hypnotic sitar work. Maybe the vocal histrionics get a bit over-the-top, but they certainly don’t hinder the experience. And then? All of this immediately goes out the window with the cover of “Blackbird”. The original Beatles track gets lazily sampled in its entirety, and with the exception of some soulful vocal harmonies, Bey brings nothing new or unique to her rendition. This is the first of many filler songs that belong on the cutting room floor.

After all, this thing is 79 minutes long! And boy, does it not need to be. While there are some interludes that help break up the pace – including a few “radio”-style guest appearances from Willie Nelson! – they don’t do much to mitigate the album’s bloat and excess. And by the time we get to the middle section of Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé starts deviating from the “cowboy” part entirely for some truly strange detours. There are a few decent, if inoffensive cuts like “Bodyguard” and the cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”; and then… there’s “Spaghettii”. What was she thinking with this one? It’s the most generic braggadocious hip-hop song you can imagine, and has absolutely no bearing on the record’s themes whatsoever. It doesn’t have any place on this tracklist, and doesn’t exactly work as a standalone track either.

It’s a shame that Cowboy Carter drowns in all of this overindulgence, because it distracts from the true gems on offer here. Without a doubt, the biggest highlight (aside from “16 Carriages) is “II Most Wanted” – a lovely acoustic ballad that benefits from the vocal chemistry between Bey and Miley Cyrus. This is a duet in the most balanced sense of the word; the two constantly trade off lines, harmonize beautifully, and conjure images of an old Wild West partnership with their lyrics. Then there’s the somber, contemplative “Just for Fun”, whose slow guitar and dreamy strings give off that “riding into the sunset” vibe that caps off many classic Western movies. These tracks demonstrate the potential Cowboy Carter had, and what it could have been if Beyoncé took a deeper dive into this style of music.

Sadly, some of the old controversies from 2016 and 2019 have reared their heads again. For instance, several country radio stations refused to play “Texas Hold ‘Em” upon its release, reigniting the old debates regarding gatekeeping, racism, etc. But here’s the thing: in the year of our lord 2024, Beyoncé is at a much greater vantage point than before to release something like Cowboy Carter. Not only has country (very, very slowly) started becoming more accepting of the “outsider” artists I mentioned previously, but the aforementioned Trilogy project has given her grounding to release more experimental, eclectic material. Truth be told, I wished she leaned into this country sound more; as it is, the project just sounds like Beyoncé country cosplay. If we got 10-12 solid tracks in the vein of “16 Carriages” or “II Most Wanted”, Cowboy Carter could have been a slam dunk. Unfortunately, the record stands as a bloated mess that doesn’t fully know what it wants to be.



Recent reviews by this author
FLETCHER In Search Of The AntidoteJudas Priest Invincible Shield
Norah Jones VisionsLaura Jane Grace Hole In My Head
Brittany Howard What NowHelado Negro Phasor
user ratings (104)
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


21180 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

And it's finally out! Big thanks to Johnny for taking a look at the original draft; I'll definitely be using the proofreading thread more in the future.



But yeah, sadly this album was quite underwhelming :/

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


4882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Oh you've gone and done it

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


21180 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The beyhive is not gonna be happy, lol

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


1783 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I really don't care for Beyonce but for me, compared to all her previous work, I actually enjoyed this record the most. It's BLOATED as fuck and some of the songs suck but I had a good time with it.

Gameofmetal
Emeritus
April 3rd 2024


11594 Comments


thought texas hold em was a really fun track, got me a bit interested in this

AmericanFlagAsh
April 3rd 2024


13335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

What review was it that got us a bunch of new users in the comments? Taylor?

If this gets on [redacted] well...

AmericanFlagAsh
April 3rd 2024


13335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Also absolutely wild to call Bodyguard "decent" and the boring ass Miley song the biggest highlight... when Bodyguard is one of the best songs she has ever done lmao along with Ya Ya and Daughter



Agreed about this being uneccesarily bloated though, would cut a lot out of the middle... Spaghetti, Alliigator Tears, II Most Wanted, and Leviis Jeans could all be gone and I wouldn't care



Plus nothing about the last five tracks? Such a great shift in genre and close the album so well

vult
April 3rd 2024


2344 Comments


Over a dozen writers on this, wonderful

deathschool
April 3rd 2024


28658 Comments


Is this like… a real album?

disciple31
April 3rd 2024


43 Comments


whats that mean

deathschool
April 3rd 2024


28658 Comments


Yeah

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


21180 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"I really don't care for Beyonce but for me, compared to all her previous work, I actually enjoyed this record the most. It's BLOATED as fuck and some of the songs suck but I had a good time with it."



yeah, that's fair honestly



"What review was it that got us a bunch of new users in the comments? Taylor?"



I'm fully prepared to defend my post, lol



"Plus nothing about the last five tracks? Such a great shift in genre and close the album so well"



Tbh, those tracks didn't do much for me. Especially Sweet Honey Buckin', which struck me as quite disjointed and incoherent. I guess II Hands II Heaven is pretty good though



"Is this like… a real album?"



Indeed it is



Havey
April 3rd 2024


12116 Comments


that tracklist can't be real

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


4882 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Album is better than its idiotic discourse (which is in the end just marketing) would have you believe

AmericanFlagAsh
April 3rd 2024


13335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Riiverdance through Buckin' are incoherent in the best way tho, but to each their own. They're a blast. This honestly is such an excellent album, especially if you cut boring middle tracks out, I'm shocked at how much I enjoy it. It's shiny and polished, but playful and chaotic.



Edit: Yeah the whole discussion of genre is so unnecessary, at the end of the day it's a Beyonce album with some twang and it's very well done. I am excited for act 3.

Havey
April 3rd 2024


12116 Comments


Willie Nelson (w/ Willie Nelson)

deathschool
April 3rd 2024


28658 Comments


Willie probably came up with the title tbf

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2024


21180 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Willie Nelson (w/ Willie Nelson)"



ft. Willie Nelson accompanied by Willie Nelson

AmericanFlagAsh
April 3rd 2024


13335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This being rated lower than 4 and B'Day is wild lol

bellovddd
April 3rd 2024


6024 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"Willie Nelson (w/ Willie Nelson)"







ft. Willie Nelson accompanied by Willie Nelson



Co-Written by Willie Nelson

Inspired by the work of Willie Nelson

Featuring the vocal stylings of Willie Nelson



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy