Friday, April 5, 2024

I Listened to Act ii: Cowboy Carter by Beyoncé

I’ve been anticipating the next part of Beyoncé’s trilogy project, which began with Renaissance’s release in 2022. Now, about two years later, she’s returned with Act ii: Cowboy Carter, which was supported by two singles (16 Carriages, Texas Hold ‘Em) released on February 11th, after a commercial that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. And with that, welcome back to the music minded corner of Our Thoughts Precisely!

When Beyoncé said Cowboy Carter was a Beyoncé album, rather than just a country one, she was telling the truth. There are hallmarks of the genre present throughout, but it’s a Beyoncé album: pitch switches, harmonies, and superb production with incredibly smooth transitions. As a follow up to Renaissance—one of my favorite albums—Cowboy Carter, with twenty-seven tracks, exceeded my expectations. From the artists she collaborated with, to covering classics— with Jolene and BlackBiird—with minimal (but meaningful) changes, to a wealth of original material, Cowboy Carter is an experience. It’s one that’s almost cinematic in the way it handles its concept and themes as well as smaller details—like having a full circle moment between the opening (Ameriican Requiem) and the closing track (Amen).

Like The Weeknd’s Dawn FM (2022), Cowboy Carter is structured like a radio broadcast complete with DJ interludes featuring artists like Linda Martell, Dolly Parton, and Willie Nelson (for example: Dolly P, Smoke Hour Willie Nelson, and The Linda Martell Show). But those weren’t the only artists featured on Cowboy Carter. There was Beyoncé’s duet with Miley Cyrus (II Most Wanted), her collaborations with Post Malone (Levii’s Jeans), Just For Fun with Willie Jones, and Sweet Honey Buckin’ with Shaboozey.

Cowboy Carter has Beyoncé’s vocal capacity and creativity on full display. As a sequel to Renaissance, it works. As a country album, it experiments, effectively creating a long but memorable listening experience. This is one of my favorite albums to come out in the first half of the year, and it set the bar high.

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