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7 Things to Know About Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter Album

Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment

Beyoncé's genre-defying, eighth studio album Cowboy Carter landed on streaming platforms and in stores on March 29 and proved why the musician has remained so prolific after more than 25 years in the business. But much like anything Beyoncé does, the album's country roots have been carefully crafted and researched, with musical legends and hit songs being intertwined into the already-revered project. There are connections to Western films, references to Beyoncé's family name, and more.

After surprising fans with a Super Bowl Verizon commercial that ultimately served as her new music announcement, Beyoncé shocked the world even more when the two lead singles, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” leaned country. The former of the two charted at number one on Billboard’s country charts, making Beyoncé the first Black woman to do so.

The highly-anticipated Act II in Beyoncé's three-act project that started with Renaissance in 2022 is officially here, with its 27 tracks that are a mixture of blues, country, R&B, folk, and more. Cowboy Carter features country legends Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Linda Martell, along with Miley Cyrus, Post Malone, Shaboozey, Willie Jones, and others.

Beyoncé explained the inspiration behind the album in an Instagram post announcing the cover art and title, sharing that the album “has been over five years in the making,” and was “born out of an experience” in which she “did not feel welcomed." Many fans believe the experience she's alluding to is her 2016 performance of “Daddy Lessons” at the Country Music Association Awards alongside The Chicks. Beyoncé received intense racist backlash following the performance from viewers.

While there is much speculation about the creation and meaning of Cowboy Carter, here's what we know for sure:

1. The songs are partly influenced by Western films

Actor John Travolta and Madolyn Smith Osborne walk in a scene of the movie "Urban Cowboy" circa 1980.

Urban Cowboy

Actor John Travolta and Madolyn Smith Osborne walk in a scene of the movie "Urban Cowboy" circa 1980.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Beyoncé's company Parkwood Entertainment celebrated the album's debut with a press release that explained the process behind the album. The company wrote that Cowboy Carter's “inspiration further takes into account Southern and Western culture beyond music,” including rodeos, the original cowboys of the West, and Western films.

“Each song is its own version of a reimagined Western film,” the statement continues. “[Beyoncé] took inspiration from films like ‘Five Fingers For Marseilles,’ ‘Urban Cowboy,’ ‘The Hateful Eight,’ ‘Space Cowboys,’ ‘The Harder They Fall’ and ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ often having the films playing on a screen during the recording process.”

The statement goes on to say that the body of work goes “from singing cowboy and Blaxploitation to Spaghetti westerns and fantasy,” along with Beyoncé's own personal experiences while “honoring Black history.”

2. Beyoncé sings Italian opera on the album

<h1 class="title">Atlantis The Royal Grand Reveal Weekend 2023 - Beyonce Performance</h1><cite class="credit">Kevin Mazur/Getty Images</cite>

Atlantis The Royal Grand Reveal Weekend 2023 - Beyonce Performance

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Fans almost immediately clocked that Beyoncé was singing in another language during the bridge of “Daughter.” The melodramatic and violent song describes Beyoncé as being “just like my father,” and serves as a warning of her wrath. "They keep sayin' that I ain't nothin' like my father/
But I'm the furthest thing from choir boys and altars/ If you cross me, I'm just like my father/ I am colder than Titanic water."

The track comes directly after her version of Dolly Parton's “Jolene,” which takes the original desperation of Parton's lyrics and reimagines them as a more threatening warning to this so-called Jolene. “Daughter” continues the theme that Beyoncé is not to be messed with before she dramatically sings a portion of the 18th-century Italian aria “Caro Mio Ben,” which translates to “My Dear Beloved.”

The lyrics are a plea that loosely translates to, “My dear beloved/ At least believe me/ Without you my heart languishes.”

3. The “misspelling” of Beyincé is actually her family's name

<h1 class="title">Beyonce</h1>

Beyonce

A week before Cowboy Carter's release, Beyoncé shared a photo of herself wearing nothing but a sash that said “act ii Beyincé.” While some people wondered if that was a misspelling of her name, others remembered that everything the musician does is intentional. It turns out, the spelling of Beyincé is actually her family's name on her mom's side.

“A lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name. It’s my maiden name," Beyoncé's mom, Tina Knowles explained during an interview on In My Head with Heather Thomson in 2020.

“My name was Celestine Beyoncé," Knowles explains, but the spelling of her last name was actually different than her six other siblings and parents, whose last names were spelled Beyincé.

“I asked my mother when I was grown. I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E?' You know, it’s all these different spellings,” she said. “And my mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.'”

Knowles continued: “So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’ And she said, ‘I did one time. The first time, and I was told ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate’ because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates.”

4. “Blackbird” is a Civil Rights song

The Beatles on stage at the London Palladium during a performance in front of 2, 000 screaming fans.

Beatles On Stage

The Beatles on stage at the London Palladium during a performance in front of 2, 000 screaming fans.
Michael Webb/Getty Images

The second track on Cowboy Carter is surprisingly a cover of The Beatles' 1968 song, “Blackbird," featuring Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. While on the surface, it might seem out of place to feature a song from a British rock band on an American-rooted, country-inspired album, there is actually a deeper meaning behind it that connects to Beyoncé's projects honoring Black history and art.

“Blackbird” was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon and featured on the band's White Album. In his 2021 book, McCartney said that the song was based on the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. in the 60s.

“At the time in 1968 when I was writing Blackbird, I was very conscious of the terrible racial tensions in the US,” McCartney wrote. “That imagery of the broken wings and the sunken eyes and the general longing for freedom is definitely of its moment.”

More specifically, McCartney was struck by Little Rock Nine — a group of Black students who were the first to be enrolled at Little Rock's Central High School after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v Board of Education, ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. McCartney met with two of those students in 2016 — Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford — and tweeted that they were part of the “inspiration for Blackbird.”

“This was really a song from me to a Black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope,’” McCartney wrote in his 1996 book, Many Years From Now.

5. Inspired by Dolly Parton, Beyoncé uses her nails in one song

Dolly Parton's influence continues in more ways than one on Cowboy Carter — including using her nails as instruments. During the banjo-heavy dance song “Riverdance,” you can hear a steady rhythm in the background, which as it turns out are Beyoncé's nails. In Parkwood's statement, the company explains that Cowboy Carter uses a “cornucopia of sounds,” including “the accordion, harmonica, washboard, acoustic guitar, bass ukulele,” and more.

“There's also plenty of handclaps, horseshoe steps, boot stomps on hardwood floors and yes, those are Beyoncé's nails as percussion.”

The inspiration for the nails seems to be a reference to Parton, who famously “played” her nails alongside Patti LaBelle in a 1987 interview. Parton said she sometimes thinks of songs “when I don't have my guitar” and instead relies on her hands to create the beat. The two then sing a song and use their acrylic nails as the “music” in the background.

6. Beyoncé recorded 100 songs for the album

Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

66th GRAMMY Awards - Show

Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

If Beyoncé has a reputation for anything, it's being a hard worker. And when it came to creating songs for Cowboy Carter, the musician revealed that she recorded nearly 100 songs.

“My process is that I typically have to experiment,” Beyoncé said in the Parkwood statement. “I enjoy being open to have the freedom to get all aspects of things I love out and so I worked on many songs.”

She continued: “I recorded probably 100 songs. Once that is done, I am able to put the puzzle together and realize the consistencies and the common themes, and then create a solid body of work.”

7. Cowboy Carter was supposed to come before Renaissance

Beyoncé performs onstage during the Renaissance World Tour at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 30, 2023 in London, England.

Beyoncé RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR - London

Beyoncé performs onstage during the Renaissance World Tour at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 30, 2023 in London, England.
Kevin Mazur

Act I of Beyoncé's three-party project was actually supposed to be Cowboy Carter, but Renaissance took its place after the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. In the Parkwood press release, Beyoncé reveals she switched the order of the albums to bring joy to people with the upbeat dance tone of Renaissance.

"This album took over five years," she said, according to the press release. “It's been really great to have the time and the grace to be able to take my time with it. I was initially going to put COWBOY CARTER out first, but with the pandemic, there was too much heaviness in the world. We wanted to dance. We deserved to dance. But I had to trust God's timing.”

Beyoncé is keeping tight-lipped about what the third act is going to be, but many fans believe it will be a rock album, as a way to pay homage to the overlooked Black influence in rock ‘n’ roll.


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue


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