Beyonce's Cowboy Carter: Key songs, tracklist and how she made country music her own

Her new album is eclectic while paying tribute to the genre's rich storytelling tradition

In a recent Iinstagram image, Beyonce leans into the 'bigger-is-better' Texan hair trend. Photo: @beyonce / Instagram
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After filling up dance floors with her previous album Renaissance, which paid tribute to American underground club culture, Beyonce turns her attention to the rich sounds of Nashville with the follow-up Cowboy Carter.

While the name and lead single allude to the notion that it would be Beyonce’s first country music album, Cowboy Carter is more expansive than that.

Taking cues from the storytelling tradition of the genre, the album is another statement of creative expression that gives tribute to the African-American artists long ignored by the industry.

Here are six notable songs from Cowboy Carter.

1. Jolene

Beyonce's cover of Dolly Parton’s 1973 hit is sonically faithful – most of the time. Performed in a lower register to amplify her vocals, Jolene recreates the rustic acoustic guitar pattern of the original while maintaining the yearning vocal melody. That said, the song has a subtly more urgent energy courtesy of the assertive kick drums.

Where the original lyrics had Parton pleading with another woman to "please don't take my man", Beyonce is chillingly forthright as she states: "Jolene, I'm warning you, don't come for my man," before adding greater emphasis in the next chorus with: "I'm warning you woman, find your own man.” Beyonce’s version transforms the track from resignation to one of resilience.

2. Blackbiird

Do we need another cover of Blackbird by The Beatles, considering it was covered by everyone from Crosby, Stills & Nash and Sarah McLachlan to Dave Grohl?

Then again, there is always a purpose behind Queen B's choices. Where her subtle lyrical additions in Jolene have transformed the song's nature, her version of the Fab Four's track (called Blackbiird) is a statement of defiance against an American country music establishment viewed as shunning black artists.

With Cowboy Carter reportedly inspired by the country music industry’s rejection of her 2016 lauded track Daddy Lessons, the new song has Beyonce teaming up with four African-American country artists, Tanner Adell, Britteny Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts, for a stirring remake that accentuates its message of strength over adversity.

3. Spaghettii

From Eminem to Gucci Mane, spaghetti has been commonly referenced by hip-hop artists as a favourite meal or celebratory dish.

Beyonce now joins the list in the album's minor diversion to hip-hop. Produced by Swizz Beatz, she is joined by Nigerian singer Shaboozey for a boisterous and blistering exploration of personal and musical identity.

Beyonce revisits the rapping intensity last heard in Formation as she declares: "I ain't no regular singer, now come get everything you came for." Interestingly, the performance is preceded by a spoken word introduction by Linda Martell, one of the first African-American stars of country music.

Her words offer a summation of Cowboy Carter and Beyonce's career as a whole.

"Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they? Yes they are ... in theory, they have a simple definition that's easy to understand. But in practice, well, some may feel confined."

4. Alligator Tears

This doesn’t sound like a typical Beyonce song – and that is the point.

The gothic and slow-burning acoustic folk track recalls the hazy sounds of American indie bands such as Grant Lee Buffalo.

Images of overflowing rivers, rickety dams and references to spirituality abound as Beyonce seemingly ponders the price of passion. "Something about those tears of yours. How does it feel to be adored," she croons, before adding: "I adore you ... those alligator tears."

5. Riiverdance

When videos of Irish dancers performing Cowboy Carter's lead single Texas Hold 'Em went viral last month, the subsequent reveal of the tracklist raised expectations that Riiverdance could be a song inspired by Irish folk music.

This is not the case as the aurally luscious track effortlessly fuses acoustic guitars and storytelling of country music with spacey keyboards and airy vocals of neo-soul.

While the lyrics detail a torrid love affair, Riiverdance is the kind of song to sit back to and simply luxuriate in the vibes.

6. Levii’s Jeans

Consider this as a brazen display of star power.

When Beyonce announced the tracklist to Cowboy Carter, featuring the song Levii's Jeans, the enduring US brand Levi's Jeans changed its name on its social media accounts to match the song title complete with bee emojis.

It's a good move because, while not a direct endorsement of the brand, the famed jeans are used as a metaphor for connection as she and Post Malone trade verses in this sweet pop ballad.

The complete tracklist of Cowboy Carter by Beyonce

1. Ameriican Requiem

2. Blackbiird

3. 16 Carriages

4. Protector

5. My Rose

6. Smoke Hour Willie Nelson

7. Texas Hold 'Em

8. Bodyguard

9. Dolly P

10. Jolene

11. Daughter

12. Spaghettii (feat. Shaboozey)

13. Alligator Tears

14. Smoke Hour II

15. Just for Fun

16. II Most Wanted (feat. Miley Cyrus)

17. Levii's Jeans

18. Flamenco

19. The Linda Martell Show

20. Ya Ya

21. Oh Louisiana

22. Desert Eagle

23. Riiverdance

24. II Hands II Heaven

25. Tyrant

26. Sweet Honey Buckiin'

27. Amen

Updated: March 30, 2024, 4:22 AM