Beyoncé – Cowboy Carter

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Since Beyoncé’s latest album, Cowboy Carter, dropped, I’ve been seeing notes to the effect that one of the biggest musicians on the globe has just created something that was going to be a country-changing, if not world-changing, record. Imagine something happening on a historic level like maybe when we first discovered dinosaur bones – but no, this seemed to feel even more special than that. Fans lauded it as the album that will be the template on which all other future albums can be based. With this, I know that the BeyHive heavily responded to Beyoncé’s image as a futurist.

But on the other hand, way down the other side of the spectrum, some (are they disgruntled?) couldn’t help pointing out that Beyoncé baked a cake with ingredients that didn’t quite mix. Forget it being lauded as a country album, what it really is, at best, is a country-leaning record with a lot of disparate influences; hip hop, blues, soul, rock, folk music, R&B — need I go on? Some said the new album didn’t have a grand purpose and others echoed that if it did, she entirely missed it.

It was a wonder, you know, seeing two completely strange reactions to a body of work. For some, if aliens landed on planet Earth today and happened to listen to Beyoncé’s Renaissance Act II: Cowboy Carter, they would think that we’re the brightest species to ever exist in the whole universe, and for others, if said aliens did listen to Beyoncé, they would think we possessed even less intelligence than a worm.

With these discoveries already made, I plunged myself into actually listening to the album and forming my own opinion on it. Full disclosure: I’ve never particularly been a fan of Beyoncé. They say Mother cooks exotic songs and well, they’re not for me. So 27 songs seemed laborious – would pretty much explain why I did a slight diversion and started reading the reviews on it instead of just diving into it. (Call it research; a probe into what someone who listens and loves Beyoncé thinks of this new album.)

Anyway, I finally stopped dragging my feet and I started. “Nothin’ really ends / For things to stay the same, they have to change again / Hello, my old friend / You change your name, but not the ways you play pretend,” she sings in the first track “American Requiem.” I’d heard enough about how Renaissance Act II was meant to reclaim Black people’s contribution to country music, and I guessed that she started with the big talk. Like, if anyone does not beat around the bush, it’s Beyoncé.

As I kept going down the album, certain songs kept catching my attention and others kept losing it. What she did in “Daughter” was so beautiful I actually stayed till the very end, listened again, and yearned to listen again. Her laid-back collab with Miley Cyrus may have thrilled a lot of hearts, but it lost mine (it’s my fault, I guess). And then there’s Beyoncé’s twist on “Jolene.” I think I’ve listened to the original Dolly Parton version of “Jolene” sometime in the past – I mean I did recognize the tune and recall some of the original words as I listened to Beyoncé’s. Dare I say I loved Beyoncé’s better?

All in all, I think I can see why some people think it’s the greatest thing and others can’t stand those who think it’s the greatest thing. For me, I feel like I’m not in the middle and I don’t strictly agree with either side of the spectrum. I believe it could have been better if she cut some songs.

One thing we can at least all agree on is that Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter is one of the best sonic albums we’ve ever been presented with in a very long time. It would be weird if anyone doubted that.