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Beyoncé: New album isn’t country

Artist’s upcoming release includes ‘a few surprises’

By Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times
Published: March 28, 2024, 6:04am

Beyoncé, ever the fan of the surprise album drop and shrouded nonstatements, has some pointed things to say about her upcoming “Cowboy Carter” album. And she’s being clear about her messaging: “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”

Posting a 10-day countdown on her Instagram page and website Tuesday, the “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” singer shared what appeared to be the album cover art (her as pageant queen-inspired cowgirl riding a white horse while holding an American flag) and detailed insight into her latest project.

The 42-year-old superstar delighted her 319 million followers with a rare personal caption explaining her decision to move into the country genre, which follows her 2022 foray into disco and club music with “Renaissance’s” first act.

“This album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed … and it was very clear that I wasn’t. But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive,” the “Break My Soul” and “Cuff It” singer said.

“It feels good to see how music can unite so many people around the world, while also amplifying the voices of some of the people who have dedicated so much of their lives educating on our musical history.

“The criticisms I faced when I first entered this genre forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me,” she added, “act ii is a result of challenging myself, and taking my time to bend and blend genres together to create this body of work.”

The Destiny’s Child alum also said she felt honored to be the first Black woman with the No. 1 song on the Hot Country chart, an achievement she notched in February when “Texas Hold ‘Em” made Billboard chart history.

“That would not have happened without the outpouring of support from each and every one of you. My hope is that years from now, the mention of an artist’s race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant,” she said.

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She added that she has “a few surprises on the album,” which drops Friday, and has collaborated with “brilliant artists” whom she deeply respects, although she has not yet named them. (Country legend Dolly Parton, who recently sang Beyoncés’ praises amid her country chart achievements, revealed recently that she thinks Bey recorded a cover of her 1973 hit “Jolene” and that “it’s probably gonna be on her country music album.”)

“I hope that you can hear my heart and soul, and all the love and passion that I poured into every detail and every sound,” Bey added. “I focused on this album as a continuation of RENAISSANCE … I hope this music is an experience, creating another journey where you can close your eyes, start from the beginning and never stop.

“This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album. This is act ii COWBOY CARTER, and I am proud to share it with y’all!” she concluded.

Bey is by no means the only Black artist making waves in country music. Hootie & the Blowfish alum Darius Rucker,Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Breland, Willie Jones, Jimmie Allen, Reyna Roberts, Blanco Brown, Tanner Adell and Brittney Spencer are just a few of the contemporary artists who have left their mark on the predominantly white genre that has long had a fraught history with racism.

Bey, who rose to fame in the R&B, soul and pop genres, appeared to contend with that firsthand back in 2016 when her “Lemonade” track “Daddy Lessons” — which highlighted her Southern roots with lyrics about her father, references to the Bible and the Second Amendment — was rejected by the Recording Academy’s country music committee for a Grammy Award nomination.

When she said she felt “unwelcomed,” Beyoncé might have been alluding to that incident, but also perhaps to the backlash she was met with when she attended and performed at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards that year. The preshow announcement of her performance was met with calls for a boycott on social media, with many citing her tribute to the Black Panther Party during her performance of “Formation” at the Super Bowl halftime show earlier that year as an issue. The Houston native ultimately proved that “Daddy Lessons” was unabashedly a country song by performing alongside the Chicks at the awards show, and later released a version of the song featuring the country trio.

Despite being the winningest artist in the Grammy Awards’ history, the musician’s rocky history with the Recording Academy was highlighted during the Feb. 4 awards show when her husband, honoree Jay-Z, questioned the academy’s decision-making on stage during his Dr. Dre Global Impact Award acceptance speech.

“I don’t want to embarrass this young lady but she has more Grammys than everybody and never won album of the year,” Jay-Z said, referring to his wife, who was in the audience wearing a white cowboy hat that was ultimately a tease to her next genre jump.