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“They don’t know how hard I had to fight for this.” Beyoncé sings in “American Requiem” the harmony-laden opening of their eighth album “cowboy carter.” Anyone familiar with the promotional cycle leading up to its release knows this well.

A few weeks ago, Beyonce revealed that she came up with the concept for the album, the second of her three-act project that began with 2022’s “Renaissance,” after experiencing an incident where she didn’t feel “welcome.” She was likely referring to a performance she gave at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards alongside the Dixie Chicks (as they were known then), which received criticism on social media for giving her prominence at a country event.

But Beyoncé used the experience as inspiration for “Carter,” which she began working on five years ago. Now, after releasing the singles “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” in early February, she has finally unveiled the sprawling 27-track project, a country album (or in her words, a Beyoncé) that plays with conventions. of what it is. what country it can be and infuse it with tropes and signifiers from other genres. At 80 minutes long, “Carter” is a rebuttal to anyone who doubted that Beyoncé belonged in country music; instead, it adapts country to Beyoncé, bending and stretching what listeners would expect from a contemporary country album, especially from Beyoncé.

To color the lines, Beyoncé assembles a circle of artists throughout “Carter,” ranging from country titans to newcomers. The marquee appearances materialize in duets and interludes. Post Malone scores the first of two high-profile features this year in “Levii’s Jeans” (he’s scheduled to guest on Taylor Swift’s upcoming album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” out April 19), while Miley Cyrus lends her voice to the powerful collaboration. “II The Most Wanted”.

“Carter” pays homage to country legends by including them in cameos on interludes and tracks. Dolly Parton, whose 1973 classic “Jolene” is reimagined with exciting new lyrics, contributes to an interlude titled “Dolly P” and the opening moments of “Tyrant.” Willie Nelson makes vintage appearances on country radio on a pair of “Smoke Hour” tracks, while Linda Martell, a seminal black country artist, gets her own shine on “The Linda Martell Show.” She also appears on “Spaghettii,” referencing the controversy surrounding “Carter” and its designation as a country album when it was announced.

“Gender is a fun little concept, isn’t it?” says Martell. “Yes they are. In theory, they have a simple, easy-to-understand definition. But in practice, well, some may feel limited.”

Beyoncé also makes it a family affair in “Carter.” Her six-year-old daughter, Rumi Carter, can be heard at the beginning of “Protector,” where she says, “Mom, can I listen to the lullaby, please?” What follows is a deeply resonant ode to her children, and a moving one at that: “I’ll guide you down that path if you get lost / I was born to be a protector,” she sings in the chorus. Beyoncé has previously shown love to her other daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, who at nine years old became the second-youngest artist to win a Grammy Award for her appearance in 2019’s “Brown Skin Girl.”

Beyoncé also shines a spotlight on some newer black country artists on “Carter.” Tanner Adell stars alongside Beyoncé in a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” (retitled “Blackbiird,” with two “i”s like many of the songs on the album to indicate that it is the second installment of the Renaissance project). Other artists credited on “Blackbiird” include Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts. Adell is best known as a country star with a large social media following and who released her debut album “Buckle Bunny” last July. Her inclusion is notable: In February, shortly after Beyoncé released the album’s first two singles, Adell tweeted that she wanted to be considered for a guest appearance on the set.

“As one of the only black girls in the country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle a touch of her magic on me for a collaboration,” she wrote. It seems that her wish came true.

Alt-country artist Shaboozey swings through “Spaghettii,” one of the harder hip-hop inflections of “Carter,” which samples DJ Dedé Mandrake’s Brazilian funk song “Aquecimento – Vem Vem Vai Vai.” He also appears on “Sweet Honey Buckiin’.” Originally from Virginia, the 28-year-old has released a pair of albums — 2018’s “Lady Wrangler” and 2022’s “Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die” — though his most popular song was a collaboration with Duckwrth titled “Start a Riot.” ”. which appeared on the 2018 soundtrack for “Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Beyoncé taps Willie Jones for “Ya Ya,” an eclectic mix of bluegrass, Americana and, of course, a very prominent sample of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” It’s unclear where exactly Jones fits into the sonic palette of “Ya Ya,” but the spirit of the tune echoes Shreveport, Louisiana’s most recent album, “Something to Dance To,” which was released last June.

The samples do not begin or end with Sinatra in “Ya Ya”, as there are many references and interpolations in “Carter”. In that same song, Beyoncé sings a fragment of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys. A sped-up version of what appears to be Chuck Berry’s 1971 song “Oh Louisiana” appears in an interlude of the same name. It is one of two Berry anthems: in “Smoke Hour – Willie Nelson,” a radio dial cycles through snippets of songs including Berry’s “Maybellene,” Roy Hamilton’s “Don’t Let Go,” and “Down by the River.” Side” by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. ”

Beyoncé has two versions, the aforementioned “Jolene” and “Blackbiird”, and in “II Most Wanted”, a supposed interpolation of “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. And in “Sweet Honey Buckin'”, she makes an explicit reference to ” “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline.

There is a lot to analyze in “Carter”, an album with ambitions as great as its achievements. But Beyoncé has managed to bring country into her own world, assembling a team of musicians to execute her vision along the way.

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