If You’re Going To Critique Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter,’ At Least Get It Right

The "Texas Hold 'Em" singer isn't trying to be anything that she's not on her latest album.

Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” isn’t a reclamation album. Instead, it’s a declaration of the place Black folks have always had in country music — and a middle finger to the industry gatekeepers that have tried to keep us out.

Bey makes this clear on the first track, “Ameriican Requim.” It’s the thesis statement for the album as she sings, “Plant my bare feet on solid ground for years / They don’t, don’t know how hard I had to fight for this.”

Beyoncé, too, is America. She, too, embodies country.

She spends the next 26 tracks challenging the box Nashville, Tennessee, has put on the genre, blending and twisting it. After all, she told us, “This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”

“She is doing such intentional work out the gate to say this is going to be my critique, my analysis, my understanding, my lived experience as a Black woman in America,” journalist Taylor Crumpton said of the lead track on this week’s episode of “I Know That’s Right.”

“On first listen, it feels as if she is Lady Liberty and we’re looking through her eyes at America.”

That’s gone over many people’s heads, however.

That includes Washington Post writer Chris Richards calling the album “botched” and claiming that Beyoncé made an “album about award shows,” Azealia Banks claiming that Bey is cosplaying as a white woman and Lily Allen calling Bey’s foray into country music “calculated,” specifically with her cover of Dolly Parton’s classic hit, “Jolene.” (Never mind the fact that Parton requested Beyoncé to cover it.)

The bias behind these opinions is what led the global superstar to make this album in the first place, as she noted in an Instagram post ahead of the release of “Cowboy Carter.”

What naysayers are missing the point on, however, is that Bey didn’t set out to recoup lost awards, pull a gimmick or appeal to a wider fanbase. She made this album to return home to a genre that has tried to deny Black folks’ contributions to it. She’s standing on the shoulders of Linda Martell, Lesley Riddle and so many others, while creating higher visibility for younger generations of Black country artists like Tanner Adell and Shaboozey.

Crumpton noted that though Bey made history as the first Black woman to snag the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s country songs chart, she shouldn’t be the only one. If the country industry knows what’s best, it will take on the challenge Beyoncé has charged it with and uplift more Black artists.

Beyoncé had nothing to prove with this album. She’s not trying to be anything that she’s not. She just doesn’t fit in your mold of who you think she’s “supposed” to be.

If you want more interviews, pop culture rundowns and conversations too layered for a social media thread to tackle, subscribe to “I Know That’s Right.” With new episodes dropping each week, this show is sure to keep you entertained, informed and shouting “I know that’s right!” every now and then.

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