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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

Why I'm Ride or Die for Beyonce- The Road to Cowboy Carter.

I want to start this one by saying Beyonce’s discography spans 20+ years and I’m only 27. So I can’t claim I’ve been a diehard from the first Destiny’s Child album. I jumped into the game late, okay? But once I did I fell in love hard. This article is sort of a Beyoncé retrospective, that comes from the place of a fan who always wants to learn more and appreciate, and it's also a review for her newest album 'Cowboy Carter'.


I am aware of the Destiny’s Child/ Crazy in Love Eras. She’s consistently elevating and performing that song for every tour or show, it’s part of her, but other than that my knowledge of that period is murky/non-existent. Still feel shivers down my spine though whenever that opening comes on.


I think the first time I became aware of Beyoncé was Déjà vu in 2006. I would have been 10-11, and I just remember the music video, her dancing in the sand singing that insane powerhouse bridge. I think B-Day is one of the albums I go back to the most because it’s got a lot of fire and bangers that just make you feel good. Or mad. Or free. Whatever you're feeling in the moment Freakum Dress will heal you.


I Am Sasha Fierce happened and I think everyone in the industry knew she was the real deal as a solo artist. Single Ladies DESTROYED. It moved mountains! Everyone wanted to know the dance. The video is so simple but iconic. This album came out at a weird time when I was quite sick. Anyway, funny story Halo came out as a single from Sasha Fierce, I was wearing or was about to have to wear a traction brace/halo. Unpleasant but now every time I hear that song, I smile a bit cuz it reminds me of a really hard part of my adolescence that I managed to get through. Sasha Fierce had so many hits as well. Sweet Dreams, Diva, If I Were a Boy??? Iconic. But then every album is like that for me. There's always a handful of songs that are so timeless and overflowing with positive vibes.


Then 4 came out, not as memorable to me because I was a little monster at the time and you couldn’t budge me in any other artist's direction than Lady Gaga. There is that one-shot-for-shot remake of the Countdown video with the guy in the snuggy that I watch every time I see it, and I recognize now that 4 also had some hits. It’s her sleeper album, may not be her most popular but you’re lying if you say you don’t know Run the World (Girls.)


The game truly changed, and I started to take real notice when her self-titled album came out. 14-18 new songs, EACH with their own music video?? Insane. It showed the revival of the album as a whole. Instead of just singles to get hits, this was a top-to-bottom project. She did similar things in Lemonade but I’ll get to that in a second. It was also the start of her experimenting with genre/sound. With each song having a video right away you got a good sense of what she had in her mind while making the record. And because each video was so staunchly different, from Haunted to Blow, each song felt like its own specially wrapped present.


This was also around the time she came to Australia last, and I was lucky enough to go to the Miss Carter World Tour. I bought a beautiful T-shirt where she’s dressed like a queen. I wore the shit out of that shirt until it was ragged.


Lemonade hit the world like a flood of rage and vengeance. Becky with the good hair ran for cover as Beyoncé crooned, belted and growled out an album that revealed her pain and turmoil over an unfaithful partner. She rocked out on Don’t Hurt Yourself, got country with Daddy Lessons, and broke car windows in Don’t Hurt Yourself. It was something special. The movie, because yes of course the music videos connected to make a full movie, was beautiful and varied, interspersed with some excellent poetry. “Where do you go when you go quiet?” she asks her lover.


I tried to change

Closed my mouth more

Tried to be soft, prettier

Less... awake


I think it was her most artsy project; viewing it as a whole is to view something special.


She took a six-year break but in between that came Beychella. Add with that “Homecoming,” a live album and then a concert Netflix movie where everyone could see the work and thought that came with that bombastic out-of-this-world Coachella performance and it wasn't much of a break! Bey's never truly on break, she's just waiting, preying, like a shark. I watched Beychella on livestream when it came out and I think I’ve replayed her “Everybody Mad” dance break until my computer keys broke.


Then came the Renaissance. The album made me diehard forever because, although the past few albums were released I got swept up in the excitement, Renaissance was for the Shes, Theys and Gays. Routed deeply in house and disco, with the spirit of old New York queer ballroom culture, and love as it's central message.


The album sampled from so many things but felt wholly original. Beginning with the opening single “Break My Soul,” which sampled Big Freedia’s “Explode,” in its opening. Big Freedia is an LGBT hip-hop and Bounce rapper with an iconic voice. “Release your wiggle!” She proclaims.


Beyoncé invites listeners of both the single and Renaissance as a whole to let go, be free, and get ready for a spiritual revolution with this album. She consulted with a lot of black and LGBT artists, singers, composers and dancers to create a free space where people could be themselves with the music and it truly is a breath of fresh air.


Side note, when the Renaissance tour movie came out I eagerly went to a showing by myself and had the BEST time. Why she didn’t come to Australia for the actual tour… I don’t want to think about that. But the movie was so well curated and interwoven with details of the tour production as well as how it impacted her and her family. And then just non-stop jaw-dropping fantastical performances, dedicated to house and vogue. It was incredible.


Cut to now, or a while ago when she released the billboard #1 hit 'Texas Hold ‘Em,' and the (superior) 16 carriages. Beyonce was going country, say whaaaat? Why? And could she pull it off? Well, it was immediately obvious that she could with the two singles showing her range, her voice and ear for genre perfectly just… worked.


But what would Cowboy Carter, Act ii of a supposed three-act body of work, be like?


Well, now we know.


At midnight on Friday, I stayed up. Being Australian has some benefits, with regional releases meaning I could listen to my little heart's content while the Americans floundered and waited for release.


So what did I think of a country album? I am not a fan of country. But I am a fan of Bey’s voice and vision. I knew she could work her magic and create a concept/hybrid album that slapped!


And slap it does. 27 songs (!?!?) going over an hour in length, this is a top-to-bottom great album with few skips. I can say out of the 27 I “Liked” (as in clicked the heart on Spotify,) for 11 songs straight from the first listen which is crazy.


Cowboy Carter includes covers of Blackbird by the Beatles and an alternate version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene (Introduced by Dolly P herself, who mentions Becky with the good hair.) Jolene, sung in Beyonce’s deep tones becomes a warning, an announcement that the lemonade era is over, NOTHING can come between her and her husband. Beware bitch!


Other highlights for me include Bodyguard, Daughter, and American Requiem.


She takes risks with the genre, with some songs even being introduced with interludes that explain the elasticity and experimental nature of the genre itself. Most notably different in tone is SPAGETTII featuring Shaboozey, it gives more “My House” than “Texas Hold ‘Em,” but that’s Beyoncé, she experiments and it lands ninety-nine per cent of the time.


The topics in the album range from motherhood, love and jealousy, and overall feeling accepted and confident in the spaces she feels like she and the African American community feel like they have been shut out of. The album was if only partially, inspired by her chilly reception at the CMA’s after she released Lemonade, where she sang “Daddy Lessons” with the Chicks. So this is an album five years in the making and you can feel it in every song. a great big middle finger to those who said a black Texan woman didn't belong in their genre.


She’s got icons introducing her songs! Dolly Parton! Willie Nelson! Linda Martell! WORK bitch!


It's timeless, and I do get the shivers when she harmonises and layers her voice to make perfect tones.


The features I think have shocked everyone, Miley Cyrus makes sense, she's been a country queen and her performance on ii Most Wanted is awesome. Post Malone is a bit more random, with some newcomers Shaboozey and Tanner Adell who both fill out their songs well. And there are the iconic introductions from Dolly Patron, Willie Nelson, and Linda Martell.


I could also go on and on about how she markets and brands each album. For instance, Cowboy Carter is marketed around old country radio, and the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a set of venues across America where you could go see black performers during the Jim Crowe era. Renaissance was created to uplift queer black dancers and fashion houses in the 80’s with ballroom culture. She thinks things through.


With her range, imagination and vision of how she wants to present herself, Beyoncé is one of this generation's great entertainers, even detractors have to admire the work she’s put in over the last few years (albums, headlining Coachella, a tour and two movies), in such a short period.


It’s an honour to be a part of the Beyhive and experience the joy she brings with each new release and surprise. Even if she hasn’t come to Australia in a decade. I’m not bitter about that or anything hahahahaha.

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