Beyoncé - act ii COWBOY CARTER

It's a little hard to take stock of because it’s the first album since her Ascension to be so sprawling, but it still carries all the hallmarks of said elevation. So, it skips the ruthless curation of self-titled to RENAISSANCE, which were difficult to suggest even a minor edit to, and instead is almost freewheeling in how it’s put together. But nearly every song is also packed with her now elevated artistry: an overwhelming density of references and self-references; deconstructing and reconstructing songcraft at will; multiflorous instrumentation; vocals that continuously blossom.

The intentionality in how these songs are crafted and how there’s almost no reference point to compare them to (at least in pop) because they are Beyoncé songs (for which there is no other standard) definitely lends itself to this sense that it’s critique-proof. That this was magicked out of thin air, fully and perfectly formed, and if you don’t get it you just can’t follow her artistic train of thought properly. I really understand this interpretation, especially when you pick out and examine the songs one by one because so many are like these intricately crafted jewels, and the bravado of genre-busting is, frequently, spot on ("YA YA"!)

But it is a bit hard for me to completely buy into this, especially when the album is consumed in one go, because not everything clicks together and I get some unease that it doesn't. Prefacing all this by saying that this is most probably a me problem, but I feel like it's because the album needs a different, stronger emotional theme than being slighted by the industry. It's a great hook to ignite the album; it just can’t sustain it the whole way through. While I definitely don’t think she needed to make any claims of country ~authenticity~ by referencing ordinary people’s struggles or some such, I do feel (personally!) like she could've chewed on something that is a bit more, forgive me, relatable. (And her being a powerful billionaire isn’t the problem; that didn’t stop Lemonade, premised on romantic betrayal, from being very resonant).

In the absence of such, a few things stick out as unnecessary and contribute to the unease. KNTRY Radio Texas is a fun gimmick, but it feels like it has a sporadic presence on the album, as if she thought it was too gauche to structure the entire album along its lines more forcefully. “MY ROSE”, “FLAMENCO”, “OH LOUISIANA” and “DESERT EAGLE” are frustrating sketches of songs that feel like they could develop into fuller things. “II MOST WANTED” and “LEVII’S JEANS” while perfectly fine, beg the question why these collaborations, if not as a ploy at a mainstream appeal it doesn’t need. The Dolly and Willie Nelson inclusions, conversely, feel a bit defensive, as if clamouring for a seal of approval that she, and the album, clearly don’t need either.

In the scheme of things, these are not criticisms that spell it out as a bad album. They are just little niggling things that keep me from loving the album. I guess I am also trying to process how unfamiliar not loving a Beyoncé album feels, after so long. This comes into particular focus when I replay, over and over, the one moment where the album does cut through any disquiet like a velvet knife. “Baby, I've been waitin' my whole life for you and I” is a stupendous bolt from nowhere that had me guffawing and gasping soundlessly. I really wish Cowboy Carter could puncture me like that, so gloriously, just a little bit more because what fucking magic.
 
I really like the cover of "Jolene" and I think it kind of fits the album's M.O. perfectly of kind of... subverting tropes. It's a song that has become so huge that it has almost ceased to be a song and is more of an emotion, if that makes sense. So for Beyoncé to take that and tell us how it applies to her life feels like a studied take on the genre. She's using it to explore a further dimension that the original song - plaintive, broken, pleading - doesn't. It's hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Instead of a quiet word at the bar, Jolene is getting the neck of a freshly broken bottle in her neck.
 
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he/him
DESERT EAGLE absolutely should have been longer, but I also feel like it and MY ROSE, OH LOUISIANA, and FLAMENCO being so short makes the album an even more exhilarating listen - one thing I notice every time I've gone back to it, even in sections, is the way that, not unlike Renaissance, it pretty much never stops moving. Ultimately it even goes a step further than Renaissance when it becomes a seamless loop. Look at that horse, look at that horse, look at that horse!

And, in a way, the shorter songs and interludes feel like a bit of a nod to how a lot of self-titled was structured (i.e. Ghost/Haunted, Yoncé/Partition, Bow Down/***Flawless). I don't know how intentional that was, but it's an interesting parallel.
 
Is this Been Country thing being revealed at 9pm in LA? People seem to be teasing something dropping today for sure, but no announcement out yet makes me think it might be tied to the regular release time at night ...
 
It's a little hard to take stock of because it’s the first album since her Ascension to be so sprawling, but it still carries all the hallmarks of said elevation. So, it skips the ruthless curation of self-titled to RENAISSANCE, which were difficult to suggest even a minor edit to, and instead is almost freewheeling in how it’s put together. But nearly every song is also packed with her now elevated artistry: an overwhelming density of references and self-references; deconstructing and reconstructing songcraft at will; multiflorous instrumentation; vocals that continuously blossom.

The intentionality in how these songs are crafted and how there’s almost no reference point to compare them to (at least in pop) because they are Beyoncé songs (for which there is no other standard) definitely lends itself to this sense that it’s critique-proof. That this was magicked out of thin air, fully and perfectly formed, and if you don’t get it you just can’t follow her artistic train of thought properly. I really understand this interpretation, especially when you pick out and examine the songs one by one because so many are like these intricately crafted jewels, and the bravado of genre-busting is, frequently, spot on ("YA YA"!)

But it is a bit hard for me to completely buy into this, especially when the album is consumed in one go, because not everything clicks together and I get some unease that it doesn't. Prefacing all this by saying that this is most probably a me problem, but I feel like it's because the album needs a different, stronger emotional theme than being slighted by the industry. It's a great hook to ignite the album; it just can’t sustain it the whole way through. While I definitely don’t think she needed to make any claims of country ~authenticity~ by referencing ordinary people’s struggles or some such, I do feel (personally!) like she could've chewed on something that is a bit more, forgive me, relatable. (And her being a powerful billionaire isn’t the problem; that didn’t stop Lemonade, premised on romantic betrayal, from being very resonant).

In the absence of such, a few things stick out as unnecessary and contribute to the unease. KNTRY Radio Texas is a fun gimmick, but it feels like it has a sporadic presence on the album, as if she thought it was too gauche to structure the entire album along its lines more forcefully. “MY ROSE”, “FLAMENCO”, “OH LOUISIANA” and “DESERT EAGLE” are frustrating sketches of songs that feel like they could develop into fuller things. “II MOST WANTED” and “LEVII’S JEANS” while perfectly fine, beg the question why these collaborations, if not as a ploy at a mainstream appeal it doesn’t need. The Dolly and Willie Nelson inclusions, conversely, feel a bit defensive, as if clamouring for a seal of approval that she, and the album, clearly don’t need either.

In the scheme of things, these are not criticisms that spell it out as a bad album. They are just little niggling things that keep me from loving the album. I guess I am also trying to process how unfamiliar not loving a Beyoncé album feels, after so long. This comes into particular focus when I replay, over and over, the one moment where the album does cut through any disquiet like a velvet knife. “Baby, I've been waitin' my whole life for you and I” is a stupendous bolt from nowhere that had me guffawing and gasping soundlessly. I really wish Cowboy Carter could puncture me like that, so gloriously, just a little bit more because what fucking magic.

You put this all really well, and this is a helpful read in terms of helping me realise what I feel about the album. The quality is great, but some of the choices like Willie, Dolly, KNTRY and the inciting incident of the CMAs being the most prominent theme (not the only one of course), don't compel me all that much. I'm generally a fan of lots of country artists, and her mission with this album has been achieved, so the Willie, Dolly and KNTRY radio thing feel a little...nervous? I also feel the same about the change in title and cover. And I mean, she has every right to be given CMAs/some of the reactions from certain corners of the country establishment. But where Rennaissance felt beyond confident and comfortable, this album has an air of trepidation at points, or...approval-seeking? Maybe it's just that we're not used to that from her. It's interesting, if nothing else.
 
This album is easy listening for the most part. Maybe don’t sit down and stare at the record player for 90 minutes waiting to be amazed. Put it on in the background while you clean, work, drive, etc and let it reveal itself.

Edit: this isn’t to say there aren’t skips on the album, there are. More that people are putting sky high expectations on their listening experience and detracting from it.
 
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This album is easy listening for the most part. Maybe don’t sit down and stare at the record player for 90 minutes waiting to be amazed. Put it on in the background while you clean, work, drive, etc and let it reveal itself.
It's easy to listen to, but I wouldn't say it's easy listening. The music is pretty challenging while still being easy on the ears.
 
I think it's okay to admit that the album at times really seems to be... a slight overreach of Beyoncé's abilties as possibly the most powerful and talented curator in pop. For the first time in a decade. And that's fine, because this was always going to be a leap regardless of how you can try to reason it down into not being one; her biggest yet! And I think as a consequence of that you can maybe actually lose her as centring force she typically is. She capitulates a bit on this album, which is something that doesn't really suit her. But it was always going to be necessary if she was going to go down this route.

Also, I've listened to the album multiple times... and that middle section is just a straight up slog. Sorry, but not really. Her poorest songs in years, all one after the after. I could not tell you what Miley Cyrus or Post Malone have done on this record because my brain thinks I've never heard the bit they're actually on. It's like a Men In Black memory wipe where I remember "Daughter" finishing and "Ya Ya" starting and that's it. And I think a lot of you know in your heart that it's true, but you've drank too much sun tea on the porch to admit it!
 
The Miley and Post Malone collabs are definitely some of the album's weakest moments; they seem a little radio-geared and the album is more compelling when it's not in that space. I don't find any part of the album to be a slog though.
 
The way Post sings “you’re my Renaissance” on the outro to Levi’s Jeans tickles something in my brain.
I'm a fuckin' animal
I'm a fuckin' centerfold
Saddle up, I love to go
Too tough, no primadonna
Possess too much persona
He said “where you get that from?”
You need to meet my mama
She'd be at church all day
Come be my Nick at Nite
And B’s delivery of this verse? An album highlight!
 
I could not tell you what Miley Cyrus or Post Malone have done on this record because my brain thinks I've never heard the bit they're actually on. It's like a Men In Black memory wipe where I remember "Daughter" finishing and "Ya Ya" starting and that's it. And I think a lot of you know in your heart that it's true, but you've drank too much sun tea on the porch to admit it!

Now sis I was able to reconcile the first half of your post with my own relationship to the album but this just doesn't wash. I think a more fair critique would be that both II Most Wanted and Levii's Jeans play it too straightforward and feel a little too contemporary to the album's overall vision but they're also laden with laser precise hooks. You're gonna have to be my shotgun rider with those diminishing facilities!
 
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