Upon reflection, it was evident that Beyoncé’s Renaissance project could potentially include elements of country music – and she made this clear in true Beyoncé fashion. She made a grand entrance on a horse, though it was adorned with mirrored glass and suspended above the audience in the stadium; she also donned a cowboy hat, which was also covered in mirrored glass and paired with lingerie of a similar style. At the recent Grammys, she sported a Stetson and a suit inspired by cowboys, but it was custom-made by Pharrell Williams for Louis Vuitton.
Two pleasant new songs indicate that Renaissance’s “second act,” a new album releasing on March 29, will likely have a country influence enhanced by Beyoncé’s glamor, composure, and unironic sentiment.
Texas Hold ’Em is made for do-si-doing on a dusty dancefloor, with banjo, line-dancing commands, and exclamations of “woo hoo!” that might as well be “yee haw!” There’s a whisper of another recent pop-hoedown, Jonas Brothers’ What a Man Gotta Do, to the firmly resolved melody, but also something much more rootsy and authentically country to the arrangement, with its closely harmonised backing vocals and admirably restrained feel.
The song “16 Carriages” starts with a thwack that sounds like a gloved hand hitting a horse’s flank, followed by a melancholic pedal steel sound. However, the song soon becomes as grand as a halo, as Beyoncé reflects on her hard work and success since she was a teenager. The 16 carriages may represent the tour buses and trucks for her Renaissance tour, as Beyoncé sings about being overworked and overwhelmed, but still having the passion to create art on this special night.
It could be argued that Country marks a significant change for Beyoncé, especially compared to her previous work in Renaissance: Act One, which had a house and disco vibe. However, the themes of heartache, life lessons, and drinking songs in country music actually suit her well. Similar to acclaimed country artists, she has a talent for expressing both nostalgic lyrics and straightforward emotions. Even the laid-back, party-loving persona in songs like “Cuff It” is not too far off from someone enjoying their tenth beer at a tailgate.
Some people may argue that Beyoncé’s foray into country music is simply a ploy to win more Grammy awards in a genre where she has yet to establish herself. Others may speculate that it is a way for her to assert her dominance in the media-fueled rivalry with Taylor Swift, who has a strong background in country music. However, it is more compelling to see Beyoncé’s inclusion of country music as a celebration of Black musical expression, which has deep roots in African American blues and gospel, as well as white folk music. The powerful and soulful track “16 Carriages” reflects the hard work and dedication Beyoncé has put into her career, reminiscent of the work songs sung by Black field workers. On the song “Texas Hold ‘Em,” Rhiannon Giddens plays the banjo, a reminder of the Black origins of this instrument brought from Africa to the Caribbean and eventually to the United States.
The Renaissance era will continue with a third stage, following the initial acts of house and disco and the second act of country. The final act may see a return to the artist’s roots in R&B, pop, and power ballads for a well-rounded conclusion. Alternatively, there may be an exploration of another genre, such as rock, or a deeper dive into rap after her impressive performances on songs like “Savage (Remix)” and “Heated.”
This would align with the impressive yet calm presence that is currently seen on stage. The visuals from the Renaissance tour – sophisticated robotics, science fiction themes – portrayed Beyoncé as beyond human, and the dancers’ impressive choreography amplified this, with their precise movements balanced by their own personal expressions of freedom. What made the tour so attractive was also how relatable she was, joking and laid-back instead of tense and strictly professional as she has been in the past. She may still be Queen B, but there is a refreshing down-to-earth quality in her demeanor and in the way she is experimenting with different genres.
Without a doubt, it’s clear that her country music showcases her impressive artistic talent: defying societal expectations of a decline in career after childbirth, she instead continues to rise exponentially on a new journey of style. However, the soft and familiar feel of this latest music reflects the woman’s strong connection to her personal past, her family, her African American artistic roots, and even her own relatable humanity.