Music artists are typically sectioned off into specific genres such as pop, R&B, EDM, rap and so on. Throughout their music careers, many artists tend to remain in these genres and release music that stays within these boundaries. However, in her latest album “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé dismantles the genre barriers and ventures into her country roots. In doing so, she redefines the meaning of genres and how they can influence many musicians’ future work. 

On July 29, 2022, Beyoncé released her seventh solo album, “RENAISSANCE” after hinting on the internet that something big was coming. Also referred to as “Act I,” “Renaissance” was announced to be the first of three new projects from work curated during the pandemic. Following the release of her album, she went on her “Renaissance” world tour and released a movie following it, “RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ.” After the success of her “Renaissance” era, the singer continued on the momentum, confirming “Act II” of her project during the 2024 Super Bowl. With the release of two singles from the album, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES,” fans were surprised that the album would be country-inspired. 

On March 29, 2024, Beyoncé released “Act II: COWBOY CARTER,” which resulted in an outpour of positive reviews from listeners. According to Spotify and Amazon Music, the album had the most streams in a single day and had the biggest album debut. This not only showcased the success of Beyoncé’s versatility as an artist, but also her decision to venture into a genre not seen in her discography. Filled with a total of 27 new songs, “COWBOY CARTER” showcases Beyoncé’s talent along with an expansive list of collaborations such as Miley Cyrus, Post Malone, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Linda Martell and various rising Black country artists.

Typical of any Beyoncé album, the singer delivers a chart-topping work of art. Despite the album’s run-time coming in at a total listening time of an hour and 18 minutes, the songs will have listeners hooked in from start to finish, even replaying some songs to get another listen in. The album demonstrates the amount of range and versatility Beyoncé has, from singing with her country roots to even surprising listeners as she belts out an Italian operatic on “DAUGHTER.” The message that Beyoncé is sending out is clear: she will not be trapped in a box held together by restrictions of genres. Overall, the album successfully brings up conversations about genres, Black culture and the history behind country music. 

Ten days before the release of “Act II: COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé took to Instagram to thank fans and explain the album’s significance to her. In discussing the making of the album, she mentioned “[the album] was born out of an experience that [she] had years ago where [she] did not feel welcomed … and it was very clear that [she] wasn’t.” The criticisms she mentioned are speculated to stem from her song “Daddy Lessons” performance at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards with the country music band, the Chicks. This performance sparked much backlash and controversy among country music fans who felt the music star did not belong in the genre. Much of the criticism was racially and politically charged, especially as the Chicks faced controversy that was still fresh for some. 

Country music has for so long been predominantly ruled by the stereotypical white male with cowboy-esque vibes. Yet, many country music elements have deep origins traced back to African American traditions with blues, gospel and folk music. As such, despite many white artists being the face of country music for so long, much of its history has been shaped by Black musicians’ shape and style. The Texas singer reclaims country music, defying the limits and stereotypes set on the genre. In doing so, she takes what country music is today and wields it in a way that opens up the boundaries of the music and extends it forward. The album’s cover is another example of this as it depicts a Black woman surrounded by classic country through the American symbolism of Beyoncé as a cowboy riding on a white horse, holding the American flag while dressed in red, white and blue. 

In redefining country music, Beyoncé has found the opportunity to uplift Blackness and Black artists through the album. With how big of a platform Beyoncé has, she can bring change and uplift rising Black artists, especially in country music. In “BLACKBIIRD,” Beyoncé is joined by Black country singers, Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts, Tanner Adell and Tiera Kennedy. She gives the artists a platform to perform and showcase their talent to her wide fanbase. In tearing down the boundaries of country music and its stereotypes, Beyoncé can bring back and uplift the significance of its Black roots and influence. 

Overall, “COWBOY CARTER” is a testament as to how Beyoncé defies the boundaries of genres. In the Instagram post, she announces “this ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.” Beyoncé makes it clear to listeners that she will not conform to labels that might hold her down. Her refusal to be limited to a genre allows her to expand her music and bring in a wide palette of musical influences. Genre is a big motif in the album and its confines that it puts on Black artists. She addresses it throughout the album through references and interludes that point to the obvious answer being racism. In all, Beyoncé’s decision to call out genre conformity demonstrates her ambition to push the boundaries and remain the powerful artist that she is. 

The influence of the album can turn to other artists in the future regardless of their race or genre they fit in. Inspired by the work Beyoncé has put out, artists can experiment and test out new genres that they felt they couldn’t before. Though not all artists can accomplish switching genres or incorporating new ones into their work, it would be an opportunity to showcase their own versatility. “COWBOY CARTER” is a well-thought-out work of art that defies genre limits, not only succeeding in its own goals but also inviting other artists in the industry to break out of their genre’s chains.