meta-scriptBeyoncé's 'Dangerously In Love' Turns 20: How The Solo Debut Foreshadowed The Singer's Icon Status | GRAMMY.com
Beyoncé performing in 2003
Beyoncé performs at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2003.

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Beyoncé's 'Dangerously In Love' Turns 20: How The Solo Debut Foreshadowed The Singer's Icon Status

During Destiny's Child's hiatus in 2001, Beyoncé's determination to showcase her innovative sound led to 'Dangerously In Love' — which laid the foundation for the history-making GRAMMY superstar we know today.

GRAMMYs/Jun 20, 2023 - 06:52 pm

By the turn of Y2K, Destiny's Child was on top of the world. Their 2000 smash "Independent Women Part I" was the longest-running No. 1 of their career, and their 2001 LP, Survivor, was yet another worldwide success for the group. But by 2003, all eyes were on Beyoncé.

One of the founding members of Destiny's Child, Beyonce was also the group's main vocalist and co-writer, proving her prowess as a star in her own right — and her debut solo album solidified her, well, destiny. 

Released on June 24, 2003, Beyoncé's Dangerously In Love laid the groundwork for the GRAMMY-winning icon she is today. Throughout its 15 tracks, Beyoncé displayed a newfound confidence and a hunger for creativity. She experimented with sounds that steered away from the Pop&B girl power anthems of yore, whether it was on the futuristic "Hip Hop Star" with Big Boi and Sleepy Brown or the use of Arabic strings in "Naughty Girl."

At the same time, Dangerously In Love expands on her R&B roots with stunning balladry, with Beyoncé musing about the various stages of love. Turning 21 during the recording process — and falling in love with then-rumored beau and now husband, Jay-Z — Beyoncé embraced her womanhood with sultry vocals and adoring odes on tracks like "Be With You" and "Speechless." (The album's name and title track also harken back to her Destiny's Child days, as "Dangerously In Love" was a Beyoncé co-write that was initially featured on Survivor.)

Bey's solo debut also outlined the fundamentals that would eventually become the foundation of her superstar status. There's her unshakeable chemistry with Jay-Z (who features on lead single "Crazy in Love" and "That's How You Like It"), her knack for unexpected samples and interpolations (like the play on Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" in "Naughty Girl") and intricately layered harmonies ("Yes"), her sensual expression ("Gift From Virgo") and her hit-making power ("Baby Boy").

Still, there were many naysayers who didn't believe in Beyoncé's solo star power at the time — even Beyoncé herself. "I want my solo record to be successful, but I don't expect it to do as well as Destiny's Child," Beyoncé told Complex in 2003. "I just want people to acknowledge me [as a vocalist] and for the songwriting, and I just want to make some good music."

While her humility never faltered despite her growing fame, the singer also knew she exceeded many expectations. As she cheekily recalled during her "I Am... Yours" Las Vegas residency in 2009, her record label was also among the doubters. "They told me I didn't have one hit on my album," she said. "I guess they were kind of right… I had five."

And thanks to those five hits — "Crazy in Love," "Baby Boy," "Me, Myself and I," "Naughty Girl," and "Dangerously in Love 2" — she swiftly proved her critics wrong. From its vibrant horns to a brilliant display of Beyoncé's growing vocal octaves, it was no surprise that lead single "Crazy In Love" became her first No. 1 hit. The song's chart success also foreshadowed her remarkable superstardom, as it held the top spot for eight weeks; its follow-up, "Baby Boy" featuring Sean Paul, solidified her prestige, as it reigned the Hot 100 for nine weeks.

Dangerously In Love enjoyed major success as a whole, too. The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart and scored Beyoncé a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2004. In fact, Beyoncé took home not one but five GRAMMYs that night — Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Crazy In Love," Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Dangerously in Love 2" and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for her Luther Vandross duet "The Closer I Get to You" — further showing that her solo career was just getting started. (She also opened the show with Prince, performing a medley of his hits as well as "Crazy In Love.")

After all that Dangerously In Love helped Beyoncé achieve — including a national anthem performance at the 2004 Super Bowl — her star only continued to become bigger and brighter as the years went on. She solidified her status as a triple threat with a starring role in 2006's Dreamgirls (though she first previewed her acting chops in 2002's Austin Powers in Goldmember); she performed with her idol, Tina Turner, at the 2008 GRAMMYs; and in 2011, she became the first female artist to headline Glastonbury Festival in two decades.

Bey has also headlined her own Super Bowl halftime show — which included a Destiny's Child reunion — and took part in another iconic halftime performance alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars in 2016. And in 2018, she delivered a history-making (and GRAMMY-winning) Coachella performance, becoming only the first Black woman to headline Coachella.

If that wasn't enough to cement her icon status, her commercial and critical accolades speak for themselves. With 32 GRAMMYs and 88 nominations under her belt, she is the most decorated artist in GRAMMY history. What's more, all seven of her albums went No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and she has eight No. 1 hits and has sold over 200 million records worldwide. And on top of that, she's continuing to grow a business empire that includes her athleisure line Ivy Park and management/production company Parkwood Entertainment.

Even if she may not have seen it coming herself, Beyoncé has become one of the biggest icons of her generation — and Dangerously In Love set the stage flawlessly.

Ladies First: 10 Essential Albums By Female Rappers

Excited fans in a crowd shot at Coachella 2024
Fans at weekend one of Coachella 2024

Photo: Christina House / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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Meet The Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Super Fans You'll Find In The Desert

It's not only influencers and celebrities heading to Indio, California. The "real Coachella" brings together people from across the country, including super fans who come year after year for the killer live show, community, and the occasional beer chug.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 01:32 pm

After 25 years, Coachella is like a live music holiday. Every year, thousands of people from all walks of life descend upon the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California to enjoy artists whose music is as diverse as the crowd assembled. No matter what style anyone prefers, an artist they love is playing at Coachella.

This year alone, attendees can enjoy the classic Britpop sounds of Blur, trendy house music beats from John Summit, a reunion of the ska-punk icons, Sublime (featuring the late frontman's son, Jakob Nowell), and a headlining set from enigmatic rapper Tyler, The Creator.

Coachella also offers the opportunity for audiences to see artists they may never see elsewhere, like a rare American performance by the jazz-house master St.Germain, a shared set from the now-defunct dance music supergroup J.E.S.u.S. (Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Seth Troxler, and Skream), or pop legend Jai Paul’s first live show ever. 

Then, of course, there are the Coachella sets that will live in infamy: From Daft Punk’s debut of The Pyramid, which is largely credited with launching the popularity of electronic music in the United States, to Tupac’s resurrection in hologram, to Beyoncé's marching band of HBCU students soundtracking a reunion of Destiny’s Child.

The people of Coachella revel in these eclectic and epic offerings. Approximately 125,000 people per day touch down on the grass at the Empire Polo Club, and upwards of 100,000 have been reported to gather for a single set. And while hundreds of thousands of people are on the ground worshiping the music, 40 million people are watching the magic through YouTube, wishing they were there.

Coachella is a spectacle. So often the people who went one year bring their friends or family the next, and those people become obsessed. Others meet people at the festival and become best friends, family, and lovers — relationships born from a shared reverence for live music. 

With its massive popularity, it's easy to assume influencers and celebrities have taken over the polo grounds. A key moment in Billie Eilish’s documentary, Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, the young pop sensation meets her lifelong hero, Justin Bieber, for the first time at Coachella. But any long-time attendee will tell you, that the celebrities and influencers don’t engage with the true Coachella.

"The Kardashians are having one experience, and I’m having a different experience out in the field," says Ashton Aellarose who’s attended Coachella 12 times in eight years. "If you don’t want to be that, then you don’t see that…there’s the real Coachella for real people."

Real fans of Coachella stay all day and night, braving the heat and the dust, to engage with the epic performances and their fellow music lovers. Alaskan Alex Rodriguez creates an Artist of the Day post on the Coachella Reddit, posting every day from when the lineup drops until the festival. He flies in from the Last Frontier because Coachella provides something that other festivals simply can’t.

"Whether it be over-the-top productions, unexpected guest appearances or simply the chance to let others hear your unfamiliar sound to others, Coachella invites performances that you simply won’t see anywhere else," Rodriguez tells GRAMMY.com via email. 

Coachella’s community is built on the idea that music is the universal language. Whether you’re coming for the first time or the 25th time, whether you’re a senior citizen, a new parent, or a college kid on spring break, Coachella is a space for live music fans to celebrate what they love more than anything, and celebrate each other. GRAMMY.com spoke to five Coachella die-hards — attendees who count Coachella as an annual, important part of their year — to learn what Coachella means to them.

From Fan To Music Industry Professional: The 25-Year Attendee 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Josh Brooks

Josh Brooks DJing in 2011┃Josh Brooks

Name: Josh Brooks

Number of Coachellas attended: 26

Favorite set: The Chemical Brothers, 1999

Josh Brooks has attended every year of Coachella since the first edition in 1999, and credits the festival for his career in music. To date, he's worked as a booking agent, tour manager, and DJ who has played Coachella on several occasions. In 2023, he played a slot during the after-hours silent disco in the campgrounds. 

Back in 1999, Brooks had just started college at UCLA and was studying physical science, geology, and geography. He went to Coachella on a whim because tickets were $50 per day to see Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Beck, Morrissey, and the Chemical Brothers. Everything in his musical life snowballed from there. 

"[Coachella] really opened my eyes to this whole world of music that I didn’t know existed," Brooks tells GRAMMY.com. "I’ve played music my whole life. I played clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone. I was in the California Young Musicians Orchestra for a year in high school. Music has always been really important to me. But that’s where I really started to find myself musically." 

In 2011, Brooks found himself as a part of Coachella. That year, Global Inheritance — the nonprofit that organizes all of Coachella’s sustainability efforts —hosted a human-powered stage called the Energy Factory. Brooks submitted a DJ mix as part of a contest to play a slot on that stage, and he won. 

"I just played at the festival that I have been enamored with for the last 12 years. I just made a dream come true," Brooks said.

A year after that, he got laid off as a high school science teacher, and he’s been working in music ever since. Currently, he’s the booking agent and tour manager for respected house music artist Sacha Robotti, and revitalizing their SLOTHACID brand. But in between his workload, he’s still taking time for a trip to the desert for some live music. 

The Fan That Made Coachella A Family Affair

Meet The Coachella Die-Hards: A family affair

The Glazer family┃MIkey Glazer

Name: Mikey Glazer

Number of Coachellas attended:  16

Favorite set: M.I.A., 2008

Every year at Coachella, you see a handful of parents celebrating live music with their children. In fact, there are meetups for families at the festival. Among this somewhat unusual sight, you'll find Mikey Glazer and his 5-year-old son, Axwell. 

Glazer has been attending Coachella since 2003, and used to be one of the festival's more typical attendees (a 20-something attending for the party and the tunes). Now, at age 47, Coachella has become his yearly family vacation. Glazer and his wife, Melissa, brought Axwell to the festival four times: three in the flesh, and once in utero.

During the pandemic, Mikey, Melissa, and Axwell listened to music as a family. Especially electronic artists like Skrillex and Tiësto. (Axwell is also the artist moniker of one of the members of the GRAMMY-nominated electronic trio Swedish House Mafia.) When the family went to Coachella together, they saw Axwell express that love of music in full force.

"Seeing a DJ and the visuals, he just loved it. To see it through his eyes is absolutely amazing," Glazer says. "Nobody who doesn’t have kids would ever want to have a kid with them at Coachella. But when you spend every day with your kid, you’re going through new music Friday; he’s picking out songs he likes, and you listen to music together every day; when you get to Coachella, to see him enjoy it is great."

Ranking Coachella: The Fan Who Listens To Every Single Artist 

Fans inside the ferris wheel at Coachella

Brian Downing (second from right) with friends from Cincinnati┃Brian Downing

Name: Brian Downing

Number of Coachellas attended: 4

Favorite set: Madeon, 2022

For decades, Brian Downing has been ranking all the live artists he sees. He saw hundreds of artists the year he turned 50, and condensed all of them into a top 20 list.

When he comes to Coachella, he does the same thing, except instead of creating a list over the course of a year, he does it for three days. In the weeks leading up to the festival, he listens to every one of the 150 artists performing at the festival and gives them all a ranking.

"There are so many acts I don’t know going into it," Downing says. "Someone else might look at [the lineup] and go, ‘Oh my god, this is so overwhelming.’ I look at it and go, ‘Oh my god, I get to rank so many things’."

He ranks every artist on the lineup 1–10 and organizes the rankings on a spreadsheet that he shares with his friends who come to Coachella with him. A 10 is reserved for someone he is going to see, no matter what; one signifies someone he’s going to skip. That way, his group will know who they may or may not enjoy as well. 

Brian also frequently adds commentary to each artist. Here’s what he has to say about the drag-ready pop star Chappell Roan, who is performing on Friday at Coachella this year:

"I do loves me some Chapell Roan! She is an indie pop darling, and for good reason. Red Wine Supernova is an absolute bop! But she has so many other great songs too that haven't been hits yet. Don't want to miss this fun show! Side note: Remember to learn the entire H-O-T-T-O-G-O dance. You’re gonna thank me later. 10’s all day, baby! - 10."

The Fan Who Would Spend Eternity At Coachella 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Ashton Aellarose

At Coachella 2011┃Ashton Aellarose

Name: Ashton Aellarose

Number of Coachellas attended:  9

Favorite set: Postal Service, 2013

Throughout her life, Ashton Aellarose has lived in many places: Northern California, North Carolina, Colorado, even a few extended stints abroad. But no matter where she was residing, Aellarose would see the Coachella lineup in copies of SPIN magazine and dream of going somewhere with such vast musical offerings.

Now she’s attended nine Coachellas, and Coachella is the one place she calls home. Simply put, her life wouldn’t be the same without Coachella.

When she attended in 2014, Aellarose worked at an on-site lemonade stand. Not only did the experience lead to her working in festival vendor management for a time, but Aellarose met her best friend during her very first shift at the stand. That same friend introduced Aellarose to her boyfriend, whom she brought to Coachella for the first time last year. 

When she brought him, she showed him all the traditions she’d developed over numerous editions: Picking up last-minute camping supplies at the Wal-Mart in Indio; watching the first sunset performance of the weekend (one of her favorites was Violent Femmes in 2013); enjoying her favorite foods like the spicy pie and the arepas.

"It’s nice to have this place that’s so spiritual and consistent in such an inconsistent world," Aellarose says. "I thought it was cool when Skrillex said during the TBA set [in 2023], ‘This is the biggest party in the world right now where you’re at.’ I say that every year."

Coachella is such an important place for Aellarose, that she would like it to be her final resting place: "When I die, I want my ashes thrown around Coachella. No joke."

Creating Community With Beer & Cheer: The Fan Who Learned To Love At Coachella 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Joe Stamey

Joe Stamey and friend┃Joe Stamey

Name: Joe Stamey

Number of Coachellas attended: 16

Favorite set:  Beyoncé, 2018

At 1:32:14 in the Coachella documentary, Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert, Joe Stamey says:

"I come because I genuinely love music. I’ve seen more music here than I’ve seen in my entire life in other places. I see acts here that I will never see at the other festivals all over."

The filmmakers followed multiple attendees around the festival in 2019. Stamey is the only one who made it into the documentary. His love of music is a significant factor in why.

But more than his love of music, he genuinely wants everyone at Coachella to have an amazing time enjoying the live music like he does. Before our call is over, he even offers me to stay at his campsite. 

"​​I meet people that are my friends now forever because of things that I've done like that. Caring for people," Stamey says. "The festival did that to me."

Every year, Stamey organizes a beer chug at 10:40 a.m. on Friday in the campgrounds through the Coachella subreddit. Mikey Glazer (who you met above) attends every year as well. 

"It's literally just hundreds of people sitting around chugging beers at 10:40 a.m. And I just give everyone I can as big a hug as I can," Stamey says. "It’s a huge friend reunion. I run into so many people from 15 years of my life, and I love them all."

Coachella Weekend 1 Recap: 20 Surprises And Special Moments, From Billie Eilish & Lana Del Rey, To Olivia Rodrigo With No Doubt

Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award onstage during the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, April 1.
Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award onstage during the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, April 1.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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Beyond Country: All The Genres Beyoncé Explores On 'Cowboy Carter'

On 'COWBOY CARTER,' Beyoncé is free. Her eighth studio album is an unbridled exploration of musical genres — from country to opera and R&B — that celebrates the fluidity of music and her Texas roots.

GRAMMYs/Apr 3, 2024 - 08:50 pm

"Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they? In theory, they have a simple definition that's easy to understand. But in practice, well, some may feel confined."

With those words, spoken on "SPAGHETTII" by Linda Martell — the first commercially successful Black female artist in country music and the first to play the Grand Ole Opry solo — Beyoncé provides a proxy response to her original call on Instagram 10 days before COWBOY CARTER was released: "This ain’t a Country album. This is a “Beyoncé” album." 

She delivered on that promise with intent. Through a mix of homage and innovation, Beyoncé's latest is a 27-track testament to her boundless musicality and draws  from a rich aural palette. In addition to its country leanings, COWBOY CARTER includes everything from the soulful depths of gospel to the intricate layers of opera. 

Beyoncé's stance is clear: she's not here to fit into a box. From the heartfelt tribute in "BLACKBIIRD" to the genre-blurring tracks like "YA YA," Beyoncé uses her platform to elevate the conversation around genre, culture, and history. She doesn't claim country music; she illuminates its roots and wings, celebrating the Black artists who've shaped its essence.

The collective album proves no genre was created or remains in isolation. It's a concept stoked in the words of the opening track, "AMERIICAN REQUIEM" when Beyonce reflects, "Nothing really ends / For things to stay the same they have to change again." For country, and all popular genres of music to exist they have to evolve. No sound ever stays the same.

COWBOY CARTER's narrative arc, from "AMERICAN REQUIEM" to "AMEN," is a journey through American music's heart and soul, paying tribute to its origins while charting a path forward. This album isn't just an exploration of musical heritage; it's an act of freedom and a declaration of the multifaceted influence of Black culture on American pop culture.

Here's a closer look at some of some of the musical genres touched on in act ii, the second release of an anticipated trilogy by Beyoncé, the most GRAMMY-winning artist of all-time: 

Country 

Before COWBOY CARTER was even released, Beyoncé sparked critical discussion over the role of herself and all Black artists in country music. Yet COWBOY CARTER doesn't stake a claim on country music. Rather, it spotlights the genre through collaborations with legends and modern icons, while championing the message that country music, like all popular American music and culture, has always been built on the labor and love of Black lives. 

It's a reckoning acknowledged not only by Beyoncé's personal connection to country music growing up in Texas, but the role Black artists have played in country music rooted in gospel, blues, and folk music. 

Enter The World Of Beyoncé

Country legends, Dolly Parton ("DOLLY P", "JOLENE," and "TYRANT"), Willie Nelson ("SMOKE HOUR" and "SMOKE HOUR II"), and Martell ("SPAGHETTII and "THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW") serve mainly as spoken-word collaborators, becoming MCs for Queen Bey. Some of the most prolific country music legends receiving her in a space where she has been made to feel unwelcome in music (most notably with the racism surrounding her 2016 CMA performance of "Daddy Lessons" with the Dixie Chicks) provides a prolific release of industry levies. Martell, a woman who trod the dark country road before Bey, finally getting her much-deserved dues appears as an almost pre-ordained and poetic act of justice. 

"BLACKBIIRD," a version of the Beatles' civil rights era song of encouragement and hope for the struggle of Black women is led softly by Beyoncé, backed by a quartet of Black female contemporary country songbirds: Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. 

Beyoncé holds space for others, using the power of her star to shine a light on those around her. These inclusions rebuke nay-sayers who quipped pre-release that she was stealing attention from other Black country artists. It also flies in the faces that shunned and discriminated against her, serving as an example of how to do better. The reality that Beyoncé wasn't stealing a spotlight, but building a stage for fellow artists, is a case study in how success for one begets success for others. 

Read more: 8 Country Crossover Artists You Should Know: Ray Charles, The Beastie Boys, Cyndi Lauper & More

Gospel, Blues, & Folk (American Roots)

As is Beyoncé's way, she mounts a case for country music with evidence to back up her testimony. She meanders a course through a sequence of styles that serve as the genre's foundation: gospel, blues, and folk music.

"AMERIICAN REQUIEM" and "AMEN" bookend the album with gospel-inspired lyrics and choir vocals. The opener sets up a reflective sermon buoyed by  the sounds of a reverberating church organ, while the closer, with its introspective lyrics, pleads for mercy and redemption. The main verse on "AMEN", "This house was built with blood and bone/ The statues they made were beautiful/ But they were lies of stone," is complemented by a blend of piano, and choral harmonies. 

Hymnal references are interlaced throughout the album, particularly in songs like "II HANDS II HEAVEN" and in the lyrical nuances on "JUST FOR FUN." In the later track, Beyoncé's voice soars with gratitude in a powerful delivery of the lines, "Time heals everything / I don't need anything / Hallelujah, I pray to her." 

The gospel-inspired, blues-based "16 CARRIAGES" reflects the rich history of country songs borrowing from the blues while simultaneously calling back to songs sung by field laborers in the colonial American South. "Sixteen dollars, workin' all day/ Ain't got time to waste, I got art to make" serves as the exhausted plea of an artist working tirelessly long hours in dedication to a better life. 

Rhiannon Giddens, a celebrated musician-scholar, two-time GRAMMY winner, and Pulitzer Prize recipient, infuses "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" with her profound understanding of American folk, country, and blues. She plays the viola and banjo, the latter tracing its origins to Sub-Saharan West Africa and the lutes of ancient Egypt. Through her skilled plucking and bending of the strings, Giddens bridges the rich musical heritage of Africa and the South with the soul of country, blues, and folk music.

Pop, Funk, Soul & Rock 'n' Roll 

All in, Beyoncé is a pop star who is wrestling with labels placed on her 27-year career in COWBOY CARTER. Fittingly, she brings in two other pop artists known for swimming in the brackish water between country and pop, Miley Cyrus and Post Malone. Her intentional inclusion of two artists who have blurred genres without much cross-examination begs the question, Why should Beyoncé's sound be segregated to a different realm? 

On "YA YA" Linda Martell returns as the listener's sonic sentinel, introducing the track like a lesson plan: "This particular tune stretches across a range of genres. And that’s what makes it a unique listening experience." The tune sinks into the strummed chords of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" before leaping into a fiery dance track that features reimagined lyrics from the Beach Boys, with soulful vocal flourishes and breaks that show the throughline connection between '60s era rock, funk, and pop music.

Robert Randolph lends his hands on "16 CARRIAGES" with a funk-infused grapple on his pedal-steel guitar. It's a style he honed through his early years touring and recording with his family band and later in his career as an in-demand collaborator working with names including the Allman Brothers, and Norah Jones

The lesson is solidified as the album transitions into an interlude on "OH LOUISIANA," featuring a sped-up sample of a classic track by Chuck Berry. This moment emphasizes the pop superstar's nod to civil rights era music history, spotlighting a controversial artist celebrated for his pioneering contributions to rock 'n' roll. (It's a part of music history Beyoncé knows well, after starring as Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, a veiled biopic of the legendary Chicago label Chess Records.)

Classical & Opera

Opera was missing from many listeners' Beyoncé Bingo card, but didn't surprise those that know her background. Beyoncé was trained for over a decade starting at an early age by her voice teacher David Lee Brewer, a retired opera singer who once lived with the Knowles family. 

COWBOY CARTER gives sing-along fans a 101 opera class with "DAUGHTER." In Italian, Beyoncé sings passages from the 1783 Italian opera "Caro Mio Ben," composed by Giuseppe Tommaso Giovanni Giordani. The aria is a classic piece of vocal training that fittingly shows off her full range — taking us back to the earliest days of her vocal teachings.

Hip-Hop & R&B

Midway through the album on "SPAGHETTII" Beyoncé announces, "I ain't no regular singer, now come get everythin' you came for," landing right where expectations have confined her: in the throes of a romping beat, experimenting with sounds that blend hip-hop with R&B and soul. The track notably highlights the talent of Nigerian American singer/rapper Shaboozey, who also shows up to the rodeo on "SWEET HONEY BUCKIN'" brandishing his unique mix of hip-hop, folk-pop, and country music. 

Beyoncé worked with longtime collaborator Raphael Saadiq on this album, a career legend in the R&B industry, who lends his mark to several tracks on which he wrote, produced, and played multiple instruments. Beyoncé also utilizes the Louisiana songwriter Willie Jones on "JUST FOR FUN," an artist who draws on a contemporary blend of country, Southern rap, and R&B in the hymnal ballad. 

The violin-heavy "TYRANT" and "SPAGHETTII" both underscore hip-hop's long love affair with the classical string instrument (See: Common's "Be," and Wu Tang Clan's "Reunited" as the tip of that particular iceberg) with a blend of soulful R&B lyrics paired with beat-based instrumentalization. 

In a world quick to draw lines and label sounds, Beyoncé's COWBOY CARTER stands as a vibrant mosaic of musical influence and innovation. Ultimately, Beyoncé's COWBOY CARTER isn't seeking anyone's acceptance. As a Texan once told she didn't belong, her critical response claps back at this exclusion.  It's also a reminder that in the hands of a true artist, music is limitless.

Run The World: Why Beyoncé Is One Of The Most Influential Women In Music History

Beyonce Cowboy Carter Takeaways Hero
Beyoncé at the 2024 GRAMMYs

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Beyoncé Is The Genre-Bending Queen On 'Cowboy Carter': 5 Takeaways From Her New Album

On 'act ii' of her three-part album trilogy, Beyoncé explores the world of country and beyond — and makes a statement with every track.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2024 - 09:12 pm

When Beyoncé released RENAISSANCE in July 2022, she revealed that the album would be part of a "three-act project." One year and eight months later, she delivered on her promise in a big, bold way with act ii: COWBOY CARTER.

The expansive 27-track project finds the star experimenting with country, folk and Americana, pushing the boundaries of genre in a way she never has before — and, in classic Bey fashion, serving up a poignant response to naysayers.

"It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn't," she shared in an Instagram post the week before the album's release. "But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive."

From thoughtful cameos to old-school instrumentation, COWBOY CARTER is the culmination of everything that makes Beyoncé one of the most influential artists of her time, flexing her knack for statement pieces as well as her versatility. 

Here are five key takeaways from Beyoncé's long-awaited new album, COWBOY CARTER.

It's Not Country, It's KNTRY

Beyoncé revealed the COWBOY CARTER track listing in a rodeo-inspired concert flyer posted to Instagram on March 27. The artwork shared an important tag at the bottom: "Brought to you by KNTRY Radio Texas."

KNTRY Radio is a fantasy station with a wide open format created for COWBOY CARTER, and hosted by Willie Nelson in two short "SMOKE HOUR" interludes. Throughout the album, you'll hear samples of old songs by Chuck Berry and other classic artists. 

As Beyoncé stated in another pre-release Instagram post, COWBOY CARTER isn't a country album. Instead, popular styles are blended together in surprising ways to create a new sound that's purely Beyoncé. (There's even a moment, on "DAUGHTER," where she sings a verse from a famous Italian opera called "Caro Mio Ben.")

Whether through an intro, an interlude or a powerful verse, it's clear that Beyoncé and her guests are trying to open minds musically with these songs. "If there's one thing you can take away from our set today, let it be this," Nelson said in the second of his two "SMOKE HOUR" radio-style interludes on the album. "Sometimes you don't know what you like and someone you trust turns you on to some real good s—. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm here."

It's A Unique Continuation Of Her Mission

COWBOY CARTER begins the same way as it ends, with Beyoncé proclaiming, "Them big ideas are buried here, Amen," in the intro of opener "AMERICAN REQUIEM," and then "Them old ideas are buried here, Amen" in the last line of closer "AMEN."

Those statements reflect exactly what Beyoncé set out to do with COWBOY CARTER: celebrate the Black community's roots within the country space, while addressing the lack of cultural acceptance of it. The album celebrates Blackness in the way she's always done, but in a way that feels even more revolutionary.

This is perhaps best exhibited in the trap-infused track "SPAGHETTII." "Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they?" asks Linda Martell — who was the first Black woman soloist to appear at the Grand Ole Opry — on the song's intro. "In theory, they have a simple definition that's easy to understand/ But in practice, well, some may feel confined."

As Beyoncé adds in the first verse, "Now we on a mission, tried to turn me to the opposition/ I'm appalled 'bout the proposition/ Y'all been played by the plagiaristic, ain't gonna give no clout addiction my attention."

Beyoncé has long been at the forefront of honoring Black culture, and COWBOY CARTER is her most boundary-pushing addition to the conversation yet — and she hopes to change the "old ideas" into "big ideas."

It Takes Her Cinematic Love To The Next Level

It's no secret that Beyoncé loves her visuals. Though COWBOY CARTER isn't a visual album like some of her previous releases, a press release revealed that each of the songs on the album are inspired by Western films. In a statement, Beyoncé named five specific films as primary influences: The Harder They Fall, Killers of the Flower Moon, Urban Cowboy, The Hateful Eight, and Five Fingers For Marseilles

Several of the COWBOY CARTER visuals have elements of Western films, from the desert and mountainous landscapes of "AMERIICAN REQUIEM" and "OH LOUISIANA" to the rainy ashtray in "AMEN." And it's likely not a coincidence that a track called "SPAGHETTII" ended up on an album inspired by Westerns. 

Beyoncé even made a new catchphrase out of the most famous Western movie actor of all time on "BODYGUARD," where she declares she'll "John Wayne that ass."

It's Her Most Organic Sound Yet

Pivoting from the electronic landscape of RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé favors analog instruments over digital sounds on COWBOY CARTER. As "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" foreshadowed, there's plenty of banjo, boot-stomping beats and guitar plucks — and even Beyoncé's fingernails as percussion — across the album.

Raw instrumentation is also sprinkled throughout, particularly on "FLAMENCO" and her stunning cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird" (whose title is given an act ii twist as "BLACKBIIRD"). And if anything sounds a little unpolished, Beyoncé wants you to know it was completely intentional.

"With artificial intelligence and digital filters and programming, I wanted to go back to real instruments, and I used very old ones," Beyoncé explained in a press statement. "I didn't want some layers of instruments like strings, especially guitars, and organs perfectly in tune. I kept some songs raw and leaned into folk. All the sounds were so organic and human, everyday things like the wind, snaps and even the sound of birds and chickens, the sounds of nature."

It's Another Family Affair

Now that Beyoncé's first-born daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, has played a prominent role in her mom's career — winning a GRAMMY in 2021 for her part in "Brown Skin Girl" and famously dancing on the RENAISSANCE World Tour — it was time for her little sister to shine.

Six-year-old Rumi Carter contributes an intro on "PROTECTOR," by asking Bey if she can "hear the lullaby." Though Rumi isn't featured in the rest of the track, hearing her voice at the beginning makes the song's sweet sentiment all the more impactful: "And I will lead you down that road if you lose your way/ Born to be a protector," Beyoncé sings on the chorus.

With so much to uncover in COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé already has the anticipation high for the final part of her album trilogy. Will act iii feature Rumi's twin brother, Sir Carter? Will the rumors of Beyoncé exploring her rock side be true? We'll hopefully find out soon enough, but for now, get lost in the world of COWBOY CARTER — a testament to Beyoncé's prowess as an ever-evolving trailblazer. 

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Beyoncé attends the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Beyoncé's New Album 'Cowboy Carter' Is Here: Check Out The Featured Artists, Cover Songs, And Tracklist

Beyoncé's highly anticipated 'COWBOY CARTER' opens up a Pandora's box of American lore, and the deep connections between Blackness and country music. Here's the rundown of the album's featured artists, cover songs and tracklisting.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2024 - 06:00 pm

Beyoncé's act ii is upon us — say hello to COWBOY CARTER.

On March 29, the 32-time GRAMMY winner unleashed the follow-up to her acclaimed 2022 album, RENAISSANCE. While COWBOY CARTER hints "Bey goes country," the LP is more of a psychedelic opus, with glimmers of country twang and style.

Across a sprawling 27-song tracklist of inspired originals flecked with covers and interpolations, Queen Bey takes us on a rodeo ride through so many musical universes, paying homage to the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Linda Martell, and more.

Clearly, there's a treasure trove here — more than enough to keep the Beyhive abuzz throughout 2024. GRAMMY.com is here to help you pore over every twangy lick, mega-guest star and lyrical implication. 

As you dive into Beyoncé's astonishing new album, read on for some of the fundamentals of COWBOY CARTER.

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The Tracklisting

Two days prior to COWBOY CARTER's release, Bey released the tracklist — fittingly, in the form of a rodeo poster. And much to the delight of the Beyhive, it's nearly double the length of its 16-track predecessor, RENAISSANCE.

Check out the rodeo poster, as well as the complete track listing, below.

  1. AMERIICAN REQUIEM

  2. BLACKBIIRD

  3. 16 CARRIAGES

  4. PROTECTOR

  5. MY ROSE

  6. SMOKE HOUR WILLIE NELSON

  7. TEXAS HOLD 'EM

  8. BODYGUARD

  9. DOLLY P

  10. JOLENE

  11. DAUGHTER

  12. SPAGHETTII

  13. ALLIGATOR TEARS

  14. SMOKE HOUR II

  15. JUST FOR FUN

  16. II MOST WANTED

  17. LEVII'S JEANS

  18. FLAMENCO

  19. THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW

  20. YA YA

  21. OH LOUISIANA

  22. DESERT EAGLE

  23. RIIVERDANCE

  24. II HANDS II HEAVEN

  25. TYRANT

  26. SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN'

  27. AMEN

The Cover Songs

Among two dozen dazzling Beyoncé originals, COWBOY CARTER features covers of the Beatles' "Blackbird," Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and Chuck Berry's "Oh Louisiana."

"BLACKBIIRD" (retitled from "Blackbird," with an act ii flavor) is a Paul McCartney song, credited to Lennon-McCartney and featured on 1968's The Beatles, commonly known as The White Album. The song's civil rights inspiration makes it more than a worthy selection: the use of McCartney's original guitar and foot-tapping track makes it especially ear-grabbing.

"JOLENE" is a Dolly Parton classic, similarly given symphonic heft by Bey; Parton offers a radio-like intro on the COWBOY CARTER rendition.

In Parton's pre-"JOLENE" intro, "DOLLY P," she connects "Jolene" to Bey's immortal line "Becky with the good hair" from the Lemonade track "Sorry": "You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when, except she has flamin' locks of auburn hair. Bless her heart. Just a hair of a different color, but it hurts just the same."

"OH LOUISIANA" is a Chuck Berry deep cut from 1971's undersung San Francisco Dues; a flicker of Berry's "Maybellene" appears in "SMOKE HOUR WILLIE NELSON," which also features interpolations of Roy Hamilton's "Don't Let Go" and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Down By The River Side."

Similarly, "YA YA" contains glimmers of Tommaso Giordani's "Caro Mio Ben," Lee Hazelwood's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," and the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations."

The Guests

Beyoncé has always displayed razor-sharp intent with her collaborators, and COWBOY CARTER is no exception.

The featured guests highlight a slew of rising Black stars in the country scene. "BLACKBIIRD" spotlights four budding female artists, Brittney Spencer, Renya Roberts, Tanner Addell and Tiera Kennedy; Willie Jones shows off his chops on "JUST FOR FUN"; and country-rap fusionist Shaboozey stars on two tracks, "SPAGHETTII" and "SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN.'"

She also welcomes two country-loving pop stars, Miley Cyrus and Post Malone, who make appearances on "II MOST WANTED" and "LEVII'S JEANS," respectively. And along with Parton, Beyoncé honors two more country greats with two aptly titled homages: fellow Texan Willie Nelson appears on "SMOKE HOUR WILLIE NELSON" and "SMOKE HOUR II," and trailblazer Linda Martell "The Linda Martell Show"

Perhaps Beyoncé's cutest collaborator is her six-year-old daughter, Rumi Carter, who makes her adorable debut on "PROTECTOR."

With that, venture forth into COWBOY CARTER — another quintessentially Bey statement of purpose and prowess.

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