meta-scriptListen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More | GRAMMY.com
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(L-R, clockwise): Hayley Kiyoko, Ricky Martin, Brandi Carlile, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Orville Peck, Omar Apollo

Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2023 - 04:21 pm

In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."

Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Composite graphic with the logo for GRAMMY Go on the left with four photos in a grid on the right, featuring (clockwise from the top-left) CIRKUT, Victoria Monét, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr., and Janelle Monáe
Clockwise from the top-left: CIRKUT, Victoria Monét, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr., and Janelle Monáe

Graphic & Photos Courtesy of GRAMMY GO

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Recording Academy & Coursera Partner To Launch GRAMMY GO Online Learning Initiative

Class is in session. As part of the Recording Academy's ongoing mission to empower music's next generation, GRAMMY Go offers digital content in specializations geared to help music industry professionals grow at every stage of their career.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 05:01 pm

The Recording Academy has partnered with leading online learning platform Coursera on GRAMMY GO, a new online initiative to offer classes tailored for music creators and industry professionals.

This partnership empowers the next generation of the music community with practical, up-to-the moment digital content that provides wisdom for both emerging and established members of the industry. Continuing the Academy’s ongoing mission to serve all music people, courses cover a variety of specializations tailored to creative and professional growth. 

GRAMMY GO on Coursera includes courses taught by Recording Academy members, featuring GRAMMY winners and nominees and offers real-life lessons learners can put to work right away.

Starting today, enrollment is open for GRAMMY GO’s first Coursera specialization, "Building Your Audience for Music Professionals," taught by Joey Harris, international music/marketing executive and CEO of Joey Harris Inc. The course features Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam, 10-time GRAMMY nominee Janelle Monáe and three-time GRAMMY winner and the 2024 GRAMMYs Best New Artist Victoria Monét. This foundational specialization will help participants gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to build a strong brand presence and cultivate a devoted audience within the ever-changing music industry. 

The partnership’s second course, launching later this summer, aims to strengthen the technological and audio skills of a music producer. "Music Production: Crafting An Award-Worthy Song" will be taught by Carolyn Malachi, Howard University professor and GRAMMY nominee, and will include appearances by GRAMMY winner CIRKUT, three-time GRAMMY winner Hit-Boy, artist and celebrity vocal coach Stevie Mackey, five-time GRAMMY nominee and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr., and 15-time GRAMMY winner Judith Sherman. Pre-enrollment for "Music Production: Crafting An Award-Worthy Song" opens today.

"Whether it be through a GRAMMY Museum program, GRAMMY Camp or GRAMMY U, the GRAMMY organization is committed to helping music creators flourish, and the Recording Academy is proud to introduce our newest learning platform, GRAMMY GO, in partnership with Coursera," said Panos A. Panay, President of the Recording Academy. "A creator’s growth path is ongoing and these courses have been crafted to provide learners with the essential tools to grow in their professional and creative journeys."

"We are honored to welcome GRAMMY GO, our first entertainment partner, to the Coursera community," said Marni Baker Stein, Chief Content Officer at Coursera. "With these self-paced online specializations, aspiring music professionals all over the world have an incredible opportunity to learn directly from iconic artists and industry experts. Together with GRAMMY GO, we can empower tomorrow's pioneers of the music industry to explore their passion today."

GRAMMY GO also serves as the music community’s newest digital hub for career pathways and editorial content that provides industry insights for members of the industry; visit go.grammy.com for more. For information and enrollment, please visit the landing pages for "Building Your Audience for Music Professionals" and "Music Production: Crafting An Award-Worthy Song."

Meet 5 GRAMMY Nominees Who Started At GRAMMY U: From Boygenius Engineer Sarah Tudzin To Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying

Andrew Watt
Andrew Watt

Photo: Adali Schell

list

How Andrew Watt Became Rock's Big Producer: His Work With Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, & More

Andrew Watt cut his teeth with pop phenoms, but lately, the 2021 Producer Of The Year winner has been in demand among rockers — from the Rolling Stones and Blink-182 to Elton John.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 01:45 pm

While in a studio, Andrew Watt bounces off the walls. Just ask Mick Jagger, who once had to gently tell the 33-year-old, "Look, I can deal with this, but when you meet Ronnie and Keith, you have to dial it down a little bit."

Or ask Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard. "He really got the best out of [drummer] Matt [Cameron] just by being excited — literally jumping up and down and pumping his fist and running around," he tells GRAMMY.com.

As Watt's hot streak has burned on, reams have rightly been written about his ability to take a legacy act, reconnect them with their essence, and put a battery in their back. His efficacy can be seen at Music's Biggest Night: Ozzy Osbourne's Patient Number 9 won Best Rock Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs. At the last ceremony, the Rolling Stones were nominated for Best Rock Song, for Hackney Diamonds' opener "Angry."

On Pearl Jam's return to form, Dark Matter, due out April 19. Who was behind the desk? Take a wild guess.

"You want to see them live more than you want to listen to their albums, and they have the ability to look at each other and play and follow each other. I don't like my rock music any other way, as a listener," Watt tells GRAMMY.com. "All my favorite records are made like that — of people speeding up, slowing down, playing longer than they should."

As such, Watt had a lightbulb moment: to not record any demos, and have them write together in the room. "They're all playing different stuff, and it makes up what Pearl Jam is, and singer Eddie [Vedder] rides it like a wave."

If you're more of a pop listener, there's tons of Watt for you — he's worked with Justin Bieber ("Hit the Ground" from Purpose), Lana Del Rey ("Doin' Time" from Norman F—ing Rockwell) and much more. Read on for a breakdown of big name rockers who have worked with Andrew Watt.

Pearl Jam / Eddie Vedder

Watt didn't just produce Dark Matter; he also helmed Vedder's well-received third solo album, Earthling, from 2022. Watt plays guitar in Vedder's live backing band, known as the Earthlings — which also includes Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced John Frusciante in the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a stint.

The Rolling Stones

Dark Matter was a comeback for Pearl Jam, but Hackney Diamonds was really a comeback for the Stones. While it had a hater or two, the overwhelming consensus was that it was the Stones' best album in decades — maybe even since 1978's Some Girls.

"I hope what makes it fresh and modern comes down to the way it's mixed, with focus on low end and making sure the drums are big," Watt, who wore a different Stones shirt every day in the studio, has said about Hackney Diamonds. "But the record is recorded like a Stones album."

Where there are modern rock flourishes on Hackney Diamonds, "There's no click tracks. There's no gridding. There's no computer editing," he continued. "This s— is performed live and it speeds up and slows down. It's made to the f—ing heartbeat connection of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Steve Jordan.

"And Charlie," Watt added, tipping a hat to Watts, who played on Hackney Diamonds but died before it came out. "When Charlie's on it."

Iggy Pop

Ever since he first picked up a mic and removed his shirt, the snapping junkyard dog of the Stooges has stayed relevant — as far as indie, alternative and punk music has been concerned.

But aside from bright spots like 2016's Josh Homme-produced Post Pop Depression, his late-career output has felt occasionally indulgent and enervated. The 11 songs on 2023's eclectic Watt-produced Every Loser, on the other hand, slap you in the face in 11 different ways.

"We would jam and make tracks and send them to Iggy, and he would like 'em and write to them or wouldn't like them and we'd do something else," Watt told Billboard. "It was very low pressure. We just kept making music until we felt like we had an album." (And as with Pearl Jam and Vedder's Earthlings band, Watt has rocked out onstage with Pop.

Ozzy Osbourne

You dropped your crown, O Prince of Darkness. When he hooked up with Watt, the original Black Sabbath frontman hadn't released any solo music since 2010's Scream; in 2017, Sabbath finally said goodbye after 49 years and 10 (!) singers.

On 2020's Ordinary Man and 2022's Patient Number 9, Watt reenergized Ozzy; even when he sounds his age, Ozz sounds resolute, defiant, spitting in the face of the Reaper. (A bittersweet aside: the late Taylor Hawkins appears on Patient Number 9, which was written and recorded in just four days.)

Maroon 5

Yeah, yeah, they're more of a pop-rock band, but they have guitars, bass and drums. (And if you're the type of rock fan who's neutral or hostile to the 5, you shouldn't be; Songs About Jane slaps.)

At any rate, Watt co-produced "Can't Leave You Alone," featuring Juice WRLD, from 2021's Jordi. Critics disparaged the album, but showed Watt's facility straddling the pop and rock worlds.

5 Seconds of Summer

When it comes to Andrew Watt, the Sydney pop-rockers — slightly more on the rock end than Maroon 5 and their ilk — are repeat customers. He produced a number of tracks for 5 Seconds of Summer, which spanned 2018's Youngblood, 2020's Calm and 2022's 5SOS5.

Regarding the former: Watt has cited Youngblood as one of the defining recording experiences of his life.

"I had started working with 5 Seconds of Summer, and a lot of people looked at them as a boy band, but they're not," Watt told Guitar Player. "They're all incredible musicians. They can all play every instrument. They love rock music. They can harmonize like skyrockets in flight. They just were making the wrong kind of music."

So Watt showed 5 Seconds of Summer a number of mainstays of the rock era, like Tears for Fears and the Police. The rest, as they say, is history.

Elton John

A year after Britney Spears was unshackled from her highly controversial conservatorship, it was time for a victory lap with the God of Glitter. What resulted was a curious little bauble, which became a megahit: "Hold Me Closer," a spin on "Tiny Dancer," "The One" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" that briefly launched Spears back into the stratosphere.

"Britney came in and she knew what she wanted to do," Watt recalled to The L.A. Times. "We sped up the song a little bit and she sang the verses in her falsetto, which harkens back to 'Toxic.' She was having a blast."

Watt has also worked with pop/punk heroes Blink-182 — but not after Tom DeLonge made his grand return. He produced "I Really Wish I Hated You" from 2019's Nine, back when Matt Skiba was in the band.

Where in the rock world will this tender-aged superproducer strike next? Watt knows.

Songbook: The Rolling Stones' Seven-Decade Journey To Hackney Diamonds

Danna Paola
Danna Paola

Photo: Rafael Arroyo

interview

How Danna Paola Created 'CHILDSTAR' By Deconstructing Herself

"'CHILDSTAR' is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me," Danna Paola tells GRAMMY.com. "I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this."

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 12:00 am

Danna Paola feels comfortable coexisting with her shadows. 

The Mexican singer, model and actress first appeared on television at age five, and has spent recent years dwelling on memories of her youth. Now 28, Danna is dismantling the myths and taboos around her artistic persona.

This process resulted in CHILDSTAR, which arrives April 11. Danna's seventh LP is her most authentic production and one where she makes peace with her childhood.

Accomplishing this freedom took her two years of therapy, the singer confesses to GRAMMY.com. "I deconstructed myself and my beliefs and unlearned many things to learn new ones. The pandemic also opened Pandora's box. That's where everything came out."

Through that self-discovery process, Danna knew she had to break with a constant that had accompanied her for two decades: acting. The last character she portrayed was Lucrecia in the Netflix series "Elite," a popular role that led her to reignite her music career after an eight-year hiatus. Beginning to live authentically, without the vices that fictional characters can leave behind, was the crucial step that led the Latin GRAMMY-nominated singer to CHILDSTAR.

CHILDSTAR follows a lengthy depression and a break from her management team, which Danna has described as controlling. On the new album, she embraces indulgence — singing about female pleasure for the first time in her career — and draws inspiration from her after-hour encounters. CHILDSTAR's darkly powerful electronic rhythms and synth-pop, tell a tale about a weekend of partying, alcohol, and sex to create the perfect escape from "your demons, your life, and your reality." 

Ahead of her album release, Danna Paola discussed the processes that led her to break with her past, how her boyfriend was instrumental to her return to the studio, the synthesizer that inspired the album's sound, and the gift that Omar Apollo left for her. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about the process that led you to co-produce for the first time.

This album is made with a lot of love, many hours, but above all, a lot of freedom. It's a very energetic and aggressive album, liberating.

It was a journey of introspection, empowerment, and self-confidence. Beyond being a sad story, the complete meaning of the album is not to talk and throw shade at my childhood. [It's about what] I have discovered since that first therapy session to find and make peace with my past, and that instead of being a place of embarrassment for me, it empowered me.

CHILDSTAR is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me. That's something that I am very proud of. I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this. 

It is energetic, super intense, and sexual. Electronic music, funk, dance, synth-pop, and R&B lead me to drain all these emotions. The choice of each song, and the details and creating them from start to finish, [has] been very cathartic.

In "The Fall," you sing, "You don't know me, you don't know s–– about me. I'm not a shooting star." Was it painful to relive the memories of being a child star?

Yes. I grew up in 2000s television. Back then, creating a child's image came from a lot of machismo: being the perfect girl, the girl who doesn't speak badly, the girl who smiles for everything, and whose characters are all good. She can't do bed scenes, can't talk about sex. 

With this project, I embrace that [version of] Danna. I told that girl that everything would be fine. It's OK if you make mistakes, and it is OK to fall in love. Falling in love terrified me because I've been on different projects… every six or eight months; the longest a project lasted for me was a year. I made relationships with people and friends, [but] people always left my life. I built a pretty lonely life; I almost did not spend time with my family. I poured my life into work.

I had this distortion of reality where Danna Paola was the superheroine, and I forgot who Danna was. That's why I stopped acting; creating characters and being in someone else's skin was moving me further and further away from discovering myself as a human being in the ordinary course of life, of creating myself based on situations, emotions, and relationships. 

In therapy, of course, I understood that. I made peace, and today, I am discovering many beautiful things about myself as a child that were precious, happy, and full of love. Of course, I don't blame my parents because they did their best. Nobody teaches you how to be a child star from age five.

The album led you to shine a light on your darkest sides. What did you discover about yourself and Danna as a person and artist?

I was terrified to take risks, to speak, or to create. [To me] creating a project takes a long time, at least with music. I discovered that, for me, [making music] is a spiritual act. It is an everyday practice. It is to continue to discover and continue to learn. It's falling in love again with my profession and giving the industry another chance.

I also learned that our capacity for reinvention is infinite so we can start over. Today, I also begin to be a little more human. However, I don't aspire to be an example for anyone. I want to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned so I can move forward, continue to love what I do, and not lose myself. I used to say that I wouldn't make it to 27. That was in my head.

I'm making a wonderful balance between my personal life and my work. I'm also building my family at home with my boyfriend [artist Alex Hoyer], my two little dogs, my friends, and my chosen family. It's making peace and creating the life of my dreams.

Do you like who you are now?

I love it. I continue to polish many things about my personality. I work hard to be a better human being. Life is about learning and transforming yourself. I can release another album in a couple of years; I may release another this year. I don’t want to stop making music. [I want to] continue transforming myself through my art. 

In the first two tracks, "The Fall" and "Blackout," you repeat that people don't know you. How would you describe the Danna of this record? 

She's a woman who is very sure of who she is, and nobody has given anything to me. I'm in love with my project, my music, and my life, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I struggle a lot with fame, but today, I present myself as a liberated woman in a good headspace. I don't pretend to be perfect or an example for anyone. Quite the opposite; all I do is share experiences, lessons, and music.

I'm an artist in every sense of the word. I'm a creative, honest person and have a lot of love to give, and I love receiving it, too. That should be mutual. It's an energetic practice that when one really does things with love, the universe always rewards it.

In songs like "Atari" and "Platonik," you openly sing about female sexual pleasure. Is it the first time in your career that you sing about your sexuality? 

Yes. This album is very sexual. There's a taboo when it comes to women talking about sex. In reggaeton, there are thousands of ways in which we can talk about sexuality. In my case, I had always considered it forbidden. 

It's what I told you about the kid [actress] who doesn't [about sex], who's a virgin until marriage. There is no richer pleasure than sex and the sexual pleasure you can have as a woman. There's liberation, to feel good about yourself, with your body, and also the sexual education that I can also share with generations.

This liberation with my femininity is something that I also discovered: The pleasure of being a woman and having many experiences in my life that have led me today to enjoy who I am, to have a happy sex life, and to share it through my music.

In "Platonik," you discuss sexualizing a platonic relationship with a woman and sing "I can't help what I think in my bed." Why was exploring that relationship important to you?

I had a platonic love with a girl at a stage of my life. I kept this to myself; it was a personal experience that opened the conversation to a beautiful story.

I wrote this song with [producer and songwriter] Manu Lara. We made it in half an hour. This song has something unique because, besides talking about a personal experience that is also super sexual, it talks about universal love.

That's why I say that CHILDSTAR is an album of many stories that have marked my life and beyond, talking about only the childhood stage, which is what everyone speculates, but that's not the case.

You’re flirting more with synth-pop in this album. What caught your attention about this genre?

It comes from this aggressive part of saying, here I am. For me, electronic music connects and drains emotions. Every time I've been out partying, electronic music has been liberating for me, and when I put it together with pop and these lyrics, it has become a new way to enjoy the genre.

While creating CHILDSTAR in Los Angeles, I fell in love with a Jupiter [synth] we found at Guitar Center. That synthesizer is in every song. The inspiration [to use the instrument] comes from John Carpenter's synth album [Lost Themes III: Alive After Death]. In it, I discovered synthesizers had a way of incorporating sound design and darkness into the album. 

[Synth-pop is] the expression of that need to bring out the energy I had stuck through music. It’s an emotional purpose, the connection I have with electronic music.

Your boyfriend, Alex, was instrumental in making "XT4S1S" when you didn’t want to enter a recording studio. How was reconnecting with music with help from your romantic partner?

"XT4S1S" is the song that, to both of us, as a couple and as producers, connected us on a hefty level.

I was super blocked. It took me several years to get out of my depression hole. We returned one day from [La Marquesa park] here in Mexico, and started chatting. Alex opened his laptop and started pulling out a beat.

I started throwing melodies, and [shortly] we had the chorus. It brought me back to life. I started crying with excitement because I finally felt again these desires and this emotion that you feel when you create a song, and you can’t stop moving forward and keep creating.

I remember we recorded my vocals on a voice note and sent it to [the production software] Logic. Then, it took us four months to produce this song because it was a lot of discovery, in this case, for me as a producer.

Alex is a great musician, artist, a genius — and I don’t say that because he’s my boyfriend. Artistically, there’s a fascinating world inside his head that I have learned a lot from. 

The track "Amanecer," which features Omar Apollo, breaks dramatically with the story you tell in the album. Why did you end that party cycle with a more folksy, chill song?

"Amanecer" is a track that has us all in love. It was the last song I recorded for the album. 

I wrote it to my ex. On my birthday, he called me — I was already with Alex — and it was super weird. I always feared running into him on the street, seeing him with someone else, and feeling something. And it was the exact opposite. I had already healed internally, and that wound had stopped hurting. I stopped feeling all the emotions I had gone through in K.O., [the album nominated for Best Vocal Pop Album at the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs].

This song talks about knowing how to make peace and understanding how to let go. It’s the dawn of the album. It’s perfect to release all the drama, and all the intensity, and aggressiveness that is the entire album itself.

[The song invites you] to hug yourself and say everything will be fine. There is always an opportunity to start over. 

It also has a beautiful story. Manu [Lara] taught Omar Apollo the instrumental parts of the song, and he made some melodies. At the moment of receiving them, [Omar] agreed we would make a song together, [but] it was almost impossible to record together.

[Instead, Omar] told me "You can use the melodies I made" and left me the last part of "Amanecer." He left us with that magical essence.

10 Women Artists Leading A Latin Pop Revolution: Kenia Os, Belinda & More

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

feature

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.

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