meta-scriptDestiny's Child's Debut Album At 25: How A Neo-Soul Album From Teens Spawned R&B Legends | GRAMMY.com
Destiny's Child in 1998 group shot
Destiny's Child (from left Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson) at the 1998 Soul Train Music Awards,

Photo: Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Destiny's Child's Debut Album At 25: How A Neo-Soul Album From Teens Spawned R&B Legends

Released in February 1998, the self-titled debut record from Destiny's Child heralded the beginning of an R&B supergroup. Yet its "grown and sexy" attitude and neo-soul arrangements weren't an initial hit.

GRAMMYs/Feb 16, 2023 - 04:53 pm

In 1998, the landscape for R&B music was stacked with releases: Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Whitney Houston, Faith Evans, Deborah Cox, Maxwell and Dru Hill, among others, all dropped albums during those 12 fabled months. It was also the year that a four-piece girl group from Houston, Texas by the name of Destiny’s Child released their self-titled debut album. 

The 13-track album arrived on Feb. 17 and largely featured earthy, quiet storm grooves and bluesy sensibilities. Destiny's Child bore a markedly different style than their later works, and its reception was a far cry from the group's subsequent blockbusters. Yet audiences were intrigued, and the debut peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard 200 and No. 14 on its concurrent Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, pushing enough units to warrant a RIAA platinum certification. Destiny's Child took home three trophies at 1998's Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, including Best R&B/Soul Album Of The Year.

By the time Destiny’s Child were climbing the charts, they had already traversed quite a lengthy road to stardom. Initially formed in 1990 as Girls Tyme — a six-member group that included Beyoncé Knowles, LaTavia Roberson and Kelly Rowland, organized by initial manager Andretta Tillman — the pre-teen artists performed on "Star Search" in 1992 and lost. Following their defeat, Beyoncé’s father Mathew Knowles came on board as Tilman’s co-manager, dismissing the other three girls and bringing in LeToya Luckett to form a refreshed quartet.

A few years later, they signed a production deal with Darryl Simmons’ Silent Partner imprint (Simmons was then known working with Babyface and LA Reid on hits for Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton and Tevin Campbell). Simmons connected Girls Tyme with Sylvia Rhone at Elektra Records, who dropped the Darryl's company and Girls Tyme several months later. "Sylvia dropped Darryl’s company because he was too busy writing hit songs for everyone in the industry. He didn't have the time to give to his own artists," Knowles recalls, adding that Rhone was already working with En Vogue and "didn’t really need another girl group." 

destiny's child with darryl simmons

Destiny's Child circa 1996, Columbia Records audition day | Courtesy of LaTavia Roberson

In 1996, the girls eventually secured a deal with Columbia Records and a complementary deal with D’Wayne Wiggins's own production company. Taking the girls — then 14 to 15 years old — under his wing, Destiny’s Child and their chaperones spent several months in a rented home in Oakland, California, working on an album deemed by Beyoncé as "a rebirth of music from the '70s."

"D’Wayne’s ear was very influential on the sound of the album," original member LaTavia Roberson remembers. By this point in his career, Wiggins had just come off making Tony! Toni! Toné!’s final albums Sons Of Soul and House of Music, which are now considered foundational to the development of neo-soul. Together, Wiggins and Destiny's Child created contemporary Black music that unabashedly embraced its past.

"Live instrumentation was a big part of the thought process [of] going back to a kind of urbane sound that was similar to neo-soul," Knowles explains. Tracks like "Second Nature" and "Bridges" featured potent use of the fender rhodes, bass, trumpet and saxophone.

While Wiggins was undoubtedly the album’s chief creative anchor, Destiny's Child also featured notable contributions from some of the era's key hitmakers; Tim & Bob, Jermaine Dupri, Wyclef Jean, Vincent Herbert, Mark Morales and Cory Rooney. "Mathew always just made us listen to the tracks, emphasizing it shouldn’t matter if the producer has a name. What was most important is that we felt the music," Roberson recalls.

As finishing touches were being put on the album, Columbia Records began strategizing ways to build buzz around their new signees. It just so happened that they were curating the soundtrack for the upcoming film Men In Black. Taking advantage of the opportunity to promote their own act, the soundtrack would house the rootsy and pensive ballad "Killing Time" — Destiny's Child's first official release.

The group also scored slots opening for SWV and the O’Jays, and were guest vocalists on "Can’t Stop," a regional hit by Houston rapper Lil’ O. All this preliminary visibility would ultimately set the scene for the arrival of their debut single "No, No, No'' in October 1997. The original version, branded as "No, No, No Pt 1," was a slow jam produced by Vincent Herbert and Rob Fusari; Wyclef Jean later remixed the single, which became "No, No, No Pt 2." The two versions were strategically given a dual release, allowing the song to compete on the charts as one track.

The song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the ninth best-selling song of 1998. Promos prioritized "Pt. 2," making it easy to assume that the remix drove the album's success. However, "the remix didn’t save the day," Knowles notes. "Different markets actually played the ballad more than the up-tempo version. In America, it was almost 50/50 — especially across the East Coast and Midwest."

The Jermaine Dupri-helmed "With Me Pt 1," an answer to Usher's "You Make Me Wanna," was released as the album’s second single. Despite reaching the Top 20 in Canada and Britain, it struggled to match the success of "No, No, No" in the States. Like it's predecessor, two versions of the song were also recorded; "With Me Pt 2" featured Master P, who at the time was making historic strides with his independent label No Limit Records. 

"With Me Pt 1"’ would be the final single released from the album, and the girls were tasked with going back into the studio to record what would become The Writing’s On The Wall. Interviews done around this time revealed that there were intentions for "Illusion" — a jazz-rap reworking of "Just An Illusion," a 1982 hit by British R&B trio Imagination, featuring Jean and Fugees alum Pras — to be issued as Destiny's Child's third single. A clear attempt to rehash the formula used with "No, No, No," Columbia even commissioned a club remix produced by house music royalty Maurice Joshua with new vocals.

"It’s not that we didn't love 'Illusion,' but we were minors and it’s the executives who make the decisions," Roberson says, who had a rare vocal lead on the track. "The label wanted us to move on and create more age-appropriate music."

The ballad-heavy and traditional R&B style present on Destiny's Child was considered adult-oriented, its messaging and audience more aligned with what Mary J. Blige was doing on 1997's Share My World and 1999's Mary. In a 2006 interview with the Guardian, Beyoncé said the album was "way too mature for us. It was a neo-soul record and we were 15 years old." Roberson echoed, "A lot of people thought we were older than we were because of how sophisticated the album sounded."

While Destiny’s Child had unintentionally aged themselves out of the market, their peers NSYNC, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were nearing full omnipresence as leaders of the teen pop revival. At the same time, mainstream R&B was adopting the futuristic sound and aesthetic spearheaded by Missy Elliott and Timbaland’s pioneering work with Aaliyah. This direction greatly shaped the output of competing girl groups TLC, 702 and Blaque, and ultimately kept Destiny's Child from being as pop-facing or radio friendly as Columbia had intended.

"We wanted to brand these girls as fresh hot teenagers. Though the album had some phenomenal songs, it didn’t fit into the direction we were heading into," Knowles says.

Despite its middling commercial success, the debut album generally holds up well: The Mary Jane Girls-esque "Show Me The Way," the sensuous "Birthday," and the funky b-side "You’re The Only One" all deserve contemporary re-examination. Contrasting these hidden gems is a needless cover of the Commodores’ "Sail On," which fails to leave an impression despite some well-crafted vocal arrangements. Likewise, "My Time Has Come", dedicated to their first manager, the late Andretta Tillman, had its heart in the right place but lacked the conviction and soul needed to justify its inclusion.

Nonetheless, the album remains an artifact of the elements central to Destiny's Child's musical persona. The syncopated, rapid vocal style that Beyoncé innovated on "No, No, No Pt 2," and lyrical themes of romantic equity, mutual respect, self-confidence and autonomy, would govern the band's career-defining hits and influence many of their contemporaries. Destiny's Child’s prematurely "grown and sexy" vibe can be seen as the prototype for their final album, 2004 Destiny Fulfilled

"The beauty of creativity is that there has to be a starting point. The hope is that you grow from that starting point. Destiny's Child’s first album was a great example of that," Mathew imparts.

Twenty-five years ago, it would’ve been tempting to write off Destiny’s Child as no more than one-hit wonders who were, according to John Bush at AllMusic, "indistinguishable from all the other female groups out there." Few would have predicted that in just two years, Destiny's Child would become one of the definitive acts of the 2000s and, eventually, one of the most important girl groups of all time.

Achieving a level of international and cross-cultural appeal as Black women that eluded their competitors and some of their forebears, Destiny's Child is demonstrative of the axiom that it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.

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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. 

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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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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.

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

Beyonce on stage accepting the GRAMMY Award for "Halo" During Her Record-Setting Night In 2010
Beyonce on stage accepting the GRAMMY Award for "Halo" During Her Record-Setting Night In 2010

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Beyoncé Win A GRAMMY For "Halo" During Her Record-Setting Night In 2010

As you dive into Beyoncé's new album, 'COWBOY CARTER,' revisit the moment Queen Bey won a GRAMMY for "Halo," one of six golden gramophones she won in 2010.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2024 - 05:05 pm

Amongst Beyoncé's expansive catalog, "Halo" is easily one of her most iconic songs. Today, the 2009 single is her most-streamed song on Spotify; it was her first video to reach one billion views on YouTube; and it helped her set one of her GRAMMY records in 2010.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, watch the superstar take the stage to accept Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Halo" in 2010 — the year she became the first female artist to win six GRAMMYs in one night.

"This has been such an amazing night for me, and I'd love to thank the GRAMMYs," she said, admitting she was nervous before taking a deep breath.

Before leaving the stage, Beyoncé took a second to thank two more special groups: "I'd love to thank my family for all of their support, including my husband. I love you. And I'd like to thank all of my fans for their support over the years."

The five other awards Beyoncé took home that night were for the coveted Song Of The Year ("Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)") and four R&B Categories: Best Contemporary R&B Album (I Am... Sasha Fierce), Best R&B Song ("Single Ladies"), Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Single Ladies"), and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance (for her cover of Etta James' "At Last"). 

As of 2024, Beyoncé has won the most GRAMMY Awards in history with 32 wins.

Press play on the video above to relive Queen Bey's "Halo" win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Enter The World Of Beyoncé