meta-scriptListen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More | GRAMMY.com
Women's History Month Playlist 2023 Hero
(L-R, clockwise): Rosalía, Rina Sawayama, Rihanna, Doja Cat, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain

Photos (L-R, clockwise): Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM, Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More

Who run the world? Harness positive energy during Women's History Month with this immersive playlist honoring Beyoncé, Rina Sawayama, Kim Petras, and more female musicians.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2023 - 03:59 pm

In the words of recent GRAMMY winner Lizzo, it's bad b— o'clock. To kick off Women's History Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating with an extensive playlist spotlighting women's divine musical artistry. Perpetually shaping, reinvigorating, and expanding genres, women's creative passion drives the music industry forward.

This March, get ready to unlock self-love with Miley Cyrus' candid "Flowers," or hit the dancefloor with the rapturous Beyoncé's "I'm That Girl." Whether you're searching for the charisma of Doja Cat's "Woman" or confidence of Rihanna's "B— Better Have My Money," this playlist stuns with diverse songs honoring women's fearlessness and innovation.

Women dominate the music charts throughout the year, but this month, dive into their glorious energy by pressing play on our curated Women's History Month playlist, featuring everyone from Dua Lipa to Missy Elliott to Madonna to Kali Uchis.

Listen below on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez
(L-R) Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez during the 2008 Teen Choice Awards.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/TCA 2008/WireImage/Getty Images

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Disney's Golden Age Of Pop: Revisit 2000s Jams From Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez & More

As Disney Music Group celebrates its defining era of superstars and franchises, relive the magic of the 2000s with a playlist of hits from Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney and more.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 06:41 pm

"...and you're watching Disney Channel!" For anyone who grew up in the 2000s, those five words likely trigger some pretty vivid imagery: a glowing neon wand, an outline of Mickey Mouse's ears, and every Disney star from Hilary Duff to the Jonas Brothers

Nearly 20 years later, many of those child stars remain instantly recognizable — and often mononymous — to the millions of fans who grew up with them: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Nick, Kevin and Joe

Each of those names has equally memorable music attached to it — tunes that often wrap any given millennial in a blanket of nostalgia for a time that was, for better or for worse, "So Yesterday." And all of those hits, and the careers that go with them, have the same starting point in Hollywood Records, Disney Music Group's pop-oriented record label.

This time in Disney's history — the core of which can be traced from roughly 2003 to 2010 — was impactful on multiple fronts. With its music-oriented programming and multi-platform marketing strategies, the network launched a procession of teen idols whose music would come to define the soundtrack to millennials' lives, simultaneously breaking records with its Disney Channel Original Movies, TV shows and soundtracks.

Now, two decades later, Disney Music Group launched the Disney 2000s campaign, honoring the pivotal, star-making era that gave fans a generation of unforgettable pop music. The campaign will last through August and lead directly into D23 2024: The Ultimate Fan Event with special vinyl releases of landmark LPs and nostalgic social media activations occurring all summer long. April's campaign activation was Disney 2000s Weekend at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, which featured special screenings of 2008's Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert and 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

But before Miley and the JoBros, Hollywood Records' formula for creating relatable (and bankable) teen pop stars began with just one name: Hilary Duff. At the time, the bubbly blonde girl next door was essentially the face of the network thanks to her starring role in "Lizzie McGuire," and she'd just made the leap to the big screen in the summer of 2003 with The Lizzie McGuire Movie. In her years with Disney, Duff had dabbled in recording songs for Radio Disney, and even released a Christmas album under Buena Vista Records. However, her first album with Hollywood Records had the potential to catapult her from charming tween ingénue to bonafide teen pop star — and that's exactly what it did.

Released on August 26, 2003, Duff's Metamorphosis sold more than 200,000 copies in its first week and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The following week, the bubblegum studio set performed the rare feat of rising from No. 2 to No. 1, making the then-16-year-old Duff the first solo artist under 18 to earn a No. 1 album since Britney Spears.

The album's immediate success was no fluke: Within a matter of months, Metamorphosis had sold 2.6 million copies. Music videos for its radio-friendly singles "So Yesterday" and "Come Clean" received constant airplay between programming on the Disney Channel. (The latter was eventually licensed as the theme song for MTV's pioneering teen reality series "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," giving it an additional boost as a cultural touchstone of the early '00s.) A 33-date North American tour soon followed, and Hollywood Records officially had a sensation on their hands. 

Naturally, the label went to work replicating Duff's recipe for success, and even looked outside the pool of Disney Channel stars to develop new talent. Another early signee was Jesse McCartney. With a soulful croon and blonde mop, the former Dream Street member notched the label another big win with his 2004 breakout hit "Beautiful Soul."

"When 'Beautiful Soul' became the label's first No. 1 hit at radio, I think that's when they really knew they had something," McCartney tells GRAMMY.com. "Miley [Cyrus] and the Jonas Brothers were signed shortly after that success and the rest is history.

"The thing that Disney really excelled at was using the synergy of the channel with promoting songs at pop," he continues. "I did appearances on 'Hannah Montana' and 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody' and my music videos were pushed to Disney Channel. The marketing was incredibly brilliant and I don't think there has been anything as connected with an entire generation like that since then."

By 2006, Disney had nearly perfected its synergistic formula, continually launching wildly popular tentpole franchises like High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls, and then giving stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Corbin Bleu recording contracts of their own. (Curiously, the pair's HSM co-star Ashley Tisdale was never signed to Hollywood Records, instead releasing her first two solo albums with Warner.) 

Aly Michalka showed off her vocal chops as sunny girl next door Keely Teslow on "Phil of the Future," and fans could find her off-screen as one half of sibling duo Aly & AJ. In between their 2005 debut album Into the Rush and its electro-pop-charged follow-up, 2007's Insomniatic, Aly and her equally talented younger sister, AJ, also headlined their own Disney Channel Original Movie, Cow Belles. (Duff also helped trailblaze this strategy with her own early DCOM, the ever-charming Cadet Kelly, in 2002, while she was simultaneously starring in "Lizzie McGuire.")

Even after years of proven success, the next class of stars became Disney's biggest and brightest, with Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers all joining the network — and record label — around the same time. "Hannah Montana" found Cyrus playing a spunky middle schooler by day and world-famous pop star by night, and the network leveraged the sitcom's conceit to give the Tennessee native (and daughter of '90s country heartthrob Billy Ray Cyrus) the best of both worlds. 

After establishing Hannah as a persona, the series' sophomore soundtrack introduced Miley as a pop star in her own right thanks to a clever double album that was one-half Hannah's music and one-half Miley's. It's literally there in the title: Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus.

From there, Cyrus' stardom took off like a rocket as she scored back-to-back No.1 albums and a parade of Top 10 hits like "See You Again," "7 Things," "The Climb," "Can't Be Tamed," and the ever-so-timeless anthem "Party in the U.S.A."

At the same time, Gomez had top billing on her own Disney Channel series, the magical (but less musical) "Wizards of Waverly Place." That hardly stopped her from launching her own music career, though, first by fronting Selena Gomez & the Scene from 2008 to 2012, then eventually going solo with the release of 2013's Stars Dance after the "Wizards" finale aired.

For her part, Lovato — Gomez's childhood bestie and "Barney & Friends" costar — got her big break playing Mitchie Torres in Camp Rock alongside the Jonas Brothers as fictional boy band Connect 3, led by Joe Jonas as the swaggering and floppy-haired Shane Gray. Much like Duff had five years prior in the wake of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Lovato released her debut solo album, 2008's Don't Forget, just three months after her DCOM broke records for the Disney Channel. 

Building off their chemistry from the movie musical, nearly the entirety of Don't Forget was co-written with the Jonas Brothers, who released two of their own albums on Hollywood Records — 2007's Jonas Brothers and 2008's A Little Bit Longer — before getting their own short-lived, goofily meta Disney series, "Jonas," which wrapped weeks after the inevitable Camp Rock sequel arrived in September 2010.

As the 2000s gave way to the 2010s, the Disney machine began slowing down as its cavalcade of stars graduated to more grown-up acting roles, music and careers. But from Duff's Metamorphosis through Lovato's 2017 LP, Tell Me You Love Me, Hollywood Records caught lightning in a bottle again and again and again, giving millennials an entire generation of talent that has carried them through adulthood and into the 2020s.

To commemorate the Disney 2000s campaign, GRAMMY.com crafted a playlist to look back on Disney's golden age of pop with favorite tracks from Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and more. Listen and reminisce below.

Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, April 14, 2024
Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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7 Incredible Sets From Coachella 2024 Weekend 1: Doja Cat, No Doubt, Raye & More

With a weekend full of surprise guests, exciting reunions and breakout performances from first-time performers, this weekend in Indio was one for the books. Read on for seven of the top performances at the first weekend of Coachella 2024.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 02:37 am

While every headliner at last year’s Coachella held some sort of historical cultural significance, Coachella 2024’s roster instead represented a series of graduations from opening slots and side stages to top-tier main stage titan status.

Friday featured Lana Del Rey, whose sole previous Coachella performance was at the Outdoor Theatre in 2014. Saturday was capped by Tyler, The Creator appearing for the third time in Indio (his last appearance as runner up to Haim and Beyoncé on the main stage in 2018). And on Sunday, Doja Cat occupied the uppermost spot after her penultimate main stage appearance in 2022.

Yet Coachella Weekend 1 this year’s attendees got astronomically more bang for their buck than they counted on, due to a surprise-guest-heavy lineup. The bulk of those special moments came from  A-list talent, from Billie Eilish with Lana Del Rey to Olivia Rodrigo with No Doubt, Justin Bieber joining Tems, Kesha with Reneé Rapp, most of the Fugees performing alongside YG Marley, Will Smith performing "Men in Black" with J Balvin … the list goes on. 

When all was said and done, the diversity, quality and impact of the weekend’s performances were tremendous. Even without elite bonus appearances, there were plenty of performances — quite a few of them newcomers, recent buzzbands and imminent breakthroughs — that made this year’s Coachella more than worthy of an early accolade for one of the first-rate fests of 2024. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2024.

Faye Webster Thrills Loyal Fans With Supreme Confidence

Underneath the shaded canopy of the Mojave Tent, Faye Webster held her sprawling audience in the palm of her hand during her Coachella debut on Friday. Deafening cheers rang out at the start of every song, which seemed to infuse the 26-year-old singer/songwriter with a level of energy unparalleled up to this point in her career.

Webster deftly worked her way through 11 tracks, each one received with wild cheers from fans, who sang with such gusto that they often nearly overpowered her own vocals. The crossroads of her confidence and creativity fully manifested during closing tune "Kingston," which saw her pausing to let the audience belt out the remainder of the line, a beckoning gesture that exuded self-assuredness. 

Notably, three of six new songs ("Wanna Quit All the Time," "He Loves Me Yeah!" and "Lego Ring") from her recently released fifth album Underdressed at the Symphony were live debuts. The fact that Webster saved them for Coachella showed a clear intention to ensure the set was extra special. Beyond any shadow of doubt, she succeeded. 

Lana Del Rey Taps Billie Eilish, Jon Batiste & Others For Standout Friday Set

With her notoriously downtempo demeanor, Lana Del Rey wasn’t the obvious choice for a Friday headlining spot on the main stage, but when all was said and done, her 20-song set delivered plenty to position her as a standout performer. 

Dressed in an elegant baby blue gown, her entrance — a slow ride on the back of a motorbike through the lanes of the crowd all the way to the stage — worked wonders to build excitement. And her first three song choices, a shortened version of "Without You" (not performed since 2014) and two more gems from the vault — "West Coast" (debuted 10 years ago to the day at her first Coachella appearance) and her superb cover of Sublime’s "Doin’ Time" — signaled her intention to make this show a truly special occasion (neither of the latter two tunes have appeared on a setlist since 2019).

From there it was a parade of hits culled from her robust catalog, as the GRAMMY-nominated singer waltzed her way across the expanse of a fairytale palace stage production, at several points venturing up flights of stairs to a towering terrace. Four of her 10 albums feature production from Jack Antonoff (who played with Bleachers on Saturday), so it was unsurprising when he took the helm of the white grand piano toward the end for a strikingly serene duet with a hologram Lana on "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have — But I Have It."

Jon Batiste (who performed his own set on Saturday) also assisted on piano for an alluring take on "Candy Necklace," but the pinnacle moment arrived during performances of "ocean eyes" and "Video Games" alongside surprise guest Billie Eilish. Sitting side by side atop a balcony, the two harmonized through much of those tracks, and the occasions when Lana sat back to let Billie sing several sections solo were absolutely arresting. The two superstars stared adoringly at each other throughout, clearly just as awe-inspired by the unprecedented collaboration as the audience, which erupted with rapturous applause that rivaled the decibels of the set’s glittering fireworks finale.

Raye Races Toward Superstardom During Emotional Debut

After just one song of Raye’s Saturday afternoon performance, there was no question that her Coachella debut would be remembered as one of the most striking in recent years. The British songwriter and chanteuse, who shattered the record for most wins and nominations in a single year at this year’s BRIT Awards, poured every ounce of her soul into her 45-minute set. The crowd inside the Mojave tent hung on every note and went absolutely berserk all the way from the sultry intro of "The Thrill is Gone" to gloriously anthemic closer "Escapism."

Backed by a powerhouse band of eight backup singers, three string players, four brass aces and the standard guitar, drums and bass, each song was a showstopper. Without question, the most impactful moment came on "Ice Cream Man," which deals with her own experience with sexual assault and rape.

"I want you to know it’s not an easy song to sing," she started. And before she could continue, the audience released a loud roar of support, to the point that the singer shed tears. When she composed herself, she continued, "But it’s important to be loud .. and to be brave. This allows me to be loud about something I’ve been quiet about my entire life. I am very f—ing strong."

That moment — which culminated into a big band-style belter that evoked the power of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday — likewise drew tears from many in the audience. Further, it defined Raye as an artist destined for superstardom on the merits of genuine talent, an infinitely infectious spirit, and incomparably hard work ethic. To that end, it should be no surprise she’s the songwriter behind tunes from GRAMMY-winning artists including Beyoncé, no big deal. 

Sublime Revives Their Definitive Sound Alongside Jakob Nowell

Though many were referring to Sublime’s Saturday afternoon appearance on the Coachella main stage as a "reunion" in the days leading up to the festival, new frontman Jakob Nowell — son of the band’s deceased original singer Bradley Nowell — made it abundantly clear that wasn’t precisely the case.

"My name is Jakob Nowell and this is Sublime," he said following the conclusion of opening song "April 29, 1992," gesturing toward the beloved Southern California ska-punk band’s surviving members bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh.

Read more: Sublime's Jakob Nowell On Leading His Father's Legendary Band & What To Expect At Coachella

His resistance to co-opt his dad’s legacy was admirable, which was an issue for some when Rome Ramirez joined Wilson and Gaugh in 2009 to form Sublime with Rome, a chapter that ended for those original members when Gaugh left the band in 2011 and Wilson subsequently exited in February. With all the pieces in place, the next hour played out as a fantastically fun alliance of old and new.

Jakob sounded strikingly like his dad during most moments, though he asserted his own spin on the classic sound by adding a hardcore-esque growl at various points in the set. Among the 14 songs, they revived early-era material that hadn’t been played live since the mid '90s, including "Date Rape," "Badfish" and "Doin’ Time." One cut, "Romeo," had not been performed live since 1988. The band likewise included tunes that Bradley never got to perform from the band’s final self-titled album, including some of their biggest commercial successes. Tracks such as "What I Got" and "Santeria" were sung by thousands, a chorus oozing with celebratory mass catharsis. 

By the end, there could be only one conclusion: the most definitive version of a revived Sublime has arrived and, should they choose to continue on, they’ll be received by fans with open arms. 

No Doubt Snatches Headliner Status During Jubilant Reunion

Though the reunion of No Doubt was billed as the runner-up to Tyler, the Creator’s Saturday night finisher, it’s absolutely valid to argue that the beloved Southern California outfit — playing their first show since 2015 — was the evening’s true headliner. The eye-popping expanse and unerring enthusiasm of the audience (the largest of the weekend), combined with the group’s sheer joy and explosive energy, drove the feeling home.

Every member of the core group — bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont, drummer Adrian Young and frontwoman Gwen Stefani — emanated pure exultation, wide grins plastered permanently on their faces. Stefani was especially fired up; after the band powered through five treasured tracks — including opener "Hella Good" (performed at the end of long catwalk), "Ex-Girlfriend," and "Different People" (featured for the first time since 2009) — the singer stopped to address the sea of screaming fans.

"Wow … you showed up to Coachella Saturday night 2024 to see No Doubt play together on this stage for the first time in nine years. Are you crazy?!" Stefani said. "If I could just somehow explain the amount of love [we feel] and how much I wanna slap the s— out of you guys tonight!"

The sentiment was meant endearingly, but every song did hit intensely. In particular, a rendition of "Bathwater" featuring special guest Olivia Rodrigo — as hyped as Stefani with her never-ending spinning and bouncing antics — left a lasting mark. For old school fans, the Return to Saturn single was a special treat, and with Rodrigo in the mix, it elicited equal exuberance from younger audience members.

For the finale of the 16-song setlist, the band fulfilled the promise of euphoric nostalgia with a hard-hitting trio of tracks off 1995 breakthrough third album Tragic Kingdom: "Just a Girl," "Don’t Speak" and "Spiderwebs." The timeless tunes incited a sudden surge of fans toward the stage, and one would’ve been hard pressed to spot anyone not participating in the jubilant singalongs. It was a moment of multi-generational unity and unbridled joy — unquestionably unforgettable, and hopefully just the precursor to a triumphant new era of No Doubt.

Olivia Dean Enters the Stateside Festival Scene With Humbling Authenticity

Watching the first few moments of British neo-soul singer Olivia Dean’s Sunday afternoon performance in the Gobi tent, you’d never know this was her first American festival appearance. And what an incredible debut, at one of the States’ most prestigious festivals with only one album under belt (2023’s Messy) to boot. The 25-year-old stunned with utmost finesse and confidence, working the stage like a long-established diva and immediately eliciting rapturous applause after each of the first two songs, "OK Love You Bye" and "Echo."

While it can sometimes be off-putting when an artist introduces every song with a tidbit explaining what it’s about, this method had the opposite effect for Dean. Her context made each moment feel intensely personal, and the audience reaction was overwhelming. One of many tunes with a distinctly Motown bop, "The Hardest Part," was prefaced with the remark that it "recently changed [her] life," and spoke to the process of overcoming grief. After the final note was sung, she received a deafening standing ovation, prompting her to endearingly cover her face in response. And there was so much power in her anecdote before "Carmen," a tribute to how her grandmother made everything possible for her. 

"My granny came to London when she was 18 … had never been on a plane … left her life behind and had my mom, and my mom had me," she said, already being drowned out by cheers before the final remark: "This song is for my granny and anyone brave enough to move and any immigrant in the crowd right now."

As she wrapped up her short set with the bewitching single "Dive," the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating her with the loveliest natural spotlight to complement a performer who already naturally, effortlessly shines on her own.

Doja Cat Exudes Total Command & Flawless Flow For Sunday Finale 

It cannot be overstated: Doja Cat’s fest-closing performance on the main stage was a visionary masterpiece, and the strongest headlining set of the first weekend. That wasn’t certain from the stripped-down beginning moments when the GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper appeared on a circular b-stage mid-audience, dressed in a hazmat suit and encircled by a black and yellow biohazard pattern.

But excitement built steadily as she bombastically delivered opening song "ACKNOWLEDGE ME," which, even in an abbreviated format, lived up to its title and created a palpable air of anticipation. From there, she strutted back toward the main stage via a connected catwalk, meeting briefly in the middle with South African quintet the Joy (set to release their self-titled debut album on June 21) offering up fiery raps amidst the group’s arresting a cappella.

Shortly after, Doja appeared on the main stage dressed in a knee-length platinum blonde weave, flanked by an army of dancers who all wore matching getups covered in the same synthetic hair. The effect when they all converged, their movements completely in sync, created an optical illusion of one enormous hairy creature moving across the stage to punctuate the ferocity of "Demons." 

That was just the first taste of a breathtaking series of visual sequences over the course of the 70-minute show, each profoundly enhanced by cinematography that created the effect of watching a top-quality music video on the main stage’s massive screens. If you witnessed the camera work during Beyoncé’s Homecoming show back in 2018 or Rosalía’s production in 2023, you’ll understand the aesthetic. 

Other key moments when the video work was utterly astonishing arrived during the live debut of "OKLOSER" (one of five first-time song features) where the previously smooth camera went rogue, shakily weaving through the gang of dancers to create the effect of maneuvering through a chaotic house party; again during "Attention" as the lens wove through dancers in fur coats wielding Cruella de Vil-inspired cabrioles until it settled on Doja at the end of the line; and finally during closing track, "Wet Vagina," where Doja and her dancers rolled and writhed (in perfect choreographed unison) on the b-stage filled with brown mud, the sequel ending in a stunning birds-eye shot. 

Backtracking a few moments earlier, maybe the most jaw-dropping production element came on "WYM Freestyle" in the form of a giant T-Rex skeleton following Doja down the catwalk while flames erupted from the stage behind her. The precise reason for that wasn’t evident, but it certainly boosted the ferocity of her raw rap delivery.

The unending visual feast only served to amplify Doja’s already flawless flow. She never missed a vocal mark, whether singing or rapping. She didn’t even once pause to banter with the audience, creating the effect of total focus and command. Big bonuses: 21 Savage materializing mid-set to serve up "n.h.i.e.," Teezo Touchdown’s cameo on "MASC" and A$AP Rocky (who likewise performed with Tyler, the Creator on Saturday) swooping in for "URRRGE!!!!!!!!!!" before Doja dazzled with super-hit "Paint the Town Red."

When all was said and done, Doja Cat more-than-earned her graduation to festival headliner, and while she’s already set for an arena tour this year, she’s clearly destined to stun at stadiums not far in the future. 

Coachella 2024 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.

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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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