The Reeducation Of Beyoncé On Stunning ‘Cowboy Carter’

Beyoncé The Celebrity — the person who barely does press and who seemingly is consumed with institutional acceptance — is easy to project upon (the irony of Bey singing “I will be your projector” on the unrelated and captivating Cowboy Carter track “Protector” is not lost on me). That Beyoncé is a billionaire capitalist who is an easy target for valid criticism and skepticism. When that Beyoncé puts out an album cover with an American flag on it, it’s understandable that people would question the intent. But Beyoncé The Artist — the “Creole banjee b*tch from Louisianne” who has consistently delivered the best music of the past decade and who challenges herself creatively over and over to stunning results — is a historian and a Black Texan. She’s writing love letters to her birthplace, her matriarch in Ms. Tina, and her foundation. She’s also taking on characters of country, and weaving a fictional web of history and identity. In this context, the cover can be interpreted as a nod to Black rodeo culture. (She made a similar statement with Renaissance, highlighting the roots of the Black house movement, and paid tribute to the Black queer origins of the genre.) Cowboy Carter is a richly layered text, steeped in Black Southern history — from referencing the Carter family, noted as pioneers of the genre, to Levi’s jeans, to Martell and country western movie influences to the country collaborators she chose to sing alongside her. Beyoncé is a musical archivist who, going back to the Simone quote from Homecoming (an ode to HBCUs, another example of Bey, the historian), is committed to pushing her Black audience to “get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there.” 


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