A track-by-track review of Beyoncé's eighth studio album 'Act II: Cowboy Carter'

Lil G
The official Album Cover for Beyonce
The official Album Cover for Beyonce's newest album 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

Beyoncé has dropped Act II: Cowboy Carter, the second installment of her Renaissance trilogy, following the singer's 2022 album Renaissance. The new project features a tracklist containing a total of 27 songs with surprise features from Post Malone, Miley Cyrus, and more.

Last Friday, March 29, Bey uploaded a trailer to her social media, which confirmed the release of Act II: Cowboy Carter, with a caption that read:

"COWBOY CARTER OUT NOW."

Physical copies of Act II: Cowboy Carter are available on Beyoncé's official artist website, and several items that were pre-purchased (Vinyl/CD Bundles) are already on their way to customers across the world.

Bey or Beyoncé Knowles-Carter distributed her ninth studio album to all DSPs (Digital Streaming Platforms) via Parkwood Entertainment LLC under exclusive license to Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment.


A detailed breakdown of Beyoncé's new album 'Act II: Cowboy Carter'

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As we play through Act II: Cowboy Carter, we get to witness Beyoncé casting herself in several roles across decades and genres. Although a majority of this album is based around country music, the production and musical dimensions of this album incorporate a mixed background of sounds, which at times takes away from the "Full Country" aesthetic that many fans were expecting.

Act II: Cowboy Carter has a total runtime of 1 hour and 18 minutes, with production credits to Pharrell Williams, Killah D, D.A. Got That Dope, and more. The Grammy-winning singer thematically touches on topics of black and American history, media narratives, and personal experiences.

Some of the major themes Beyoncé's latest album delves into include:

  • Love
  • Relationships
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Growth
  • Empowerment
  • Resilience
  • Beauty
  • Power

Disclaimer: This album review is rated explicit. Reader's discretion is advised.


AMERIICAN REQUIEM

(Production Credits: Jon Batiste, No I.D. & DIXSON)

Track 1 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 1 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

AMERIICAN REQUIEM is the electrifying opening track to Act II: Cowboy Carter, where the production incorporates pop and country music sounds. Beyoncé's vocal performances are the highlight of this song, with her screeching ad-libs adding a nice touch to the track.

Lyrically, the song touches on themes of "moving on" and "growth." Requiem is used in remembrance to refer to someone or something after passing away, with Bey possibly hinting at people changing their perspective of country music after listening to this album. The song begins with the following intro:

"Nothin' really ends / For things to stay the same, they have to change again / Hello, my old friend / You change your name, but not the ways you play pretend / American Requiem / Them big ideas (Yeah), are buried here (Yeah) / Amen."

BLACKBIIRD

(Production Credits: Khirye Tyler and Paul McCartney)

Track 2 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 2 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

BLACKBIIRD is a cover of the 1968 track by The Beatles that was part of their self-titled double album, with Paul McCartney acting as the producer and writer for the original song.

Bey's cover of this song is a masterstroke, as she effectively showcases her skill and genre non-conformity while simultaneously performing the song as an empowering track for black women, hoping for them to finally be able to soar and takeover country music again with lyrics like:

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these broken wings and learn to fly / All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to arise."

16 CARRIAGES

(Production Credits: Ink and Dave Hamelin)

Track 3 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 3 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

16 CARRIAGES was one of the two singles that Beyoncé dropped as part of the album rollout back in February.

The track is a country ballad that highlights how one tends to lose their innocence at a very young age due to a changing environment and family discourse. This song touches on themes of hardships, faith, pain, and resilience, with lyrics like:

"At fifteen, the innocence was gone astray / Had to take care of home at an early age / I saw Mama cryin', I saw Daddy lyin' / Had to sacrifice and leave my fears behind."

PROTECTOR (Feat. Rumi Carter)

(Production Credits: Jack Ro)

Track 4 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 4 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

PROTECTOR is a song that features a small cameo from Beyoncé and Jay-Z's daughter Rumi Carter. Bey spends the entire track highlighting the love she has for her children and how she will always be their "protector."

As an ode to motherhood, the lyricism on PROTECTOR is intimate and acts as a tribute to the bond shared between a mother and her children. Some of the powerful lines highlighted in this song include:

"And I will lead you down that road if you lose your way (Uh) / Born to be a protector, mm / Even though I know, someday, you're gonna shine on your own / I will be your projector, hm-mm."

MY ROSE

(Production Credits: Mamii)

Track 5 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 5 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

MY ROSE is an interlude that lasts less than a minute and finds Beyoncé using a "Rose" as a metaphor for her exploring the complexities of love and relationships.

The track, although short, is vulnerable and invites listeners in with wavy melodies and a bouncy southern production.


SMOKE HOUR * WILLIE NELSON

(Production Credits: Beyonce)

Track 6 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 6 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

SMOKE HOUR * WILLIE NELSON is another interlude that introduces the fictional "KNTRY MUSIC" radio station, hosted by Willie Nelson.

The track opens with multiple radio channels changing to give listeners a sneak at old country songs from Chuck Berry's Maybellene to Son House's Don’t You Mind People Grinnin' In Your Face.


TEXAS HOLD 'EM

(Production Credits: Killah B and Nathan Ferraro)

Track 7 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 7 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

TEXAS HOLD 'EM was the lead single that dropped alongside 16 Carriages on February 9, 2024, as part of the "Cowboy Carter" album rollout. The song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Country Songs.

This track's production incorporated heavy Western and country influences, with features from Rhiannon Giddens playing the viola. Acting as a reference to Bey's southern roots and childhood experiences growing up in Texas, the lyricism on this song that best highlights the singer's love for country music can be seen in her first verse:

"There's a tornado (There's a tornado) / In my city (In my city) / Hit the basement (Hit the basement) / That sh*t ain't pretty (That sh*t ain't pretty) / Rugged whiskey (Rugged whiskey) / 'Cause we survivin' ('Cause we survivin') / Off red-cup kisses, sweet redemption, passin' time, yeah."

BODYGUARD

(Production Credits: Raphael Saadiq)

Track 8 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 8 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

BODYGUARD is the first song on this album that begins to deviate from traditional country production to incorporate more pop music, with chill drum patterns blending over Beyoncé's vocal performances.

The lyrics on BODYGUARD allude to Bey's protective nature towards the person that she loves (Jay-Z), highlighting how, similar to a bodyguard, she would always have their back. Some interesting lines from this song include:

"Be your best friend / I protect you in the mosh pit / And I'll defend you in the gossip / You know how people like to start sh*t and pop sh*t."

DOLLY P

(Production Credits: NOVA WAV and Jack Ro)

Track 9 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 9 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

DOLLY P is an interlude to the 10th track on Cowboy Carter, which features legendary country icon Dolly Parton appearing as a feature and introducing herself before building up anticipation for the upcoming track.


JOLENE

(Production Credits: Khirye Tyler, Jack Ro, and NOVA WAV)

Track 10 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 10 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

JOLENE finds Beyoncé taking a fresh rendition of Dolly Parton's 1973 single of the same name, with the major difference being that Dolly's track revolves around her desperation and insecurities toward another woman, named "Jolene," stealing away her man.

Bey's version of this track highlights the strength and bond between her partner, which is too strong for another woman to break. The singer highlights how there are thousands of women like Jolene, but Bey's individuality is enough to dismiss any attempt to destroy her relationship. Some of the most notable lines from JOLENE include:

"You’re beautiful, beyond compare / Takes more than beauty and seductive stares / To come between a family and a happy man Jolene, I'm a woman too / Thе games you play are nothing new, So you don't want no hеat with me, Jolene / We've been deep in love for twenty years, I raised that man, I raised his kids / I know my man better than he knows himself."

DAUGHTER

(Production Credits: Cam, Derek Dixie, and Simon Mårtensson)

Track 11 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 11 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

DAUGHTER is an emotional production that finds Bey struggling with the violent thoughts she's plagued with in the face of infidelity and cheating. She highlights how, although she appears harmless and sweet, being her father's daughter, she can always tap into his aggressive qualities.

The song also features Beyoncé singing an Italian opera song titled Caro Mio Ben, which follows themes of "loneliness" and "absence" that Bey connects with, as highlighted in this track and previous tracks on Cowboy Carter. This is best noticed in the following lines:

"They keep sayin' that I ain't nothin' like my father / But I'm the furthest thing from choir boys and altars / If you cross me, I'm just like my father / I am colder than Titanic water."

SPAGHETTII (Feat. Linda Martell and Shaboozey)

(Production Credits: Khirye Tyler and Swizz Beatz)

Track 12 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 12 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

SPAGHETTII is a track that completely abandons any kind of country music production by adopting a more aggressive hip-hop drum pattern and synths to create a highly energetic record that shines on the album for its creativity and musical genius.

The lyricism highlights how genres don't matter for Bey since she can morph into whatever genre she chooses given her expansive versatility and creative brilliance. Some of the lyrics that stood out on this track include:

"I ain't in no gang, but I got shooters and I bang-bang / At the snap of my fingers, I'm Thanos, da-na, da-na / And I'm still on your head, cornrows, da-na, da-na / They call me the captain, the catwalk assassin (Come on)."

ALLIIGATOR TEARS

(Production Credits: Khirye Tyler and The-Dream)

Track 13 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 13 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

ALLIIGATOR TEARS explores themes of "love" and vulnerability," where Beyoncé uses the term "Alligator Tears" as a metaphor to highlight the fakeness and manipulation she's witnessed in her relationships.

The track features powerful vocal performances and lyricism that delve into the insincerity and confusion that one faces in a long relationship. These are best identified in the following lyrics:

"High tides in the city, I'm in too deep / And I'm runnin' on fear / Oh, dear, you and your alligator tears / Works me over and through."

SMOKE HOUR II (Feat. WILLIE NELSON)

(Production Credits: Dave Hamelin)

Track 14 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 14 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

Willie Nelson returns on SMOKE HOUR II as the fictional host on KRTNY Radio Texas to introduce the 15th track on Cowboy Carter. It appears his show is called "Smoke Hour," and he even gives a piece of advice to all listeners who've tuned in by stating:

"Sometimes you don't know what you like until someone you trust turns you on to some real good sh*t."

JUST FOR FUN (Feat. Willie Jones)

(Production Credits: Dave Hamelin)

Track 15 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 15 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

JUST FOR FUN is a somber and reflective track that highlights how people usually act out and do things just for the sake of it, just for fun. Beyoncé wishes her listeners to know that actions that have received adverse reactions can be forgotten since "time heals everything."

Willie Jones appears as a feature on this track as well, highlighting similar themes and giving the track a rich country atmosphere, making JUST FOR FUN one of the most standout tracks on this project. Some of the most interesting lines witnessed on this record include:

"I'm goin' down south just for fun, I am the man, I know it / And everywhere I go, I hide my face / From the cowboys in Clovis and the rodeo circus / I came here for a reason, but I don't know the purpose, it's all under the surface."

II MOST WANTED (Feat. Miley Cyrus)

(Production Credits: Shawn Everett, Michael Pollack, and Miley Cyrus)

Track 16 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 16 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

II MOST WANTED is another emotional production that finds both Miley and Bey singing about their reason to stand by the people they love by being their "shotgun rider" till the day they die.

The concepts of 'Forever' and 'Love' seem to be themes that are heavily intertwined in this track, which is very notable in lines like:

"I'll be your shotgun rider / 'Til the day I die, smoke out the window flyin' / Down the 405 (Yeah) / I'll be your backseat baby, drivin' you crazy, anytime you like."

LEVII'S JEANS (Feat. Post Malone)

(Production Credits: The-Dream)

Track 17 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 17 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

LEVII'S JEANS is a song about relationships and love with a production that incorporates both country and pop music. The song features Post Malone, who has massively improved his skill as a country singer and shines on this project for his vocal performances and delivery.

Bey's lyricism highlights her sensuality and beauty while also alluding to her influence on people who interact with her on a day-to-day basis. This is best noticed in the following lines:

"I'm lookin' super hot, I got the perfect pose / I'm a fu*kin' animal, I'm a fu*kin' centerfold / Saddle up, I love to go / Too tough, no primadonna / Possess too much persona / He said, "Whеre you get that from, uh? / You need to meet my mama."

FLAMENCO

(Production Credits: Mamii)

Track 18 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 18 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

FLAMENCO is a short production that revolves around Beyoncé's mindset regarding the people she keeps close to her and the struggles she faces by consistently trying to uphold these relationships.

Bey's verse highlights how she wishes for these people to realize that she did care for them and love them, but their actions have led her to turn toward God for answers. This is best identified in her chorus, where she sings:

"I hope that you know that once I loved you (Oh) / I wish that I'd known you'd let me wonder (Oh) / I hope that God knows that I'm in need of help right now (Ooh) / Right about now."

THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW

(Production Credits: Leah Nardos Takele)

Track 19 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 19 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW acts as an interlude to the 20th track on Cowboy Carter, with a spoken word introduction provided by Linda Martell.

The introduction highlights how the upcoming tracks, similar to a lot of songs on this album, are going to be genre-redefining.


YA YA

(Production Credits: Cadenza, Harry Edwards, Khirye Tyler, and The-Dream)

Track 20 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 20 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

YA YA is a track that stands out for its authentic country production and Bey's aggressive vocal performances, mixed with her soft spoken-word crowd interactions.

This song is truly genre-redefining, not just for its unique production but for Bey's lyricism that touches on a range of topics and emotions like civil war, empowerment, love, anger, and determination. Some of the most notable lines from this track include:

"My family live and died in America, hm / Good ol' USA, sh*t (Good ol' USA) / Whole lotta red in that white and blue, huh / History can't be erased, ooh / You lookin' for a new America?"

OH LOUISIANA

(Production Credits: The-Dream)

Track 21 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 21 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

OH LOUISIANA is a short song that lasts less than a minute and acts as a bridge between the 20th and 22nd tracks on Cowboy Carter.

This song is an interpolation of Chuck Berry's OH LOUISIANA, where Beyoncé reflects on her southern roots while also acting as a nod to her mother, whose family comes from Louisiana.


DESERT EAGLE

(Production Credits: BAH)

Track 22 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 22 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

As the album begins to wrap up, the songs get shorter and more experimental, with the production on DESERT EAGLE incorporating more of Bey's traditional pop score elements into its composition.

Throughout this track, we see Bey using double entendres in her lyricism to express strong desires for her partner, with a performance extremely reminiscent of No Angel, a track from her 2013 self-titled album. Lyrics that stood out in this song include:

"Soft to the touch, let you hold somethin' / Let you get a handful / Baby, she's a whole lotta woman / Soft kisses on some fat lips / It's yours, baby, you can crash here, come here."

RIIVERDANCE.

(Production Credits: The-Dream)

Track 23 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 23 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

RIIVERDANCE incorporates traditional dance music into country music, creating a unique production that shines through in this project. The structure of this song is incredible, with eight separate verses blending into a chorus and refrain that repeat over 10 times.

The song finds Beyoncé touching on themes like relationships, love, and fear. The lyricism in this song is super simple, with catchy melodies and harmonies inviting listeners into its production. Notable bars from this song include:

"You press your ear onto my chest / You hear the speed my heart will beat / Seconds drag like days / Whenever you don't want to talk or speak."

II HANDS II HEAVEN

(Production Credits: Sounwave, Jack Ro, and Dave Hamelin)

Track 24 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 24 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

II HANDS II HEAVEN, a metaphor for praying, is the 23rd song on this album, whose production is divided into two parts, with the composition incorporating several pop music elements.

Bey's lyricism on this track revolves around her struggles with relationships and self-discovery, with her drowning in her pains in excess, leading her to ask God for guidance and forgiveness. Notable lyrics from this track include:

"Ten thousand steps towards the time of your life / Two hands to Heaven, my whiskey up high, oh (Oh, oh) / God only, God only knows why, though / Rhinestones and diamonds both shine in the light."

TYRANT (Feat. Dolly Parton)

(Production Credits: D.A. Got That Dope, Dave Hamelin, and Khirye Tyler)

Track 25 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 25 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

TYRANT, introduced by Dolly Parton, is a track whose production lacks any country music to it, with thick bass, synths, and repetitive drum sequences incorporated into its composition.

The lyricism is interesting as it touches on the ideas of cheating, relationships, and love. Notable bars from this song include:

"How did you turn your heart to stone? / I don't want him back, but I can't let go / Hangman, answer me now / You owe me a debt, you stole him from me."

SWEET * HONEY * BUCKIN' (Feat. Shaboozey)

(Production Credits: Pharrell Williams)

Track 26 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 26 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

SWEET * HONEY * BUCKIN' is an interesting hip-hop production, handled by Pharrell Williams, that divides the entire song into three parts, namely "SWEET", "HONEY", and "BUCKIN". The track revolves around Bey's idea of dealing with criticism in her career and toward her artistry.

She also appears to be taking shots at the Grammys for snubbing her in 2023 by not giving her a win for "Album Of The Year" in the lines:

"A-O-T-Y, I ain't win (That's cool) / I ain't stuntin' 'bout them / Take that sh*t on the chin / Come back and fu*k up the pen (Yeah)."

AMEN

(Production Credits: DIXSON, 070 Shake, Dave Hamelin, Ian Fitchuk, Sean Solymar, and Tyler Johnson)

Track 27 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)
Track 27 on Beyoncé's 'Act II: Cowboy Carter' (Image via Spotify)

AMEN is the final track on this project, which opens as a powerful gospel track with Beyoncé begging for mercy over a strong melodic production. This track appears to be a redemption song, as the singer highlights that all the struggles in her life have finally paid off.

The track also includes the beginning of AMERIICAN REQUIEM to symbolize the completed loop of Cowboy Carter. Notable lines from this song include:

"This house was built with blood and bone / And it crumbled, yes, it crumbled / The statues they made were beautiful / But they were lies of stone, they werе lies of stone."

Beyoncé's newest album is incredibly deep, with honest lyricism and relevant themes that weave through a varied production, which makes Act II: Cowboy Carter a very interesting project.

Although this may not be a complete "country album," as per Bey herself, this project was never meant to be full country; it was going to be a "Beyonce album." The genre appears to be shaping itself around Bey's artistry instead of the other way around.

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Edited by Somava