What did Beyoncé change in Jolene? Singer put her own spin on Dolly Parton's classic for Cowboy Carter

65th GRAMMY Awards - Show
65th GRAMMY Awards - Show (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Beyoncé's new album, Cowboy Carter features a remake of Dolly Parton's 1973 classic, Jolene. However, the 32-time Grammy winner converted it from a melancholy ballad to an anthem of power and possession.

Dolly Parton's Jolene was a tale of a woman desperately trying to save her relationship by requesting the titular Jolene to not steal her man. She begs and lists the reasons why Jolene should leave them alone.

However, Beyoncé's iteration of Jolene spells something completely different. Instead of groveling and requesting Jolene to leave them alone, Beyoncé's version exudes power as she demands and threatens Jolene to get out of her and her partner's life.


How is Dolly Parton's Jolene different from Beyoncé's version?

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Queen Bey's Jolene separates itself from that of Dolly Parton from the first line itself. Parton begins the song with a request to Jolene to not take her man away. The power dynamic seems to be totally shifted toward the titular character and the singer can do nothing but to beg.

"Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene/I'm beggin' of you please don't take my man/Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene/Please don't take him just because you can."

However, Beyoncé switches the power dynamic and warns Jolene to not come for her man.

"Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene/I’m warning you, don’t come for my man/Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene/Don’t take the chance because you think you can,"

The change of tone is very blatant and distinguishes the remake from the original in the first line itself.

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The next line is all about Jolene's beauty. Although both versions laud Jolene as she is 'beautiful beyond compare', Beyoncé concludes that it's not enough to steal her man away. She knows Jolene's 'games', and they are 'nothing new' to her. Meanwhile, Dolly Parton surrenders and comments, 'I can't compete with you, Jolene.'

In the next verse, Dolly Parton agrees that Jolene is on her man's mind all the time, and she can't do anything about it. However, she implores Jolene to empathize with her and leave her man alone.

However, Beyoncé changes the verse completely. She recites the things she has done to cultivate the relationship for '20 years.' Therefore, she will not leave the battlefield without a fight.

"We’ve been deep in love for 20 years/I raised that man, I raised his kids/I know my man better than he knows himself (what). I can easily understand why you’re attracted to my man/But you don’t want this smoke, so shoot your shot with someone else (you heard me)."

In the final verse, before the chorus repeats itself, Dolly Parton begs Jolene to leave them alone. According to her, Jolene will find other men, but she will never be able to find anyone again.

"You could have your choice of men/But I could never love again/He's the only one for me, Jolene/I had to have this talk with you. My happiness depends on you/And whatever you decide to do, Jolene."

However, Queen Bey ends the song with a warning.

"I had to have this talk with you/‘Cause I hate to have to act a fool/Your peace depends on how you move, Jolene," she concludes.

Dolly Parton wasn't aware of the changes Beyoncé made to Jolene pre-release

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Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys

In an interview with E! News on May 31, Parton revealed that she didn't know that Beyoncé would change the lyrics of Jolene's cover before releasing it as part of her album Cowboy Carter.

When they said she was gonna do ‘Jolene,’ I expected it to be my regular one, but it wasn’t," expressed the 78-year-old in the interview.

However, she lauded Beyoncé's efforts and commented that it was bold of Queen Bey to alter the song as she did. Moreover, she was impressed by the new girl boss twist to the iteration.

“She wasn’t going to go beg some other woman like I did,” Dolly Parton quipped about the energy of Beyoncé's new version.
2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards - Show (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards - Show (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Finally, the 11-time Grammy winner praised Queen Bey and expressed how happy she was because of the remake.

I thought she did a great job in country music,” Parton commented. “I thought it was great. And I was just happy she did Jolene."

Queen Bey's Jolene has amassed over 9.6 million views on YouTube in just two months and has been streamed over 58 million times on Spotify so far.

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Edited by Bhargav
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