As my colleague Heven Haile pointed out last week, the signs that B was trading in her disco ball for a mechanical bull have been there for a while—and for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, she’s been sporting cowboy hats everywhere to drive the point home. “Texas Hold ‘Em” is the more overtly, capital-C Country of the two singles, readymade for a hoedown; “16 Carriages” is more of a sweeping ballad (albeit one that wouldn’t be out of place scoring the end of a contemplative episode of Yellowstone.)
Beyoncé hasn’t explicitly said this herself (yet), but fans have been inferring that the Renaissance project is something of an act of reclamation, reorienting genres like house (and now country) as whose origins are rooted in Black music but have since been pulled away from the center of the culture. She’s dabbled here before, most notably with the Lemonade track “Daddy Lessons,” but by kicking things off with a nod to her own Texas roots, she’s making it clear that she isn’t just a visitor to this aesthetic—it’s as much a part of her upbringing as candy painted drops, UGK and gleaming gold grills.
But what’s exciting about Act II is that we’re about to get a country project, done the Beyoncé Way. So far, that means banjo from Rhiannon Giddens, R&B legend Raphael Saadiq helping on the pen, Hit-Boy on the boards handling synths, and double-time flows on a ballad. Just imagine what she has up her sleeve across the other fourteen tracks. The-Dream going for a CMA songwriter award? Jigga Man finding a banjo pocket? Texas rapper cameos from the likes of Bun B, Slim Thug or Travis Scott? Duets with Mickey Guyton? And just imagine the type of rodeo fits she’s going to galvanize the Beyhive into showing up in at the inevitable tour.
The possibilities are endless, and that extends to the visuals too. We never did end up getting that Renaissance visual album, but Bey’s been enjoying those cowboy hats too much to not film anything for Act II. The album trailer she dropped alongside the two singles contains a visual reference to Harry Dean Stanton’s fit in Wim Wenders’ classic 1984 road drama Paris, Texas. Once again, The Carters flex that in addition to being musical geniuses, they wouldn’t be out of place in the Criterion Closet. (I must pull up to one of their legendary Roc Alamo Drafthouse movie nights.) What’s next, visual nods to Thomasine & Bushrod?
Last week following Jay-Z’s Grammys speech, the timeline debated which Beyoncé Album of the Year snub hurt the most, but as she confirmed tonight—while watching the game, typically unbothered—she’s already on to the next. Strap in, cowboys, we have another elite Beyoncé rollout on deck.