The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Beyoncé Stuns with the Release of Her Two New Country Singles

She’s done it again. Once more, Beyoncé has reminded us of her versatility, talent, and genius. With the recent release of “16 Carriages” and “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM”, Bey has masterfully re-entered the country music scene. The two singles are a part of Beyoncé’s upcoming eighth studio album, currently under the tentative title Act II. The continuation of Act I: Renaissance will be released on March 29.

“TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” is the more upbeat, pop-country tune of the two. While it certainly does not compare depth-wise to “16 Carriages”, the banger has already become a favorite in the rotation of songs played in my team’s locker room this season. The song has several nods to Bey’s Texas roots in the form of “tornados”, “hoedowns”, “heatwaves”, “spurs”, and “cowboy boots”. The backtrack is rich, and it is refreshing to hear Bey’s smooth voice in a country tone. 

The beauty of this song is how it encourages the blend of various cultures and cultivates an appreciation for the fusion of cultural traditions. On my TikTok, I’ve seen Irish step dancers dancing to “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” in cowboy hats. This triumphant return to country music has also been an important reminder to contemporary country music fans of the fact that country music is not, in fact, a white space. Progressive strides in music, however, naturally spur conservatism;  KYKC, an Oklahoma-based country music radio station, faced criticism after refusing a listener’s plea to air Beyoncé’s “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM”. Becoming a pattern for Beyoncé, her performance of “Daddy Lessons” with the Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Awards generated harsh criticism from conservative country fans. One user commented, “SHE DOES NOT BELONG!!!!” This pattern directly informs the conception of her other new single.

“16 CARRIAGES”, my favorite of the two tracks, tells the story of Beyonce’s career, the hurdles she’s had to overcome, and the toll that has taken. On a more macro level, the single speaks to the topics of the loss of innocence, black motherhood, and even more generally, society’s general underappreciation of black women. 

Circulating all over social media is speculation regarding the exact interpretation of the chorus. In particular, there is debate over whether “16 CARRIAGES” is a homage to her Southern roots, possibly alluding to a Southern funeral procession, or if these carriages symbolize the extensive time spent on the road during her illustrious touring career. 

But the real magic of this song lies in the verses between. They are vulnerable, raw, and real. Beyoncé is a cultural icon known for producing empowering and confident music, but she has periodically released deeply personal music, such as “Sandcastles” on her critically acclaimed 2016 album, Lemonade. “16 CARRIAGES” as a country track arguably makes the song even more intimate with the tenderness of the banjo instrumental and the rawness of the stripped vocals.

Verse one focuses on her adolescence and loss of innocence. She states how when she was fifteen “I saw mama prayin’, I saw daddy grind /All my tender problems, had to leave behind”. Black families are statistically more likely to have debt, lack generational wealth, and have two full-time incomes per household. This experience of realizing your familial financial situation after watching your parents work extremely hard during childhood is a hard reality to face. This raw account of Beyoncé taking on financial responsibility for her family at such a young age sparks much emotion so early in the song. 

As Bey does not frequently sing about her childhood, this sparked the thought of a contrast between Beyoncé’s experience at fifteen as opposed to other artists, who reflect on their childhood in song in such a drastically different way. For example, in Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen”, she focuses on the social dynamics of navigating high school, having crushes, friendships, and young love. I found this to be an interesting juxtaposition to this verse and yet another example of Beyoncé’s depth and vulnerability in song. 

The pre-chorus here flashes forward to present-day Bey, one of the most celebrated artists of our time, telling us “It’s been umpteen summers and I’m not in my bed …/ underpaid and overwhelmed …/ still workin’ all my life, you know/ only God knows, only God knows/ Only God knows”. For me, these lines beautifully unveil the culture of black exceptionalism–where to be great and black is to have to work yourself to the bone after continuously proving your talent for, in this case, 30 years, and still not receiving the recognition you deserve (she has, remarkably, never won the Grammy for Album of the Year). While celebrated as a Pop and R&B icon, her versatility is wildly slept on. From the production of visual albums to her talent for live performance, Beyoncé continues to run circles around every other comparable popular artist of our time in every way imaginable. She’s a performer, has vocals, creates catchy pop hits and R&B masterpieces, is a beautiful lyricist, and has branched into several other genres such as country, rap, and Spanish music. (Taylor Swift could not carry the beat of practically any Beyoncé songs). 

The second verse further depicts the sheer exhaustion she has experienced from tireless work without recognition. She explains the conflicting thoughts of  “Ain’t got time to waste, I got art to make / I got love to create on this holy night / They won’t dim my light, all these years I fight” and “It’s been 38 summers, and I’m not in my bed / still in the back of the bus with the band/ goin’ so hard, now I miss my kids/ overworked and overwhelmed”. 

This immediately brought back flashbacks to Lemonade for me. In “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, she samples a Malcolm X speech in which he states: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman”. For me, this verse is a heartbreakingly beautiful synthesis of the experiences of many black mothers: the desire to “have it all”, having to juggle work, raising children, and constantly fighting imposter syndrome in outside life. 

The last verse, however, is probably the most heartbreaking. “Had to sacrifice and leave my fears behind/ for legacy, if it’s the last thing I do/you’ll remember me ‘cause we got something to prove/ sixteen carriages, drivin’ away/ while I watch them ride with my dreams away”. This verse reminds me of a struggle that is uniquely ours as women, more specifically black women- the balancing act of family and profession. Being a woman, you’re generally expected to take on more in the home, and there’s the unspoken expectation to work twice as hard as your male counterparts in the workplace to achieve the same ends. As a black woman, you have to work five times as hard, and as a cultural icon such as Beyoncé, the pressure is unimaginable. This verse reveals what a heavy weight that is to carry, and points to the many burdens that women, black women, and mothers face. All of which must be incredibly isolating. 

I must say, the release of both songs, and both songs in general, are power plays. Beyoncé continues to astound. These singles have left me extremely excited for what lies ahead. It’s high time that, as she attempted in her Verizon Super Bowl commercial, Beyoncé breaks the internet once more.

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    ClareMar 11, 2024 at 11:25 AM

    Amazing article, Amanda! You “continue to astound” as well!