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Beyoncé pulls the thread of country and half convinces

Beyoncé announced a new album during the Super Bowl. ‘Act II’ will be released in just over a month, on March 29, and will be the long-awaited “second act” of the ‘Renaissance’ project, Beyoncé’s country album that has been rumored for two years.

That ‘Act II’ will be Beyoncé Knowles’ country album is evident by listening to the sound of the first previews of the album now available.

The first two singles from ‘Act II’ present two sides of the same coin. In this new project linked to ‘Renaissance’ it is probably more important than ever to emphasize the inspiration in the era of the Harlem Renaissance, the “rebirth” of African-American culture that took place in New York during the 20s and 30s of the last century. In 2022, Beyoncé called for returning the African-American gay community to the spaces of house and electronic music that this community promoted. Now she does the same with country. Knowles asks the audience to reach the roots of country, to remember names that may have been forgotten, like Lesley Riddle, whose banjo playing so influenced the Carter Family. The other Carter Family that was white.

On the one hand, ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ features an upbeat beat and hillbilly influence. Hillbilly is the first evolution of country, even before the music industry imposed this term -country- to sell records to the white public. On ‘Texas Hold ‘Em,’ Beyoncé delivers an archetypal country song, featuring a banjo and viola played by the same person, African-American musician Rhiannon Giddens. So archetypal that it sounds extremely calculated and measured. This disables any fun the song may have to offer. In ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’, Beyoncé tries to forget the “troubles” of the day by dancing and drinking “in the first bar we find.” Not even the “heat wave” stops the artist. But ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ doesn’t make you want to leave your boots dancing in the living room.

On the other hand, ’16 Carriages’ slows down the tempo. It is a dense and swampy composition that drags its rhythm painfully. It seems like his soul is heavy. But Beyoncé’s voice elevates it. Closer to a thick blues played in slow motion, ’16 Carriages’ tells a story of overcoming at a young age, and it is an autobiographical story. Knowles remembers that “at the age of fifteen” her “innocence” left her and that she had to take care of the bills by working non-stop “while my mother cried and my father lied.” But she makes it up to him that she leaves a “legacy” behind. Accompanied on pedal steel guitar by another African-American country pioneer, Robert Randolph, Knowles offers a slice of her life and the result is truly moving.

In an interview with HuffPost, country pioneer Alice Randall describes the “four truths” that every good country song contains, these are, 1) life is hard, 2) God is real, 3) whiskey and family They make up for everything, 4) the past is better than the present. ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ and ’16 Carriages’ meet at least two of these requirements. God has always been present in Knowles’ repertoire, but if the singer thought that the past was better than the present, the ‘Renaissance’ project would lose all meaning.

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The 2 Super Bowl ads

The ‘Act II’ ad aired during the Super Bowl is filmed in the Texas desert and pays homage to Wim Wenders’ 1984 film ‘Paris, Texas.’ The film precisely narrates a road trip to Houston, Beyoncé’s birthplace. She, like Usher, “comes home.”

Beyoncé has hinted at the release of ‘Act II’ in several ways. During the Super Bowl, too, Knowles has starred in a comedic ad in which she has tried to “break the internet” in every possible way, that is, from dressing up as ‘Barbie’ to traveling to space.

Recently, Beyoncé attended the Grammy ceremony wearing a cowgirl hat. At the gala, Jay-Z – Beyoncé’s husband – disgraced the jury for never having awarded Beyoncé in the Album of the Year category, despite her being the artist who has won the most Grammys in history.

Beyoncé already recorded a country song in 2016, ‘Daddy Lessons’. The song was submitted to the Grammys, but was rejected by the jury (like so many others). ‘Act II’ will more than likely compete at the 2025 Grammys.

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Simon Müller

Simon Müller is the driving force behind UMusic, embodying a lifelong passion for all things melodious. Born and raised in New York, his love for music took form at an early age and fueled his journey from an avid music enthusiast to the founder of a leading music-centered website. Simon's diverse musical tastes and intrinsic understanding of acoustic elements offer a unique perspective to the UMusic community. Sporting a dedicated commitment to aural enrichment and hearing health, his vision extends beyond just delivering news - he aspires to create a network of informed, appreciative music lovers. Spend a moment in Mueller's company, and you'd find his passion infectious – music isn’t simply his job, it’s his heartbeat.