Beyoncé formally ended long-rumored speculation about the second act of her Renaissance trilogy during the Super Bowl festivities Sunday (Feb. 11) with the release of not one but two country songs: “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em.”
The former is a vulnerable yet empowering autobiographical ballad that finds the singer-songwriter’s melodious vocals riding along to a spare track. It’s punctuated by a hard-charging guitar during what will no doubt become another sing-along chorus for Queen Bey fans: “Sixteen carriages drivin’ away/ While I watch them ride with my dreams away/ To the summer sunset on a holy night/ On a long back road, all the tears I fight.”
That number 16 is significant: It’s how old Beyoncé was when girl group Destiny’s Child signed with Columbia Records and released its breakthrough single “No, No, No.” The song’s lyrics also carry other biographical references, such as “I saw Mama prayin’, I saw Daddy grind” and “Goin’ so hard, gotta choose myself …/ Still workin’ on my life, you know/ Only God knows.” All in all, the song paints a very visual picture of Beyoncé’s dreams and ever-evolving career and life pursuits.
On “Texas Hold ‘Em,” the Houston native turns playful alongside an uptempo, banjo-driven and folk-vibed track — accompanied by whistling at one point — for “a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown” as she and her crew head “to the dive bar we always thought was nice.” It’s about running out for a fun night on the town in lieu of sitting back and worrying about all of life’s problems. “This ain’t Texas/ Ain’t no hold ‘em/ So lay your cards down,” Beyoncé proclaims. “I’ll be d–ned if I cannot dance with you/ Come pour some sugar on me, honey, too.”
This isn’t the 32-time Grammy Award winner’s first rodeo. She presented a peek inside her country alter ego in 2016 with “Daddy Lessons.” Appearing on Lemonade, her sixth studio album, the song also featured country icons The Chicks on its promotional remix, which both acts performed live on the CMA Awards in 2016. Submitted for inclusion in the country category that year for the next Grammy Awards, “Daddy Lessons” was rejected by The Recording Academy’s country music committee.
Given that song plus Beyoncé’s Texas roots (for some, another tip-off was the cowboy hat she wore at the recent Grammys), this move across the genre aisle shouldn’t be a surprise. On Renaissance: Act 1, she reclaimed house music, a genre that Black musicians and artists had a major hand in building. And now the same for country, whose longstanding foundation was laid by Black musicians and artists as well. And before Beyoncé, R&B stars Lionel Richie and Ray Charles (another multi-genre aisle-crosser who’s also a Country Music Hall of Fame member) made their own popular, top-charting forays into country. So why not Beyoncé?
Listen to her two latest singles below: