Sunday, March 31, 2024

Kat's Korner: COWBOY CARTER slays them all

Kat:  COWBOY CARTER is the album that should finally -- and deservedly -- win Beyonce the Grammy for Album of the Year.  Desperation.  It's a new color on her.

I'm referring to "Jolene."  Desperate and vulnerable.

She's threatening Jolene.  Years ago, Dolly Parton begged Jolene not to steal her man just because she can.  Decades later, Jolene became the first episode of DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS (NETFLIX) starring Kimberly Williams-Paisley with Julianne Hough as Jolene and we got a different look at the title character.

Now Beyonce's provided yet another take.  

The celebrated Bey of numerous dance hits?  She'd probably be taking on the husband who may be tempted to cheat.  On the country album, however, Beyonce portrays a woman so scared of losing her husband that she threatens Jolene.

The desperation also comes through on "Daughter" where the character in the song boasts/confesses:

They keep sayin’ that I ain’t nothin’ like my father
But I’m the furthest thing from choir boys and altars
If you cross me, I’m just like my father
I am colder than Titanic water

And that's going out to?  Another woman.  The character in the song explains:

Your body laid out on these filthy floors
Your bloodstains on my custom coutures

Bathroom attendant let me right in
She was a big fan

I really tried to stay cool
But your arrogance disturbed my solitude

Now I ripped your dress and you're all black and blue
Look what you made me do

It's a lot grittier and a lot darker than what Beyonce's shown on past albums -- even I AM . . . SASHA FIERCE wasn't this much of a turnaround from her previous albums.  And, though forgotten today, that album wasn't an easy sell.  It was considered Beyonce's folly when originally released.  She had faith in the album and it would become her best selling album (tied with DANGEROUSLY IN LOVE) but, in the early weeks after its release, it was seen by outsiders as a flop.  "If I Were A Boy" would be a top three hit and sell millions but it was the second single that would recast the entire album, Beyonce's biggest single to date "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."  The album would then notch up four more top forty hits.

It's not that the albums since -- 4, BEYONCE, LEMONADE and RENAISSANCE -- were disappointments.  It was that they didn't go as deep as I AM . . . SASHA FIERCE and pull out some junk that we could all related to.

On COWBOY CARTER, Beyonce's found another persona we can relate to.  She's exploring darker themes and complexities and she's produced art.  We're still in March -- not even April yet.  So who knows what else lies in store for the year musically.  An unknown could release something the equivalent of 1988's TRACY CHAPMAN.  But barring that?  I don't see how anyone tops COWBOY CARTER.  

The albums got a lot of fun on it -- the borrowing from the Beach Boys and Nancy Sinatra on "Ya Ya," for example.

Or the ultimate groove she takes listeners through with five consecutive tracks -- kicking off with "Alligator Tears" and concluding with "Desert Eagle."

I'm reviewing the vinyl edition of COWBOY CARTER, by the way.  It's 22 tracks (streaming version is 27) and I don't see anyone releasing anything stronger this year.  Someone might yet match her in 2024, but I don't see how they surpass her.