How Beyoncé’s “Ameriican Requiem” Addresses ‘Cowboy Carter’ Haters Head-on

Beyoncé was a country fan long before the release of her eighth studio album ‘Cowboy Carter.’ However, the country music industry hasn’t always been a fan of hers. The meaning of the album’s opening track, “Ameriican Requiem,” reflects this dissonance.

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Beyoncé is hardly the first artist to try their hand at a hip-hop-to-country crossover. Still, that didn’t stop public opinion from harshly dividing over whether the traditional hip-hop, R&B, and pop singer had any place within the country universe.

“Ameriican Requiem” presents Queen Bey’s argument that she does. The rest of the album served as sonic evidence.

How The 2016 CMAs Helped Create ‘Cowboy Carter’

Beyoncé revealed the origins of her country-inspired record ‘Cowboy Carter’ in a March 19, 2024, Instagram post, writing, “This album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t. But because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

Many Beyhive fans suspected the singer was talking about her 2016 Country Music Award performance with The Chicks, during which many of the event’s attendees were disruptive and dismissive while Beyoncé was performing. The first lines of “Ameriican Requiem” seem to reference not only this event but the entire country genre.

Nothin’ really ends, the singer begins. For things to stay the same, they have to change again. Later, Beyoncé addresses her critics—and perhaps those at the CMAs—directly. It’s a lot of talkin’ goin’ on while I sing my song, she sings. It’s a lotta chatter in here, but let me make myself clear. Can you hear me? Or do you fear me?

Defending Black Southern Heritage in “Ameriican Requiem”

Contrary to critical opinions, Beyoncé’s transition into country music wasn’t that far-fetched or unexpected. The singer was born in Houston, Texas, a heritage emphasized by the southern drawl she was often criticized for in the early days of Destiny’s Child. This, too, is interwoven into the meaning of “Ameriican Requiem.”

Used to say I spoke too country
And the rejection came, said I wasn’t country ‘nough
Said I wouldn’t saddle up, but
If that ain’t country, tell me what is?

In the second half of this verse, Beyoncé brings up her family heritage. The grandbaby of a moonshine man, Gadsden, Alabama, she sings. (The line harkens back to her 2016 track “Formation,” in which she sings, My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana.) She continues this genealogical thought in “Ameriican Requiem,” singing, Got folk down in Galveston, rooted in Louisiana.

Opening Arguments For A Lifelong Country Fan

The meaning behind “Ameriican Requiem” is at once deeply personal and societally broad. Beyoncé not only makes an argument for her rightful place in the country canon but for Black inclusion as a whole. Based on the title alone, Beyoncé’s requiem on ‘Cowboy Carter’ pays beautiful tribute to all the times Black artists—herself included—were edged out of a culture their ancestors helped build.

Renaissance World Tour stage designer Es Devlin echoed similar sentiments while speaking to British Vogue about Beyoncé’s desire to include Western-inspired visuals on her seventh studio album’s tour. “[Beyoncé] discovered that 50 percent of cowboys were Black in the 19th and early 20th century, and country music, of course, has been largely appropriated. She wanted to reappropriate Americana and country music from a Black perspective,” Devlin explained.

And indeed, ‘Cowboy Carter’ does just that. Yet, Beyoncé’s iconic album makes it clear she’s not looking to push anyone else out of the country music world so that she can fit inside. The meaning of “Ameriican Requiem” paints a picture of defiance coming from a place of self-compassion and outward camaraderie. Can we stand for something? She asks the listener. Now is the time to face the wind. Coming in peace and love, y’all.

(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

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