The Meaning Behind the Highway Love Song “II Most Wanted” by Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus

Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus come together on “II Most Wanted,” the second single from Cowboy Carter. It’s an old-fashioned duet featuring two of pop music’s most powerful voices.

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Every Beyoncé album is an event. But Cowboy Carter’s release wasn’t just a leading pop event—it was a groundbreaking one.

She became the first Black woman to top the Country Albums chart, and she’d already made history in February when she topped the Country Singles chart with “Texas Hold ’Em.”

“II Most Wanted” mixes pop and country royalty with indie rock to create a kind of outlaw love story.

A Bonnie and Clyde Love Story

Beyoncé’s star-studded duet with Cyrus is a highway love song, and like most road trips, it’s about destination. The song begins with young love but eventually leads to growing old and the wistful reality that everything must end.  

However, Beyoncé and Cyrus live in the moment, with their hands out the window, feeling the air against their palms. They press the gas pedal like they’re running away from a high-speed chase, which gives the song its title.

Know we’re jumpin’ the gun, but we’re both still young
One day, we won’t be
Didn’t know what I want ’til I saw your face
Said goodbye to the old me
Came out of nowhere, didn’t give no warnin’
Pedal so heavy, like the two most wanted, and I
Don’t know what you’re doin’ tonight, but I

The dusty highway theme continues with an outlaw metaphor for young lovers. But this couple didn’t rob a bank. Instead, they are high on new romance while also outrunning the shadow of old age and the inevitability of death.

Beyoncé and Cyrus tell this story over soft acoustic guitars echoing Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

I’ll be your shotgun rider ’til the day I die
Smoke out the window flyin’ down the 405
And I’ll be your backseat baby
Drivin’ you crazy anytime you like
Whoa, I’ll be your shotgun rider ’til the day I, ’til the day I die

The Credits

“II Most Wanted” was written by Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Michael Pollack, and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. Tedder and Beyoncé collaborated on the 2009 hit “Halo,” which appeared on her third album I Am… Sasha Fierce.

Beyoncé, Cyrus, and Pollack produced the song with Shawn Everett, known for his work with The War on Drugs, Kacey Musgraves, Alabama Shakes, and Julian Casablancas from The Strokes.

Complete album credits and liner notes for Cowboy Carter are listed on Beyoncé’s official website.

The War on Drugs

The duet was made using an all-star band mixing studio legends with indie rock musicians.

The War on Drugs’ leader, Adam Granduciel, plays electric guitar on “II Most Wanted.” Granduciel posted to the band’s Instagram that, indeed, it’s him with his Fender Jazzmaster on the track.

Everett co-produced and mixed The War on Drugs’ 2021 album I Don’t Live Here Anymore and engineered and mixed their 2017 release A Deeper Understanding. Granduciel is famous for running Americana sounds through ambient and shoegaze filters. His subtle textures on “II Most Wanted” add a touch of psychedelia to the acoustic production.

And if you’re burning down the highway like Bruce Springsteen, Granduciel is the perfect man to help curate the soundtrack.

Additionally, Matt Pynn recorded pedal steel with his lonesome part blending with Granduciel’s celestial melodies. Pynn has worked with Cyrus, Post Malone, and Nikki Lane.

Nickel Creek, Foxygen, and Pino Palladino

Nickel Creek siblings Sara and Sean Watkins also appear on “II Most Wanted,” performing fiddle and acoustic guitar.

Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado played acoustic guitar and keys while adding additional production. Meanwhile, the indie musicians were joined by legendary bassist Pino Palladino, whose impressive credits include The Who, Jeff Beck, D’Angelo, John Mayer, and Nine Inch Nails.

Justin Brown performs the acoustic guitar “drums,” and Pollack plays Hammond organ on the recording.

“This Is a Beyoncé Album”

“II Most Wanted” features two giant voices in a quaint love song. It debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100, with Beyoncé’s cover of “Jolene” right behind at No. 7. Speaking of “Jolene,” Cyrus is Dolly Parton’s goddaughter, creating yet another thread in a well-woven album.

Cowboy Carter is sprawling and unpredictable, and most headlines have focused on the world’s biggest pop star making a country album. But she clarified things on her Instagram account by saying: “This ain’t a Country album. This is a Beyoncé album.”

Though “II Most Wanted” shares familiar sounds with an iconic partner in Miley Cyrus, it is uniquely and undeniably Beyoncé.

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Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

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