Beyoncé – 16 CARRIAGES

The Texan titan taps into her Southern roots in a glazed lyrical masterpiece...

In the early hours of the morning Beyoncé broke the internet…again. Overshadowing her contemporary Usher’s Superbowl Halftime performance, the Texan teased new music at the end of an elaborate Verizon commercial. Minutes after, a Paris, Texas-esque trailer set twitterverse alight, with the singer announcing ‘act ii’ of her purported three-part trilogy, following 2022’s ‘RENAISSANCE’. With the news came tracks one and two on the album, ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’ and ’16 CARRIAGES’.

‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’ is a Southern meets roots hoedown, more ebullient than the interior monologue that drives ’16 CARRIAGES’, which ranks up there as one of her most elegiac confessionals. The two releases signal Beyoncé’s reclamation of the country genre, continuing a tradition of honouring the pioneers in the annals of Black American music history, which has been habitually whitewashed. This sonic foray isn’t a sharp about-turn but a personalised tribute to Beyoncé’s roots as a proud Houstonian, and her exposure to Black cowboy culture and Southern sub-genres. It’s something the singer has explored at various points in her discography, namely the Zydeco-inflected ‘Daddy Lessons’, which drew the ire of racist country music fans when Beyoncé performed the number with the ostracised Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards in 2016.

The point is, Beyoncé’s deliberate about her craft, rigorously plotting and placing the pieces of this Act like a cerebral chess player. Beyoncé conceived ’16 CARRIAGES’ with frequent collaborators Atia Boggs aka INK, a fellow Southerner, ex-Stills frontman Dave Hamelin, and modern soul great Raphael Saadiq. “It’s been thirty-eight summers, and I’m not in my bed…” she intones. That would mean Beyoncé recorded the song in 2019, holding onto a second act gem until the Renaissance was over. Part Nashville pastiche, part glazed folktronica, ‘16 CARRIAGES’ sees the singer contemplate the trajectory of her career: as an uprooted teenager sacrificing her innocence for a career in music; as a sister, daughter and wife anchoring a family in flux. ’16 CARRIAGES’ mirrors the momentum and churn of a train going…somewhere. Looking out of the window into the haze of time, it’s an epic of faith, loyalty and hardship. Heady and heartrending, ’16 CARRIAGES’ is an edifying glimpse into a survivor’s story and frankly, a country anthem for the ages.


Words: Shahzaib Hussain

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