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Strumming on the Heartstrings of America: The Resurgence of Country Vibes

Lainey Wilson, a Louisiana native and country music star, says it best in her latest single: “Country is cool again.” Country is undoubtedly back in style, whether it’s Beyonce dancing her way to the top or Western and cowboy wear dominating Paris Fashion Week. This yee-haw revival transcends stereotypes and reflects a more complex interpretation of modern Americana.

Country music has long been a way for pop musicians to expand their audiences and improve their songwriting. Tina Turner, Beyonce’s idol, released Tina Turns the Country On! in 1974. The same year, The Pointer Sisters had a Top 40 smash with the honky tonk ballad “Fairytale.” Kylie Minogue’s Golden, Lady Gaga’s Joanne and Miley Cyrus’ Younger Now are recent country crossovers. Gwen Stefani’s southern-fried version of “Just a Girl” is also a recent attempt.

Country music is about telling stories — vivid images, emotional stakes, and an intimate connection to the listener. It’s a bit like pouring your heart out to the bartender after a few drinks. This is why Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves have become mainstream stars. Lana Del Rey, a lyricist with a unique style, will release her 10th album in September. Post Malone, the singer of “America The Beautiful,” who sang it at this year’s Super Bowl wearing a pair of cowboy-cut Wranglers, spent some time in Nashville recently working on his country album with chart-toppers Luke Combs, and Morgan Wallen. Not to mention that he is working on a Swift collaboration.

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Beyonce attended the Luar Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week, in February 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Beyonce’s latest album, Act II: Cowboy Carter, which will be released on March 29, achieved even more with this project. Her No. She became the first Black woman in history to have a country chart-topping song. The song “Texas Hold ‘Em”, at first, is a fun do-si-do ditty. It asks the listener to leave their worries behind and join in on the hoedown. It avoids cowboy costumes with its acoustic instruments, thanks to Rhiannon’s agile banjo licks. This new sound is an ethereal coda that blends the house eleganza from the Renaissance with Beyonce’s country roots. Beyonce creates country music in her own image, overcoming the barriers that historically have kept Black artists out of the genre. She herself said: “This isn’t a Country Album.” This is Beyonce’s album.

Bey’s fans were not surprised when she released “16 Carriages,” her first hit song, on Super Bowl night — the biggest event in American pop music. Bey’s Black Southern identity has been a part of her since the beginning. On 2016’s “Formation”, she said it herself: “Earned this money, but never took the country out of me.” She also performed “Daddy Lessons,” a twangy ode to a father who drinks whisky and carries a gun, with The Chicks, at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards. Since she first took the Houston Rodeo in 2001, a Beyonce country age has seemed inevitable.

Others might see the move into a new music genre as a smart business decision. Country music is one the fastest-growing genres in the world (even K-pop has started playing fiddles), and it is especially dominant when it comes to radio play and physical sales. According to all reports, country music is more popular than ever. This is a cynical way to win more Grammys, and eventually take home Album Of The Year, by beating the Recording Academy. This view is reductive. Beyonce’s country music turn is more meaningful and personal than a gramophone trophy or an increase in ticket sales.

Cowboy Carter, like Renaissance, is a celebration of Black history as well as a triumphant reclamation for country music to be Black. The confessional song “16 Carriages”, written in the style of a traditional work song in which each stomp and clap represents an act of resistance, is a ballad in the same tradition. Beyonce tells her story in the song, which she usually keeps to herself. She sings, “I had to sacrifice and let go of my fears.” “The legacy / If it’s the only thing I do, you’ll remember me because we have something to prove.”

Beyonce, who has described the limitations that were placed on her as being “unacceptable,” is redefining what she calls an industry not known for its inclusiveness. Mickey Guyton from Texas is the only Black nominee for a Grammy for a solo category in country music.

Pharrell Williams during Menswear Fall/Winter Fashion Week 2024-2025 in Paris. GETTY IMAGES

Pharrell’s latest Louis Vuitton collection, which premiered at Paris Fashion Week last January, also pays tribute to an aspect of American history often overlooked. The collection, inspired by the Wild West and the Western frontier, reimagines it, shedding old tropes, and bringing to light the diversity of influences on Western fashion. Louis Vuitton sent denim chaps and vintage suede down the runway with bolo ties and Cuban-heeled booties. They also added exquisite details like cacti chain stitching, floral embroidery, turquoise buttons, and Keepalls painted by Dakota and Lakota artisans.

Williams stated in a press conference after the show that “you only see a few versions of cowboys when you watch them portrayed.” You never get to see how the original Cowboys looked. They looked like me – they were Black and Native American.” At this year’s Grammys Beyonce wore a black studded leather outfit designed by LV by Williams and a white Stetson.

Louis Vuitton is not the only brand to embrace the trend of ranch-to-runway. Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 collection featured Western buckles and horse-dressing ties. Brands Egonlab, Dsquared2, and others adorned their designs with fringe trimming. Willy Chavarria, meanwhile, debuted wide-lapeled flannels and jeweled cowboy caps at NYFW. Bella Hadid, the supermodel, is dating IRL rodeo and cowboy Adan Banuelos. She has the wardrobe, as well as cutting-horse abilities, to prove it.

The country revival is also a hit with consumers. Pinterest’s 2024 predictions noted a 145 percent increase in searches for vintage Americana and Western gothic, a grungier, darker take on the American West.

Cowboys have always represented freedom, individualism, and a connection to nature. These nostalgic ideals reflect our current political climate and culture. In an increasingly digital age, there has been a cultural shift towards authenticity. This sublimates our AI anxiety by prioritizing the human connection. In 2024, the American dream will be questioned and re-contextualized with a multicultural perspective. We are weaving together a new identity, just like the new Western wear and country music. It embraces America’s complex history and questions its present.

Cowboy Carter will not end America’s ongoing crisis of identity — America still has the problem — but this is a bold move to reclaim a narrative that has excluded non-white voices for a long time. In the new era of cowboys, they are not just another John Wayne. They are a symbol for resilience and a powerful memory of the stories untold that have shaped American history.

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