"Ameriican Requiem" Is an Essential Listen to Understand Beyoncé's 'Cowboy Carter'

“Ameriican Requiem” might be the most important song on Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter.’ It’s a rebellion and a response to the haters.

Jamie Lerner - Author
By

Apr. 1 2024, Published 6:48 p.m. ET

Beyoncé Cowboy Carter album cover
Source: Cowboy Carter

Every Beyoncé song has a deeper meaning, but as the first track on her 2024 album Cowboy Carter, “Ameriican Requiem” has to be one of the most significant. Queen Bey introduces us to her country album (although she’s said it’s a “Beyoncé album,” not a specifically country album) through a half-spoken, storytelling requiem to Black folks’ contribution to the country genre.

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Leading up to the release of Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé knew she was taking a risk by visiting a genre that the powers that be have repeatedly excluded her from. And now, she’s taking the genre by storm and has already broken a record by becoming the first Black woman to top the Billboard Country chart. “Ameriican Requiem” addresses this and more, but what exactly does the song mean?

Beyoncé in a cowboy hat
Source: Getty Images
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The meaning behind Beyoncé’s “Ameriican Requiem” is about her space in the country genre.

Let’s go back to the title of the song — it’s an American requiem. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, a requiem is often a song sung in remembrance of something. In this case, it seems that Beyoncé is referring to how Black people contributed to the creation of the country genre despite now being left out of it decades later. But she begins, “For things to stay the same, they have to change again,” likely referring to the shift in the genre helmed by artists like Beyoncé and formerly, Lil Nas X.

Beyoncé sings, “It's a lot of talkin' goin' on / While I sing my song / Can you hear me? / I said, ‘Do you hear me?’” Throughout her career, while people talked about her, no one truly listened. She is considered one of the best performers and singers in America and yet, she’s often been forcibly separated from her American country roots.

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As she gets deeper into the song, Beyoncé asks the listener to stand with her. “Can we stand for something? / Now is the time to face the wind (Now is the time to face the wind) / Now ain't the time to pretend / Now is the time to let love in (To let love in),” she sings over harmonious strings and a strong beat, incorporating elements of country, blues, jazz, and even orchestral music.

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She encourages us to say that we don’t need to gatekeep musicians and people from doing what they love. But in order to do so, we need to stand together and behind those who want to make change. And the way to do this is to “let love in” by showing up with open arms.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the 66th GRAMMYs
Source: Getty Images
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In the case of Beyoncé, she loves country music just as much as a traditional country fan, if not more, and if those who are gatekeeping open their hearts to new voices, then they’ll help propel the future of the genre. But it’s personal for Beyoncé.

She sings about her childhood in the next verse: “The grandbaby of a moonshine man / Gadsden, Alabama / Got folk down in Galveston, rooted in Louisiana / Used to say I spoke too country / And the rejection came, said I wasn't country 'nough.” She’s explaining how her background made her “too country” for mainstream, so she proved herself in pop.

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But now, people are saying she’s not country enough, referring to the controversy around her Country Song submission with “Daddy Issues” and the subsequent controversy around her inclusion at the CMAs. Essentially, “Ameriican Requiem” is an anthem of rebellion against the American ideal and it’s Beyoncé’s way of saying, “I can sing and make whatever I want to.”

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