In 2024, Country Is Cooler and More American Than Ever

From Beyoncé to Pharrell, country's cultural renaissance is right on time.

<p>Getty Images / InStyle</p>

Getty Images / InStyle

On her latest single, Louisiana native and country music darling Lainey Wilson sings it best: "Country's cool again." Whether it's Beyoncé two-stepping her way to the top of the charts or cowboy couture and Western wear dominating the runways at Paris Fashion Week, country is undeniably back in vogue. But this yee-haw resurgence transcends the stereotypes to reflect a deeper, more complex interpretation of modern Americana.

For decades, country music has been a path for pop artists to broaden their audience and sharpen their songwriting skills. Beyoncé's idol Tina Turner released her lone country album, Tina Turns the Country On!, in 1974, the same year The Pointer Sisters scored a Top 40 hit with honky-tonk heartbreaker "Fairytale." Kylie Minogue's Golden, Lady Gaga's Joanne, Miley Cyrus' Younger Now, and Gwen Stefani's southern-fried remix of "Just a Girl" are all more recent attempts at country crossovers.

Country music is all about storytelling — emotional stakes, vivid imagery, and an intimate connection with the listener. It's like sitting at a bar, a few drinks in, pouring out your heart to the bartender. It's why two of the genre's most talented songwriters, Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, have found mainstream success. And why an evocative lyricist like Lana Del Rey is going country, too — her 10th studio album, Lasso, is slated for September. Even Post Malone, who performed "America The Beautiful" at this year's Super Bowl in a pair of cowboy cut Wranglers, recently spent time in Nashville cutting his country record alongside chart-toppers Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen. (Not to mention, he has a Swift collab on the way.)

<p>Getty Images</p> Beyoncé attends the Luar fashion show during New York Fashion Week in February 2024.

Getty Images

Beyoncé attends the Luar fashion show during New York Fashion Week in February 2024.

Yet, Beyoncé, whose forthcoming album Act II: Cowboy Carter drops on March 29, has achieved something even greater with her latest project: Her historic No. 1 country song made her the first Black woman to top the country charts. On first listen, "Texas Hold 'Em" is a playful do-si-do ditty that asks you to leave your troubles at home and join the hoedown. However, it side-steps cowboy cosplay with its acoustic instrumentation, courtesy of agile banjo licking from pioneer Rhiannon Giddens, while paying homage to the instrument's Black roots. This new sound is a hazy coda that combines the house eleganza of Renaissance with her country bona fides. Ultimately, Beyoncé is creating country music in her image, bypassing the barriers that have historically sidelined Black artists in the genre. She said so herself: "This ain’t a Country album. This is a Beyoncé album."

When Bey first released her hit single and its companion track, "16 Carriages," on the night of the Super Bowl — the most-watched event in American pop culture — her foray into country music came as no surprise to her fans. Bey has always embraced her Black Southern identity. She said so herself on 2016's "Formation": "Earned all this money, but they never take the country out me." She's also performed "Daddy Lessons," a twangy ode to a gun-toting, whisky-drinking father, with The Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards. A Beyoncé country era has felt inevitable since she first stepped onto the Houston Rodeo stage in 2001.

Some might dismiss the foray into a new genre as nothing more than a savvy business decision. After all, country music is one of the fastest-growing genres globally (even K-pop is busting out the fiddle), and it especially dominates when it comes to radio play and physical sales. By all reports, it's more commercially popular now than ever. The cynical view would see this as a clever ploy to collect even more Grammys and finally take home Album of the Year by beating the Recording Academy at its own game — i.e., crossing over into a traditional genre that's often taken more seriously by white Academy voters. But that take is ultimately reductive. Beyoncé's country music turn is far more personal — and meaningful — than a gramophone-shaped trophy or a boost in ticket sales.

Like Renaissance, Cowboy Carter is a tribute to Black history and a triumphant reclamation of country as Black music. The confessional ballad "16 Carriages" is written in the tradition of a work song, in which every stomp or clap is an act of resilience. The track tells a version of Beyoncé's story the singer usually keeps close to her chest. "Had to sacrifice and leave my fears behind," she sings. "The legacy, if it's the last thing I do / You'll remember me 'cause we got somethin' to prove."

For an industry that isn't exactly known for its inclusivity — fellow Texan Mickey Guyton is the only Black woman to be nominated for a Grammy in a solo country category — Beyoncé is breaking through what she described as "the limitations placed on [her]" by honoring her uniquely American heritage.

<p>Getty Images</p> Pharrell Williams at Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 fashion week in Paris.

Getty Images

Pharrell Williams at Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 fashion week in Paris.

Similarly, Pharrell Williams's latest collection for Louis Vuitton, which debuted Paris Fashion Week in January, pays homage to a side of American history that's often left unexplored. Inspired by the Wild West, the collection reimagines the frontier, discarding old tropes and shedding light on the diverse influences in Western fashion. Sending denim chaps, vintage suede, bolo ties, and Cuban-heeled boots down the runway, Louis Vuitton remixed cowboy staples with exquisite details: cacti chain stitches, floral embroideries, turquoise buttons, and pastoral Keepalls hand-painted by artisans from the Dakota and Lakota nations.

In a post-show press briefing, Williams said, "When you see cowboys portrayed, you see only a few versions. You never really get to see what the original cowboys really looked like. They looked like me — they were Black and Native American." (Pointedly, at this year's Grammys, Beyoncé wore a white Stetson and a custom, black studded leather cowboy getup designed for LV by Williams.)

Louis Vuitton isn't the only house getting in on the ranch-to-runway trend. Schiaparelli brought horse-dressing knots and Western buckles to its Spring/Summer 2024 Haute Couture collection. Fringe trimming adorned designs from brands Egonlab and Dsquared2. And Willy Chavarria debuted jeweled cowboy hats and extra-wide-lapeled flannels at NYFW to great fanfare. Even Supermodel Bella Hadid is going country, dating IRL cowboy and rodeo star Adan Banuelos, and she has the wardrobe and cutting-horse skills to prove it.

Consumers are responding to the country resurgence, too. When Pinterest unveiled its predictions for 2024 trends, the visual platform noted a 145 percent increase in searches for "vintage Americana" and "Western gothic," the latter being a darker, grungier take on the American West that captures a certain mystique (think: Ethel Cain's Preacher's Daughter).

The cowboy has always been synonymous with rogue individualism, freedom, and connection with nature. Those nostalgic ideals speak to our current political and cultural climate. In an increasingly digital world, there's been a broader cultural shift toward authenticity, sublimating our AI anxieties by prioritizing human connection. 2024 is also a fraught election year in which American ideals are being interrogated and recontextualized through a more multicultural lens. Just like the new crop of country music and Western wear, we're collectively weaving a new national identity that embraces America's complicated history and questions its future.

Cowboy Carter won't end America's ongoing identity crisis — America still has a problem — but it's a bold step toward reclaiming a narrative that has long excluded non-white voices. In this new era, the cowboy isn't just another stoic John Wayne. They're a symbol of resilience and a powerful reminder of the untold stories that have shaped the American experience.

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