The unstoppable rise of country music

When a major artist releases a new album, the first thing to follow is the onslaught of think pieces. And when Beyoncé released Cowboy Carter earlier this year, the tone of these think pieces – especially on this side of the Atlantic – was one of slightly baffled congratulation. Here, at last, was a pioneer who might drag this hidebound genre – of sequins and satin, of lachrymose, middle-aged songs about drink and divorce – into the modern age. ‘Modern country is like punk for the Hannah Montana generation’ The only problem is that Beyoncé was not leading; she was following. Beyoncé pivoted to country not to make it cool,

Clever, beautiful and sonically witty: Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album reviewed

Grade: A+ Carter is a useful surname to have if you’re making a country album. So it is with Beyoncé: she married into the name when she got hitched to Jay-Z, but he is from New York, not Poor Valley, VA. Helps if you’re from Texas too – just to convince folks that this bit of genre-hopping is rooted in authenticity. It isn’t – but who cares? This is a clever, beautiful and sonically witty album. Country music’s conventions draw out of Beyoncé perhaps the most sublime melodies she has written, or part-written. There are cameos from Dolly Parton, half-forgotten black sharecropper’s daughter Linda Martell, Willie Nelson and the ghost

Dazzling – if you ignore the music: Beyoncé, at Murrayfield Stadium, reviewed

Scheduling open-air concerts in mid-May in northern Europe is a triumph of hope over experience. I last spent time with Beyoncé – I’m sure she remembers it fondly and well – in 2016, in a football stadium in Sunderland on a damp, drizzly, early-summer English evening of the type that even strutting soul divas struggle to enliven. I don’t think it was merely the weather which left me underwhelmed by her brutalist attack, the sheer choreographed drill of the show, the lack of engagement, of spontaneity, of joy. By then, Beyoncé was no longer seeking to be regarded as a mere pop star. She had recently taken on the unearthly

My night with Beyoncé at Dubai’s most lavish hotel

Last weekend, Beyoncé was paid $24 million (£19.5 million) to perform for 1,500 invited guests in Dubai. Somehow, I was among them. Her set, which was her first live performance in four years, was 85 minutes long. That’s £230,000 a minute or £13,000 per head. And those millions are the mere tip of the air-conditioned iceberg. Queen B’s record-smashing fee barely surpassed my own champagne and beluga caviar bill that evening – covered by the host. This was all in aid of the opening of a hotel – Atlantis The Royal – which cites itself as ‘the most ultra-luxury resort in the world’. Never has a ribbon-cutting ceremony been so

Beyoncé and the pornification of pop

Beyoncé Knowles has always been sexy: naturally and consciously so. But her sexiness – those astonishing bottom-swooshing dance moves; the gleaming, undulating chest; the ever-changing, lustrous locks – sat alongside a moral substance that grew as her career progressed. She weighed in on politics, raising $4 million for Barack Obama and singing at his first inaugural ball. She weighed in on sexual morality, telling women in one of her most iconic songs that their man ought to, if he was to be taken seriously, ‘put a ring on it’. She is a committed Christian, having grown up in a Methodist household and frequently spoken of her faith. And she is

She’s pop’s Damien Hirst: Beyoncé’s Renaissance reviewed

You feel a little sorry for Renaissance, the first solo album by Beyoncé in more than six years. It just wants to dance, but will anybody let it? Such are the claims made for the singer as a cultural figure – superwoman, warrior queen, saviour of Black America – that everything she does carries a weight of expectation which would crush granite, let alone a pop record. The songs on her last album, Lemonade, released in 2016, spun out from the infidelity of her husband, Jay-Z, linking a personal breach of trust to fissures in her family history and racial divides in the United States, past and present. It was

Felt longer than the lockdown itself: BBC1’s One World – Together At Home reviewed

You have to admire the spirit of the organisers of last weekend’s One World: Together at Home concert. To put on an event that seemed to last longer than lockdown itself is the sort of can-do attitude we love to see. The main event — the really star-studded portion that was shown live on Saturday night on the big three US networks, and then adapted for the UK and shown on BBC1 on Sunday — began only after six whole hours of preamble from slightly lesser turns. Six hours. That’s an awful lot of watching people sit with an acoustic guitar in front of their webcam. Or sometimes not even