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Beyoncé Cowboy Carter meme
Via Twitter/@beyheated

Cowboy Carter: the best memes from Beyoncé’s latest album rollout

From a face-off with Azealia Banks, to a UK rebrand as Clubcard Carter

In case you hadn’t heard – despite the artwork being plastered over every inch of the internet – Beyoncé officially unveiled the album cover for her Renaissance follow-up, Cowboy Carter, earlier this week. As you might expect, this has dominated the cultural conversation for the last couple of days and triggered a tidal wave of memes (how else are people supposed to fill the ten whole days leading up to the record’s release?). More on that in a minute, but first some context.

“This album has been over five years in the making,” Beyoncé wrote in a statement accompanying the newly-unveiled cover, where she also expanded on her first foray into country music. “It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed… and it was very clear that I wasn’t,” she said. “But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

“The criticisms I faced when I first entered this genre forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me,” she added, concluding: “This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.” That said, Cowboy Carter does lean heavily on country tropes. On the album cover, Beyoncé sits side-saddle on a white horse, wearing red, white, and blue and a “Cowboy Carter” sash, and trailing a large American flag.

Is now the best time to play around with US iconography? Probably not, to be honest! And many of the album cover Instagram post’s almost 100,000 comments (as of writing) are a reflection of this, accusing the musician of “romanticis[ing] settler colonialism” and waving the flag of a country that’s “actively funding a genocide”. On the other hand, some fans have applauded her subversion of rodeo aesthetics simply by placing herself in a position where Black women are often overlooked or openly discriminated against. After all, it’s highly unlikely that Beyoncé shared the cover without thinking deeply about the implications beforehand.

Azealia Banks, unfortunately, is not among the latter group. Addressing Cowboy Carter directly in a series of widely-shared Instagram stories, she’s condemned the album’s aesthetic as “white woman cosplay” that misses the chance to make “so much pertinent cultural commentary”. “You’re reinforcing the false rhetoric that country music is a post civil war white art form,” Banks says. “And subsequently reinforcing the idea that there is no racism/segregation/slavery/violence/theft/massacres/plagues/manifest destiny craziness that form the bedrock of epithets like ‘proud to be an American’ or ‘god bless the usa’.”

Needless to say, Banks’s comments lean (as ever) toward the more extreme end of the scale. Wherever you stand on the Cowboy Carter controversy, though, there’s one thing that we can all, undeniably, get behind, and that’s some silly memes. This being the internet – and, more specifically, the Beyhive’s corner of the internet – there’s no shortage of these surrounding the Cowboy Carter album cover, from the reinvention of Beyoncé as a UK roadman riding to Tesco, AKA Clubcard Carter, to the ongoing mystery of her ever-expanding cowboy hat.

Need to take a break from the Discourse? Flick through some of the highlights below.