Beyoncé has netted a number of notable chart distinctions with her latest “act,” Cowboy Carter. In addition to scoring the #1 slot on the Billboard 200 for the eighth time in her career, Beyoncé’s new LP debuted in the top spot on a number of genre-specific album categories including the Top Country Albums chart dated April 13th—making her the first Black woman ever to earn that distinction in the rankings’ 60-year history.

Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé’s “country album,” debuted with 407,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in its first week, per Luminate. In addition to topping the Billboard 200, the new album also came in at the #1 spot on the Americana/Folk Albums and Top Album Sales charts. As Billboard noted, “Cowboy Carter also claims the biggest week for a country album, by units earned, since last July, when Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), opened at No. 1 on the July 22, 2023 chart with 716,000 units.”

“With 407,000 units earned, Cowboy Carter claims the biggest week of 2024 and the largest since Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) bowed with 1.653 million units on the Nov. 11, 2023-dated list,” Billboard reported. “Cowboy Carter’s launch is also Beyoncé’s biggest week, by units, since her Lemonade album debuted at No. 1 with 653,000 units (mostly from traditional album sales) on the May 14, 2016, chart. The new effort also lands Beyoncé her biggest streaming week ever.”

The album has drawn both widespread praise and genre-oriented criticism since it arrived late last month. Despite its co-signs from country legends like Dolly PartonWillie Nelson, and Linda Martell (all of whom appear on the album) and other music icons like Paul McCartney (whose Beatles classic “Blackbird” gets a revamp on the LP), a vocal contingent of music fans has denied the wide-ranging album’s “country” credentials.

Related: Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton Weigh In On Beyoncé Covers Of Their Songs On ‘Cowboy Carter’

The album addresses the expected pushback to her country turn almost immediately. On the opening track. “AMERIICAN REQUIEM”, Beyoncé lays out her roots as the “grandbaby of a moonshine man, Gadsen, Alabama” with “folk down in Galveston, rooted in Louisiana.” She continues:

Used to say I spoke, “Too country”
And the rejection came, said “I wasn’t country ‘nough”
Said I wouldn’t saddle up, but
If that ain’t country, tell me what is?
Plant my bare feet on solid ground for years
They don’t, don’t know how hard I had to fight for this
When I sang my song.  

As much as the contemporary “country music” establishment is famously closed-minded when it comes to artists on its fringes, the current moment in the country world has been defined by unlikely success stories of that ilk. Don’t forget, the reigning CMA Song of the Year winner is a Black woman (Tracy Chapman) and the song she won for isn’t exactly a country song, either. (The driving force behind her country resurgence was a white guy covering her, but still). Plus, what qualifies as “country” today looks and sounds a lot different than the country of Willie Nelson’s outlaw heyday, or the glitz and glam that made Parton famous, or the proper aesthetic of Martell’s rise to Nashville prominence. ]

With Cowboy Carter—which reportedly was inspired by an experience performing at the 2016 CMAs that resulted in racially charged backlash from country fans—Beyoncé made a “country album” that sounds like a Beyoncé album, wide-ranging stylistic wanderings included, and dares the country establishment to disagree. It’s not necessarily not country, though many of its prevailing musical traits have typically been categorized in other ways. But it sounds like she knows that—like she’s here to consciously turn those categorizations on their heads, just like Willie and Dolly and Linda did before her. To quote a notable country star, “If that ain’t country, tell me what is?”

For a deeper dive into the country bona fides of Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter, revisit our review of the album here: Is The Beyoncé Country Album Actually Country? [Review/Stream].

Beyoncé – Cowboy Carter – Full Album