Did Beyoncé reference a Marvel supervillain in her new album? She sure did

In case you’ve somehow missed the biggest news in music this week, Beyoncé released her latest album on Friday, and “Act II: Cowboy Carter” goes out of its way to point out that music genres are overly confining labels.

The 27-track compendium contains country music, to be sure, but also folk, gospel, rap, pop and even some Italian opera – and it celebrates Bey’s desire to span beyond any labels or limits. (She even spelled it out in a rare caption on her Instagram ahead of the album drop, writing that “Carter” “ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”) The resulting collection is musically rich, lyrically creative and distinctly Beyoncé.

In “Cowboy Carter’s” most hip-hop-heavy song “Spaghettii,” which is introduced by Black country trailblazer Linda Martell, Beyoncé raps near the top of the track, “At the snap of my fingers, I’m Thanos” – a direct callout of the peak Marvel Cinematic Universe villain who snapped his fingers and caused half the universe to turn to dust.

“Spaghettii” is Beyoncé in one of her most unrestrained moments on the new record, bringing out a rougher side as she raps brazenly on an album most thought would be exclusively “country” (which itself is a changing blanket term) mixed in among the more introspective “Daughter” and beautiful, pointed ballad “Alligator Tears.”

Thanos (Josh Brolin) in "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019. - Marvel Studios
Thanos (Josh Brolin) in "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019. - Marvel Studios

The song, which additionally features Shaboozey, also contains one of “Act II’s” several references to Beyoncé’s previous album “Renaissance” – which is now considered her “Act I” in this new era – when Shaboozey utters also near the top, “That Beyoncé Virgo s–t,” a nod to “Virgo’s Groove” on that hit 2022 record.

Later in the new album comes the gleeful “Ya Ya,” arguably the spiritual successor to “Renaissance” in its playful and infectious tone, which itself packs a plethora of references and samples including (most notably) Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Later in the track, Queen Bey calls to mind another 1966 charttopper, “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, when she croons, “She’s pickin’ up good vibrations, he’s lookin’ for sweet sensations.”

There are too many references to list in the entirety of “Cowboy Carter” – including a passage in penultimate track “Sweet Honey Buckin’” that seems to comment directly on her husband Jay-Z’s remarks earlier this year about how she’s not yet been recognized with a Grammy for album of the year, but she’s unbothered. “A-O-T-Y, I ain’t win (That’s cool)/ I ain’t stuntin’ ’bout them,” she sings.

Throughout, Beyoncé acknowledges the influence of artists who have come before her, and subverts concepts of country music by connecting past to present. In addition to Martell’s presence on multiple album interludes, samples of Chuck Berry can be found, briefly on “Smoke House Willie Nelson” and in sped-up fashion on “Oh Louisiana.”

On the second track, her hauntingly beautiful cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Queen Bey teams with rising Black country singers/songwriters Tanner Adell, Reyna Roberts, Tiera Kennedy and Brittney Spencer. On “Just for Fun,” she duets with Willie Jones, who has described his sound as a bridge between “the Block Party and the Barn Dance.”

Beyoncé shows there’s room for all at her “Cowboy Carter”party – and the bigger the better.

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