March 24, 2024

"The horse appears to be digitally composed because its front and hind legs do not represent any phase of natural movement at the walk, trot, canter, or gallop."

"Based on its leg position the horse appears to be trotting with his hind legs and cantering with his front!"

So says a commenter at the NYT Style piece, "Dissecting the ‘Cowboy Carter’ Cover: Beyoncé’s Yeehaw Agenda/On Tuesday, the pop star revealed her new album’s cover, a constellation of country signifiers reminding fans of her Texas roots."

The "Style Desk" writers are saying things like "I love how she and the horse have matching hair," "she’s clearly been trying to reinscribe images of Black women into the history of the cowboys and the West," and "Beyoncé is looking directly into the camera with her face forward and it really feels like a reclaiming" and "Beyoncé seems to believe she has to position herself as a cowgirl on a horse, wearing red, white and blue, holding the American flag on an album cover to drill it into people’s heads that her interest in country isn’t a fad."

Here's the photo/illustration under discussion:

The commenter goes on to analyze the hell out of the horse's legs: "The canter is a three-beat gait. The sequence of footfalls for the left-lead canter is right hind foot, then left hind foot and right forefoot touching the ground at the same time as a diagonal pair, and finally, the left forefoot touching the ground, followed by a period of suspension when all four feet are off the ground. In this foto the left hind and right forefoot will not touch the ground at the same time. The footfalls do not represent a right lead canter either. The gallop is a four beat gait. The sequence of the footfalls of a horse galloping on his left lead will be right hind foot, left hind foot, right forefoot, left forefoot, followed by a period of suspension. In this photo the right hind footfall will be followed by the left hind footfall. The footfall sequence does not match a right lead canter for the same reason (rear footfall followed by rear footfall). I’m a lifetime equestrian and I hope someone will prove me wrong because there is always so much more to learn with horses!"

To my eye, the image is unsettlingly realistic and unrealistic. Beyoncé is not really sitting on that horse. And it's not really Beyoncé and not really a horse. It's more like a doll with a Beyoncé face plunked backwards and sideways onto a saddle bolted to an A.I. image of a horse. A horse's legs couldn't be in that position and a human wouldn't position her legs like that while in the near vicinity of a horse. 

The image seems to have been designed to fix your attention and cause you to meditate on the many falsities. Where is this supposed to be happening? The "Style Desk" people never mention the dark void. They repeatedly call the place "The West." And where is the feminist critique? Why is she wearing a pageant sash, and why is the sash misgendering her and labelling her with her husband's last name? Why is she in pants yet forced to ride sidesaddle? Why is there an arrow pointing at her crotch?

ADDED: Is this racist: When I googled to check Beyoncé's last name, I was directed to "Simple English Wikipedia":

 

Had you ever heard of Simple English Wikipedia? Why would my question about Beyoncé's name prompt Google to send me to the easy-reading version of Wikipedia? That's never happened to me before! (Who knew "mononymously" was an easy word?)

ALSO: I used the words "unsettlingly realistic and unrealistic." On reread, I realize I'm talking about what tends to be called the "uncanny valley."

74 comments:

Political Junkie said...

Is she wearing boots? I am not certain, but I think those are not boots. Style fail 101.

Wince said...

The image seems to have been designed to fix your attention and cause you to meditate on the many falsities.

They made sure to reveal Beyonce's chaps are ass-less.

Ice Nine said...

Beyonce looks like she has been glued on to the side of a horse, and they're worried about how phony the horse's gait looks?

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

meh -

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Black people invented Country Music in 3...2..1....

Aggie said...

Gee... There's a lot to unpack in this photo. I've never seen pointy-toe, stilletto-heeled cowboy boots before; I can't tell if she's wearing leather leggings with pants cuffs, and a leotard, or 'what'. That's not her hair; that's not even her complexion. Is she trying to pass herself as white-ish? It's not that I care one way or the other, but this whole photo experiment would seem to be a pander to Country Western demographics, of the randy type.

I'm not sure why Beyoncé would want to move from her Creole Gospel and R&B genre over to C&W, in fact I'm questioning why she would even be interested. Her music legend, business empire, and her own executive experience has kind of moved past direct entertaining campaigns, and I would find it hard to believe she thinks C&W genres offer a new creative outlet. But who knows? Maybe it's genuine. Maybe she wants to outshine old Taylor.

Lindsey said...

She’s a cowboy who doesn’t know how to sit on a horse, but she sure loves getting her wig from that poor deformed horse.

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

Feels like propaganda. with a plastic barbie tint.

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

The important part is that her ass and her bare inner thigh are showing.

Because everything from these freaks must be about sex.

Ralph L said...

It reminded me of the dirty joke that ends, "Lady, Indians ride bareback."

Dan from Madison said...

I ran this by a few equestrian friends and the commenter is correct. The gait isn't right.

Mr. Forward said...

Rodeo Barbie galumphs emotional support elephant Babar across condo upstairs.

stlcdr said...

Ripping apart a heavily edited image (picture/photo?) that is borderline 100% AI, is the current thing?

What happens if th.e AI identifies as a minority? Is critique still allowed? Or, if not necessary, we can charge everything contentious as AI created and can let rip with criticism, like that scene in 1984 with 'two minutes of hate'.

stlcdr said...

It's just a picture, though, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, it is what it is.

Dogma and Pony Show said...

I don't understand what's so noteworthy about this image. It's an illustration. Why are people analyzing whether it's an actual, unedited photograph of Beyonce sitting on a horse?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

It’s genuinely creepy as a photo composition. Why the long straight Crystal Gale-like hair? Why the about-to-slip-off unnatural pose? On the unrealistic horse? All that makes me wonder if the flag was superimposed later too. Will she also be called a flag-waving Christian Nationalist as are the Trump rally-goers who literally wave the flag?

“Style” writers are the biggest phonies in the whole #fakenews universe. What turdly prose they whip up!

wendybar said...

And they talk about Kate Middleton.

MadisonMan said...

Wait -- what? You mean Beyonce isn't actually sitting sidesaddle on a trotting horse? Outrage!
There are people with way too much time on their hands.

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

Horses don’t skedaddle?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

You mean Beyonce isn't actually sitting sidesaddle on a trotting horse? Outrage!

So far the reactions I’ve seen (without reading the style section or comments there) are puzzled and creeped out. Only you and your straw man are outraged. That’s also puzzling and a bit creepy.

JES said...

Anyone who has ridden a horse knows immediately this is just an illustration. It's art. So???

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Dogma and Pony Show said...

I don't understand what's so noteworthy about this image. It's an illustration. Why are people analyzing whether it's an actual, unedited photograph of Beyonce sitting on a horse?

When their preferred celebrities do...well, whatever; the NYT turns into first time parents who act like even the most mundane thing their child does is precious. "Oh, look! Little Egbert just peed on cat! Isn't that just too cute!"

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't understand what's so noteworthy about this image. It's an illustration. Why are people analyzing whether it's an actual, unedited photograph of Beyonce sitting on a horse?"

Is anyone analyzing whether it's an actual, unedited photograph of Beyonce sitting on a horse?

I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing the NYT mobilizing the whole "style desk" to analyze the social/political meaning of the image, with all its elements, and I don't think any of the discussion bothers with how the image was constructed. No one is fooled into thinking she was on the horse.

I was interested in the overt unrealism within an image that is, in some respects, hyperrealistic — the cluster of falsities and our fascination with precisely that.

The equestrian is talking about the impossibility of the horse's leg positions, not whether B could have been on the horse. The horse is in many respects the most realistic thing in the image, so why did they throw in impossible legs? It's just the kind of thing A.I. does, and perhaps it's important to maintain our sensitivity to this kind of unrealism within realism.

That's what I am interested in. I don't think anyone who takes the time to look and think believes Beyoncé was actually snapped in motion, riding a galloping horse.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've never seen pointy-toe, stilletto-heeled cowboy boots before...."

Seems to me just the kind of thing country singers have been doing since the 1970s (or earlier).

Yancey Ward said...

That isn't even Beyonce!

Yancey Ward said...

And why is that horse white?

wildswan said...

The female gaze notes these points.

1. Beyonce has a bigger mane than the horse. It would be tangled if it weren't a wig stiffened with mousse. Probably feels like barbed wire.

2. A section of bare is exposed to the male gaze and the saddle. Probably the horse is named Pander, unless it's Chafe.

3. Stiletto heeled boots, not in stirrups + sidesaddle position on a regular saddle, all this on a galloping horse, while she holds a flag which is pulling in the breeze. She would fall off. Focus in on the Chafe's face and you find an expression of dismay which is quite amusing. Probably Chafe is thinking of the absurdity of it all unless he doesn't like all the leather bondage up around his head.

4. Beyonce is doing C&W this year and she's got her marketing photo up for this year. I see she's lost her fat. In the picture, anyway. Also she's lost her boobs. Strapping them down must have hurt unless the white patch by her left armpit is the remains of a photoshop taking them out the easy way.

The picture is not intended for the female gaze.

Yancey Ward said...

I mean, that horse is whiter than Beyonce herself.

Andrew said...

It's just an album cover advertisement. WTF!

Breezy said...

Welcome to the love of country crowd, Beyoncé!

David53 said...

She made you look, she’s just selling it. Apparently many of you don’t know how big her country music riff is on TikTok. As always, it’s about the Money.

Kate said...

As a teen I read a fantasy series that explained about a horse's gait. It's very specific; isn't that the sort of thing AI should excel at?

No one's yet mentioned that Beyonce's pose is giving a Lady Godiva vibe.

rhhardin said...

If life were logical the men would ride side saddle" - Paul Harvey.

Achilles said...

You know how hard it is to achieve that hair color?

rhhardin said...

Image-google runaway bride roberts riding horse, is not side-saddle.

Achilles said...

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing the NYT mobilizing the whole "style desk" to analyze the social/political meaning of the image, with all its elements, and I don't think any of the discussion bothers with how the image was constructed. No one is fooled into thinking she was on the horse.


They can't do a good job.

the social/political meaning is clear and the globalist/anti-american left knows exactly what this picture means.

A lot of Black(and Hispanic) men are starting to find a new appreciation of foundational American culture. They are realizing that the problems caused by globalist structures and the alliance of 304 women and predatory men that are tearing american culture down.

Achilles said...

wildswan said...

The picture is not intended for the female gaze.

It was not meant for the progressive/fascist female gaze. The 304 crowd is out.

She is pandering to married women and men.

Andrew said...

I'm not a country western music fan. I once got dragged to a CW concert at Arrrowhead stadium in KC. It was actually entertaining, but what blew me away was a gal named Lee Ann Womack. She came on stage wearing a beautiful evening gown and preceeded to sing Cole Porter and other classic torch songs. I got goose bumps. It reminded me of Carly Simmon's "Torch" album.

robother said...

Shouldn't it be "Cowboy Z"? I thought her husband had cut his ties to the Carter Plantation. Or is that the point? Country music represents a triple shot of retro: beauty pageants, trad-wife name, and pre-Malcom X slave names. Not sure about the semiotics of the assless chaps: anachronistic tribute to the gay cowboy member of the Village People, or 50s Playboy stripper vibe?

Beth B said...

All I see is that AI has created a photo that looks like Beyonce is about a second and a half from doing a face plant.

The drag of the flag and her flowing mane, not to mention the motion of the hobbyhorse, will soon yank her the rest of the way off that saddle. Her shiny costuming and open ass chaps will give her no purchase against the leather, and her spiky heel will get stuck in the stirrup long enough to land her on her head. Hopefully she drops the reins, unless she wants the hobbyhorse to keep circling her crash site. But perhaps the horse might simply hobble away, leaving her face down, legs all akimbo, with her yard-long wig in a puddle around her head. But hey, at least she'll have an arrow on her crotch indicating which way is up!

Physics are a bitch. But don't tell AI that.

tim in vermont said...

So are horse gaits like quantum mechanics? Horses move between different states with no intermediate positions? It seems like transitioning between gaits would make for a more dynamic image than statically maintaining one or the other. It looks to me like the horse is springing into action, but I am no expert on horses.

tim in vermont said...

The double arrow pointing at the va jay jay is a nice touch.

Note to pedants: I know, don't care.

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

boobies! boobies boobies boobies.

and 22 million views. whatever.
Me? I'm bored.

Tank said...

With those pointy boots, at least she won’t need to strap on spurs

reader said...

It feels a little like mockery but it made me think of my nana

Lem the artificially intelligent said...

MAGA is a disposable income underserved population. The Carters are smart to attempt to tap that. Why let NASCAR and the Circus have it all for themselves?

J L Oliver said...

Aggie said, Why is she doing this?
She’s bored?

BG said...

At least when she falls off she's facing so the heel shouldn't get caught in the stirrup. Otherwise she'd be dragging and getting that purty costume mighty dirty. Even the way she's holding the reins looks dumb to me.
As for the horse gait, maybe AI decided a new one was needed. Maybe it's a Lippizan taught by a master. (Beautiful to watch, BTW.) Or it's AI being stupid again.
If there are "hidden" meanings to the photo, I don't see them and I don't care.
JMHO.

J L Oliver said...

Another oddness poked me in the eye. The flag is either backwards or not an American flag. Five red stripes seen without a star field. This feels like the old Saturday Evening Post pictures where one was to find the mistakes.

Howard said...

Seen spray painted on a concrete block wall at Plummer and Baden in Chatsworth circa 1977: Ranch Girls are Hose Monsters

boatbuilder said...

Like selling Coca Cola in China. A yuge marketing opportunity. Beyonce is lots of things but mostly she is Beyonce, Inc. at this point.

boatbuilder said...

Also the horse looks like it may have been borrowed from a painting of a horse.

Dogma and Pony Show said...

Ann replied, "Is anyone analyzing whether it's an actual, unedited photograph of Beyonce sitting on a horse?

I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing the NYT mobilizing the whole "style desk" to analyze the social/political meaning of the image, with all its elements, and I don't think any of the discussion bothers with how the image was constructed. No one is fooled into thinking she was on the horse."

Fair enough, but much of the analysis of the image seemed to focus on whether its depiction of Beyonce on the horse was realistic, a concern that, to me at least, seems misplaced. Perhaps the artist deviated from reality in certain specific, intentional ways in order to imbue the image with layers and layers of additional meaning, but I doubt it. I think he or she was mainly concerned with playing on the obvious symbolism and resonance of cowgirls, horses, and equestrian pageants and the like, and not in provoking an uncanny valley reaction.

This reminds me that, in Hopper's "Nighthawks," the coffee shop has no entrance. From what I've read, that was essentially accidental on the artist's part. Maybe that omission adds something to the merit and impact of the work, maybe not.

rehajm said...

So many of the cowboys in Texas are black guys. I didn’t realize it was something to be reclaimed…

…and that’s a pickle fork.

Oligonicella said...

Let's see her do a barrel run.

walter said...

Signalling a highly authentic venture into Country music.

JAORE said...

Spike heels on cowboy boots? I guess it could have been around since the 80's on stage. But she would need to dismount that horse on concrete.

(Actually she would dismount at a time not chosen by her based on several factors).

Maynard said...

Country music pretty much died after Waylon and John passed and Willie and Kris became senile.

rehajm said...

boobies! boobies boobies boobies.

…well I’m not a smart man but that’s 2 too men-eee…

walter said...

Blogger Wince said...
They made sure to reveal Beyonce's chaps are ass-less.
--
Chaps are by definnition "assless".

Michael said...

Somehow the words "reverse cowgirl" come to mind. Which is, of course, very Madonna.

Michael said...

OK, Beyonce. Whatever.

Narayanan said...

They are buckled on over pants with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers, they have no seat (the term "assless chaps" is a tautology)

William said...

Perhaps the odd, not of this world composition is meant to illustrate the odd, not of this world entry of Beyonce into C&W music. Wait till you see how she illustrates her album cover for the Gilbert & Sullivan songs she's recording.....Linda Ronstadt, so far as I know, is the only pop singer who ventured into Gilbert & Sullivan. I think Linda Ronstadt is the one pop singer who had hits in the most genres: Latin, pop, C&W, jazz, Gilbert & Sullivan.

Butkus51 said...

I bet every song has 6 to 15 writers and every song features 4th grade level poetry.

Production is the star of the show.

Had to look. On Beyonce's last album, one song had 24 writers.

Check out Joni Mitchell instead.










Joe Smith said...

Better be a strong goddamn horse, digital or not.

Her booty hasn't been shrinking all these years...

iowan2 said...

; isn't that the sort of thing AI should excel at?

I use to have the same thought process, but it has evolved.

First, my man of the street, senior citizen, take on IA
I was talking to one of our company coders. He offered he had no AG backgound. I asked of that mattered to a coder. He said the learning curve was massive. Why? Well, he said, just your quantities are a soup of inconsistencies. How so. He offered, if a farmer got two bags of cattle feed, the quantity billed was 1. Animal feed is sold by CWT. If the farmer adds 2 bags of horse feed, quantity is sold per bag, so 2. One 2.5 gal jug of oil is billed as 1, but a 2.5 gal jug of weed herbicide is 2.5.
The point being, all fields have their own nomenclature developed over centuries of history.

So AI cant now that stuff. The coder creating the AI would have to know that stuff.

Coders know very little, except for coding.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Why Country Music?

It’s a win-win for the Carters and their activist bonafides. If she sells tons of songs as the downloads suggest in April’s link she reaps the praises. Then if her songs are played on C&W radio she has conquered another genre. If Big Country does NOT give her the airplay expected then she and Jay Z can play the race card, which can garner gobs of publicity and additional downloads from the faithful fans. Win-win.

Is it a plan to wound Big Country incorporated? I don’t know. Just like I have no clue why she and her team would go with such a bizarre album cover with weird allusions to C&W stereotypes like horses and Americana. I’ve had and admired many a “unrealistic” album cover over the years so don’t mistake the keyword here: bizarre. It’s a weird cover composition. That’s the consensus of the comments here. It raises questions we may never have answers to.

Birches said...

I suppose the NYT Style desk would know if the album cover is supposed to be in earnest but that picture looks like biting social commentary to me. Beyonce is critiquing country music.

Birches said...

Born in the USA vibes.

JAORE said...

In today's world of downloads and samples to be had, how important is the album cover?

(From someone who bought "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" just for the stirring brass notes..... right?

RigelDog said...

Anyone else getting a bit of the famous painting of Napoleon on a horse-vibe from this image? (Napoleon Crossing the Alps" by Jacques-Louis David)

Joe Smith said...

Another clue it's AI...horses don't usually wear cowboy hats...

Tina Trent said...

I see an arrow pointing at her netherparts, a smiling Polar bear, and the symbol for the artist formerly know as Prince between her legs. Next I will order a hypnotism kit from the back of a comic book.