• Entertainment
  • Music

How Beyoncé’s ‘Jolene’ Cover Changes the Meaning of the Dolly Parton Classic 

3 minute read

Beyoncé’s latest album Cowboy Carter, which was released today, features a cover of what is widely regarded as Dolly Parton’s most renowned song, “Jolene.” While the pop star kept some of the lyrics the same, she made the song her own by rewriting a number of lines, thereby changing its meaning. In Beyoncé’s voice, “Jolene” is no longer a plea but a warning.

Parton teased that Beyoncé might have been planning something with her well-known hit earlier this month when she told Knox News that Bey recorded a version of her song. “I think she's recorded ‘Jolene’ and I think it's probably gonna be on her country album, which I'm very excited about that,” she told the publication. As Beyoncé covers other artists’ songs sparingly, some speculated that Cowboy Carter might feature a sample or interpolation.

It was officially confirmed to be on the album when Beyoncé posted the tracklist on Wednesday, which featured “Jolene” as well as a track titled “Dolly P.” The latter turned out to be an interlude which features a supportive, woman-to-woman message from Parton to Beyoncé. “Hey miss Honey B, it's Dolly P. You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about?,” she says, referencing “Becky with the good hair” who Beyoncé name-dropped in “Sorry” on her 2016 album Lemonade. “Reminded me of someone I knew back when. Except she has flamin' locks of auburn hair. Bless her heart. Just a hair of a different color but it hurts just the same.”

In Parton’s version of the song, she is desperately begging an attractive woman with red hair not to take her man as she admires the woman’s beauty. While the song is purely fictional—the title came from a young girl Parton met, whose name inspired her to write it—its power has stood the test of time since its release in 1973. Beyoncé puts her own spin on the song, singing less from a place of desperation than one of confidence. “Jolene, I'm a woman too/ Thе games you play are nothing new/ So you don't want no hеat with me, Jolene,” she sings in the first verse.

Instead of begging for the titular Jolene not to take her man, Beyoncé says, “I'm warnin' you, woman, find you your own man” and adds in the chorus, “I’m still a Creole banjee bitch from Louisianne (Don't try me).”

Beyoncé instead calls the other woman desperate, telling her that she and her man have been through all of the highs and lows, making their bond stronger than anything another woman can try to get in the middle of. Beyoncé ends the song saying that she’s going to stand by her man and he’s going to do the same.

The song inspired joyful and fierce reactions on social media, with many posting memes about its take-no-prisoners attitude.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com