Yes, Beyoncé Used Her Nails as Percussion in 'Cowboy Carter'

The superstar is paying homage to a country music legend.

Beyoncé attends the Luar fashion show during New York Fashion Week on February 13, 2024 in New York City.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to music, Beyoncé truly can do it all... with or without instruments.

On her newly released album Cowboy Carter, the "Drunk in Love" singer has both redefined country music while simultaneously bringing it back to its Black roots, paying homage to the genre's icons, including Linda Martell— the first commercially successful Black woman in country music—and Dolly Parton.

To perhaps the surprise of some excited listeners and fans, on the track "Riiverdance," Beyoncé actually uses her nails as percussion—an homage to Parton, who has done the same on more than one occasion.

In a previous discussion with actress Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda—who acted alongside Parton on the hit television show 9 to 5—described an instance in which Parton used her nails as an instrument.


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“I remember the morning that she came in and she called me and Lily over," Fonda said at the time. "You know she has these century long nails ... and she said well I’ve written a song for the movie do you want to hear it? And then, using her nails as percussion, she sang, '9 to 5.' 'Working 9 to 5.' And Lily and I looked at each other—we both had goosebumps. And we both knew that this was going to be a legend. This was going to be a hit."

Some listeners were quick to put two-and-two together, sharing their excitement for the low-key homage on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Beyoncé is paying homage to Dolly and using her nails as percussion. simply ICONIC!" one fan wrote.

"Learning that Beyoncé used her nails as percussion on “RIIVER DANCE” just makes this video + the song even more special," another posted, along with a video of Parton and Patti LaBelle using their nails as percussion while they sing the folksong "Shortnin' Bread."

“You know, I write a lot of songs when I don’t have my guitar, you know I beat around the dashboard of my car when I’m riding around writing songs but then I have a little rhythm that we can do with these acrylic nails,” Parton explains to LaBelle. "You want to play a little something for ‘em?”

The pair of iconic entertainers then proceeded to both use their nails as percussion as they sang and harmonized. "That's cute," LaBelle said. "We did plan this, but we didn't know how it would sound."

Lily Tomlin (L), Dolly Parton (C) and Jane Fonda speak during the 69th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda speak during the 69th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A statement from Parkwood Entertainment confirmed Beyoncé did, in fact, use her nails as an instrument on her new album, which she describes as not a country album but "a Beyoncé album."

"There's also plenty of handclaps, horseshoe steps, boot stomps on hardwood floors and yes, those are Beyoncé's nails as percussion," the statement said.

"The joy of creating music is that there are no rules," says Beyoncé, in the same statement. "The more I see the world evolving the more I felt a deeper connection to purity. With artificial intelligence and digital filters and programming, I wanted to go back to real instruments, and I used very old ones.

"I didn't want some layers of instruments like strings, especially guitars, and organs perfectly in tune," she continues. "I kept some songs raw and leaned into folk. All the sounds were so organic and human, everyday things like the wind, snaps and even the sound of birds and chickens, the sounds of nature."

Danielle Campoamor
Weekend Editor

Danielle Campoamor is Marie Claire's weekend editor covering all things news, celebrity, politics, culture, live events, and more. In addition, she is an award-winning freelance writer and former NBC journalist with over a decade of digital media experience covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mortality, gun violence, climate change, politics, celebrity news, culture, online trends, wellness, gender-based violence and other feminist issues. You can find her work in The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, New York Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, TODAY, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Prism, Newsweek, Slate, HuffPost and more. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two feral sons. When she is not writing, editing or doom scrolling she enjoys reading, cooking, debating current events and politics, traveling to Seattle to see her dear friends and losing Pokémon battles against her ruthless offspring. You can find her on X, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and all the places.