Beyoncé's "Jolene" Is a Fiery Warning: How Her New Lyrics Compare to the Dolly Parton Classic

Bey's coming for Becky again.

Beyoncé supports Jay-Z as he accepts the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award during the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California
(Image credit: ROBYN BECKVALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

When Beyoncé first confirmed the months-long speculation that the Queen of Country herself, Dolly Parton, would be involved in her country-inspired follow-up to Renaissance, the leading theory among the Beyhive was that the singer would cover Parton's most-famous song, "Jolene." And we were right. Now that Cowboy Carter has made its impressive, genre-defying debut, the world has heard Bey's take on the classic record; in classic Beyoncé form (and a callback to the fierce emotionality of her 2016 album Lemonade), the singer has transformed the track from a lovelorn plea to a fierce warning for anyone who dares attempt to take her man.

Album cover for "Jolene" by Dolly Parton which was released in 1974

The original artwork for Dolly Parton's Jolene album, released in 1974.

(Image credit: Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

The full Beylene experience begins with a voicemail from "Dolly P."—who has voiced her support for Beyoncé since Cowboy Carter was first announced. “Hey, Ms. Honey Bee, it’s Dolly P.,” she says in the interlude. “You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when, except she has flaming locks of auburn hair, bless her heart. Just a hair of a different color, but it hurts just the same.”

Beyoncé's "Jolene" emphasizes that the superstar isn't afraid to fight for what's hers. While Parton's famous chorus went, “I’m begging of you please don’t take my man/...Please don't take him just because you can,” Beyoncé instead sings, “I’m warning you, don’t come for my man/...Don't take the chance because you think you can.”

The new song also mentions Jolene's beauty, but rather than spending the first verse on her "flaming locks of auburn hair...and eyes of emerald green," Beyoncé gets right to the point: "You’re beautiful, beyond compare/Takes more than beauty and seductive stares/To come between a family and a happy man/Jolene, I'm a woman too/Thе games you play are nothing new/So you don't want no hеat with me, Jolene."

Beyoncé supports Jay-Z as he accepts the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award during the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

Beyoncé in an era-appropriate cowboy hat at the 2024 Grammys, one week before Act ii of Renaissance was announced.

(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

The second verse is also a masterclass in giving a classy yet firm warning: "There’s a thousand girls in every room/That act as desperate as you do/You a bird, go on and sing your tune, Jolene (What?)/I had to have this talk with you'/Cause I hate to have to act the fool/Your peace depends on how you move, Jolene." And we can't forget the instantly iconic "I’m still a Creole banjee bitch from Louisianne (Don't try me)."

Beyoncé also personalizes the song with specific details of her marriage to husband Jay-Z. "We've been deep in love for twenty years/I raised that man, I raised his kids/I know my man better than he knows himself (Yeah, what?)/I can easily understand/Why you're attracted to my man/But you don't want this smoke, so shoot your shot with someone else (You heard me)."

Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the 2024 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, CA.

(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

In her direct departures from the 1974 song, Beyoncé makes the song her own while also bringing the man in question to the song's forefront. While the original song was focused solely on Dolly vs. Jolene, the Cowboy Carter track adds a choir-assisted bridge and outro dedicated to highlighting how Beyoncé and her man are going to choose each other, with lyrics including, "Me and my man crossed those valleys/Highs and lows and everything between," and "I know my man's gon' stand by me, breathin' in my gentle breeze." The song ends with the repeating line, "I'ma stand by him, he gon' stand by me."

Dolly Parton performs on stage at ACL Live during Blockchain Creative Labs’ Dollyverse event at SXSW during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas

Dolly Parton performs at SXSW on March 18, 2022, in Austin, TX.

(Image credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

Besides "Jolene," Parton also makes an appearance later in the album, on the TK track, "Tyrant." Other notable names on the laundry list of contributors for the album include Miley Cyrus, Willie Nelson, Post Malone, and Beyoncé's six-year-old daughter Rumi Carter.

In a statement released on the day of Cowboy Carter's release, Beyoncé gave an emotional summary of her years-long journey of making the record, calling it "the best music [she's] ever made." She also shared that, though the new album was initially meant to come out before Renaissance, she came to appreciate the extra time spent on the 27-track album.

"This album took over five years. It’s been really great to have the time and the grace to be able to take my time with it," she wrote, later adding, "I think people are going to be surprised because I don’t think this music is what everyone expects, but it’s the best music I’ve ever made.”

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.