How Are Beyoncé’s ‘Jolene’ And Dolly Parton’s Original Version Different?

Beyoncé’s highly anticipated new album Cowboy Carter is out now, and one of the most talked-about tracks early on is Bey’s new rendition of the Dolly Parton classic “Jolene.” Notably, Beyoncé took some creative liberties with the song that represent a significant transformation.

How Are Beyoncé’s “Jolene” And Dolly Parton’s Original Version Different?

Here are the lyrics to the opening chorus in Parton’s version, followed by Beyoncé’s (all lyrics via Genius):

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m beggin’ of you, please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can.”

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m warnin’ you, don’t come for my man (Jolene)
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Don’t take the chance because you think you can.”

The differences here are subtle but represent a significant tonal shift: While Parton’s lyrics are a plea, Beyoncé’s are more of a warning, a demand. Beyoncé doubles down on the assertiveness in a different version of the chorus later in the song:

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m warnin’ you, woman, find you your own man
Jolene, I know I’m a queen, Jolene
I’m still a Creole banjee b*tch from Louisianne (Don’t try me).”

The shift from meagerness to self-confidence is the primary shift throughout the song, like on the first verses of both versions. Here’s Parton’s, then Beyoncé’s:

“Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene.”

“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
We’ve been deep in love for 20 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).”

So, stated simply, the lyrical difference between the two renditions is that Parton’s is defensive while Beyoncé’s is more on the attack.

Listen to Beyoncé’s version above and Parton’s below.

Cowboy Carter is out now via Parkwood/Columbia Records. Find more information here.