Beyoncé's Country Revolution: What's Behind the Breakthrough

Beyoncé’s Country Revolution: What’s Behind the Breakthrough

After all, what’s new? Shania Twain in the 90s he made the genre pop, selling 20 million copies worldwide with “The woman in me”. Madonna with “Don’t tell me” in 2000 she won a bet that wasn’t a winning one regardless, not even for someone with her history. Lady Gaga in 2016 with “Joanne” she came back down to earth after fantasizing a little too much in her “Artpop” era. AND Miley Cyrus with “Younger now” in 2017 he cleaned up his image after a few too many excesses. It deserves a separate chapter Taylor Swift: in the case of the record-breaking pop star, country(pop) was a starting point and works like “Folklore” and “Evermore” marked a rapprochement with the genre after the “betrayal”.

When .Beyoncé announced the release of a country album, “Renaissance, act II,” last week, many people’s first thought was: here’s another country twist from a pop star. But There’s one thing Beyoncé doesn’t have in common with her colleagues mentioned above. The answer? It’s simpler than you think: she’s a pop star African American. So what has just been announced is not simply a musical turning point: it is a gesture that has a political meaning in some ways. The new mission of the American diva, who has always been involved in social issues and for the African-American community (in 2016 with the video of “Formation”, taken from the “Lemonade” manifesto, she celebrated New Orleans, its Creole roots, the Black Lives Matter movement and the battles of black Americans), is that of to somehow reappropriate a genre that is not the prerogative of American culture of Western origin.

To announce “Renaissance, act II” he chose one of the most prestigious showcases: the Super Bowlthe championship final of the National Football League, the American professional football league, one of the most followed and commented media events in the USA Last Sunday, during a commercial break, CBS aired an advert in which, advertising a well-known telecommunications company, the former Destiny’s Child star asked comedian Tony Hale to film her while she was trying to do something to “crash” the internet : “Announce that I’m about to release new music,” she said, after having tried everything, from announcing her candidacy for the US presidential elections to presenting the robot version of herself equipped with artificial intelligence.

When fans took a peek at the pop star’s official website, they realized that Queen Bey was serious about releasing new music. In fact, she had already done it:.the singles “Texas hold ’em” and “16 carriages” immediately appeared on streaming platforms.

Before her, she had already thought about it to reiterate that country music is not the prerogative of white culture Lil Nas with the hit “Old Town road”, enlisting a (white) icon of the genre like Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley’s dad. This time it’s different. Beyoncé’s move – which left nothing to chance, including the banjoa string instrument that finds its basis in African soil and which the African-American singer and musician played in the single Rhiannon Giddens – is destined to go down in pop history as a case studies. The debate began when a fan of the singer posted on X the response of an Oklahoma country radio station, KYKC, to which she had asked to play “Texas hold ’em”: “

We don’t play Beyoncé because we’re a country music station”, the response of an employee, interpreted as also taking a political position. In fact, the same employee later claimed that he was unaware, until that moment, that one of the world’s biggest pop stars had released a country single. The tweet pushed the singer’s fans to mobilize by declaring war on the radio stations that refused to broadcast the diva, accused of being guardians of a stereotype according to which the genre should be the exclusive preserve of white artists (after all, university research also confirms this: a recent study by the School of Information Studies of the University of Ottawa on over 11 thousand songs broadcast on country radio from 2002 to 2020 revealed that only 3% of the songs played were recorded by artists blacks – and of this 3% two-thirds were male solo artists).

How did it end? That KYKC found itself broadcasting “Texas hold ’em”which within a week of its release became the first Beyoncé song to appear on Billboard’s Country Airplay chartbeyond debut at number one on the Hot Country Songs Chart (among the top ten positions, in ninth place, there is also “16 carriages”). And it’s just the beginning of Beyoncé’s country era.