Feb 16, 2024 - News

Beyoncé's new music hits country radio

Beyonce smiling in a cowboy hat.

Beyoncé at New York Fashion Week on Feb. 13. Photo: James Devaney/GC Images

Beyoncé's embrace of country music has racked up millions of streams and rave reviews.

  • But her new songs have spurred controversy, too. An Oklahoma country station initially refused to play her single "Texas Hold 'Em" before reversing course.

Why it matters: Beyoncé's new music revived an ongoing debate about diversity and inclusion in country music, where white artists dominate the airwaves with only a handful of exceptions.

  • If Beyoncé is able to buck that trend, advocates hope it could open doors for other artists who have struggled to find a foothold.

Driving the news: Artists like Rhiannon Giddens, who played banjo on "Texas Hold 'Em," have worked for years to spotlight the ways Black artists have shaped the sound of country music. And groups like The Black Opry have celebrated ascending Black artists.

  • Despite their work, and multiple industry initiatives, mainstream radio success remains elusive for the vast majority of Black country artists, particularly Black women.

Flashback: Lil Nas X's megahit "Old Town Road" was removed from Billboard's country charts in 2019 because it wasn't deemed country enough.

  • In 2016, Beyoncé's rollicking "Daddy Lessons" was rejected by the country committee at the Grammys.

State of play: Rhodes College professor Charles Hughes told the New York Times that the initial decision not to play Beyoncé was emblematic of how "country radio has systematically excluded artists of color."

  • But Hughes said Beyoncé and her legion of fans could be an influential tipping point for the genre.
  • "Maybe that power will create an expanded space for all these great Black women making country music," he said.

The intrigue: After cheering Beyoncé's journey to "our side of town" on social media, artist Brittney Spencer shared a list of her favorite Black country artists "while we're at it."

What he's saying: Bobby Bones, a massively popular radio personality with a nationally syndicated country music show based in Nashville, is aware there are country fans who don't support "Texas Hold 'Em." But he said he plans to program the song during his syndicated weekend show dedicated to female artists.

  • "Don't get caught up in what is or isn't country. Or who is or isn't," he wrote, pointing out artists like Kenny Rogers and Conway Twitty had success in other genres before becoming country stars.
  • He also said trailblazers like Garth Brooks were criticized as not being country before shaping the genre into what it is today.

Zoom out: Despite the short-lived trepidation of the Oklahoma station and some vocal critics online, major radio execs align with Bones, saying their country stations will play the track and gauge feedback from fans.

  • "Why wouldn't we play this? This is a gift," Brian Philips, chief content officer at Cumulus Media, said, per Variety.
  • "We have 55 major country stations and it's very hard to get them to agree on anything. But everybody at country wants to play it."

Go deeper: Country stations in Beyoncé's hometown are welcoming her new sound

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Nashville stories

No stories could be found

Nashvillepostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Nashville.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more