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Beyonce Act II


Beyoncé. (Photo credits: YouTube)

During the broadcast of Superbowl LVIII, Beyoncé surprised fans when she announced new music at the end of a Verizon commercial. Within minutes, fans flocked to the internet to listen to her two new singles, “TEXAS HOLD EM” and “16 CARRIAGES.”

Both singles were a part of Act II of Beyoncé’s three-act project, which also includes her Act I album, RENAISSANCE. The songs were notable for being country songs, a deviation from her typical pop/r&b sound.

Her switch to country music has caused controversy among country fans, with many saying that the song isn’t real country, or that she needs to stay in her lane. A country music radio station even denied a request to play Beyonce’s “TEXAS HOLD EM,” saying “We do not play Beyoncé on KYKC as we are a country music station,” prompting backlash from her fans. Since then, a spokesperson clarified that they weren’t aware that Beyoncé had switched to country music.

Fans have pointed out that criticisms following Beyoncé’s two new country songs are reminiscent of the hate that she received after her 2016 CMA performance of her song “Daddy Lessons” with The Chicks, in which many country fans complained it wasn’t country enough. 

Many felt that by bringing in a pop star, the CMAs were desperate for ratings and claimed Beyonce wasn’t country enough. Country fans also took issue with their politics.

 At the time, Beyoncé heavily aligned herself with the Black Lives Matter movement, and The Chicks are infamous for speaking out against former President Bush and the invasion of Iraq, and harming their career as a result. Both Beyoncé and The Chicks are also outspoken feminists.

It wasn’t just country fans that criticized the performance either. In an interview with The New York Times, The Chicks’ Natalie Maines said that they were treated “very weird backstage” and country singer Alan Jackson even walked out on the performance.

Fans have also pointed out that Lil Nas X received similar treatment after his song “Old Town Road” went viral and just like Lil Nas X’s story, the criticism of her switch to country music has sparked debates about the genre's origins in black culture.

A popular fan theory is that Beyonce’s three-act project is an act of reclaiming genres of music that have origins in black culture but have since been whitewashed. Her first act, RENAISSANCE, paid homage to black queer culture through her use of samples, features, and collaborations with songwriters.

 Fans and experts have also pointed out that Beyonce has paid homage to traditions in black country music with the first two singles alone. The single “TEXAS HOLD EM” opens with a Banjo, a country instrument that can be traced back to Africa played by Rhiannon Giddens, a scholar and activist who educates people on African American contributions to American music history. 

The single “16 CARRIAGES” is a more personal song. Country is a genre well-known for its storytelling and Beyonce uses “16 CARRIAGES” to tell the story of her life as she was working and became famous as a teenager and features black pedal steel player, Robert Randolph.

Beyonce was also praised for how her popularity benefitted black-owned businesses during her Renaissance World tour, so fans are hoping that Beyonce’s existence as a black woman in country music will benefit other black country artists by drawing attention to their work.

Despite the backlash and discourse surrounding the songs, her song “TEXAS HOLD EM” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number two, behind Jack Harlow’s “Lovin On Me,” while her song “16 CARRIAGES” debuted at number thirty-eight. Despite not topping the Hot 100, “TEXAS HOLD EM” debuted at number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, making Beyonce the first black woman to top the chart.

“TEXAS HOLD EM" currently sits at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for its second week in a row.

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