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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Beyoncé’s shift to country music pays homage to history of genre

Midway Staff
Opinion editor Victoria Washington argues that even though Beyoncé is an R&B singer, she should be allowed to branch off into the country music genre.

“This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.” 

With that statement from Beyoncé’s website, people all over social media are embracing Beyoncé’s newest single “Texas Hold’ Em” with open arms. They throw their invisible keys up and swing around to the catchy country chorus in wide leg jeans and cowboy hats. 

In Verizon’s Super Bowl commercial, Beyoncé announced that she would be dropping new music, and both “Texas Hold ’Em” and “16 Carriages” were released to streaming platforms shortly after. “Texas Hold ’Em” made Beyoncé the first Black artist to have a single No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs. The full album “Carter Cowboy” is set to release March 29. 

This isn’t the first time the singer has tried to break into the country music scene: the 2016 album  “Lemonade” featured a single country song, “Daddy Lessons,” in an otherwise R&B album.

However, Beyoncé’s entry into country music wasn’t well received when she performed at the 2016 Country Music Awards. Critics questioned whether the performance actually belonged at the awards. 

Although Beyoncé is an established R&B, pop, and hip hop artist, she should be allowed to experiment with different genres of music. In expanding her repertoire, Beyoncé is bringing to light the rich culture of country music and the story of the Black cowboys of Texas. 

Insinuating that Beyoncé is unqualified to perform country music because of her race is deeply problematic and ignores the history of the genre. Beyoncé worked with Rhiannon Giddens, a Grammy-winning banjoist and folk artist, to pay homage to the Black roots of the genre and instrument. The banjo, according to the Smithsonian, was an instrument created by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and colonial America. Giddens has dedicated her career to educating the public about the Black roots of country music and spreading her love for the banjo. 

Beyoncé’s intention was to draw attention to the complex history of America that is ingrained in country music. While white ranchers are generally associated with Texas cowboys, Beyoncé’s reimagined “Carter Cowboy” pays homage to Black cowboys who worked on Texas ranches since the early 1800s. 

Still, fans are defending Beyoncé’s decision to enter the country music sphere. When an Oklahoma radio station refused to play the artist’s new music, because it wasn’t “true country music,” over 27,000 fans signed a petition calling out the racism and gatekeeping perpetuated by white country artists, executives and fans. 

Beyoncé’s shift to country music was a slow progression, one she says took five years to create. Beyoncé spent time looking into the history of the genre to develop the clever sounds heard on both singles. 

Just as any artist would want their music to be received, Beyoncé hopes the new album will continue to unite listeners. Beyoncé’s upcoming album illuminates the decades-long history of how Black artists continue to struggle to find a place in a genre they helped create.

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About the Contributor
Victoria Washington
Victoria Washington, Opinion Editor
Victoria Washington is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as the Opinion Editor. She joined the journalism team in fall 2021 during her ninth grade year. Her favorite story she's written for the U-High Midway is “Artist raises $2,000 to restore Bronzeville mural.” She enjoys journalism because it provides an opportunity to communicate with others from different departments and see new perspectives. Aside from journalism, she enjoys historical fashion and watching documentaries. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Honorable mention, commentary writing 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, news writing

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    F.B.Apr 19, 2024 at 1:19 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. I personally think this article is great because it talks about Beyonce commercial and how she dropped her music right after, the backlash she received after performing country music, and how many people think she should be allowed to create more music outside of R&B.