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Beyoncé’s new country song highlights genre’s racist ‘exclusion’ of Black artists, media argue

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Can Beyoncé’s upcoming country-tinged album overcome the genre’s “racialized past”? Many mainstream outlets began asking that question this week.

Superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter surprised the world Sunday night after the Super Bowl by dropping the new singles “Texas Hold Em” and “16 Carriages” to preview her upcoming album “Renaissance Act II,” set to debut on March 29. In contrast to her previous “Renaissance” album, the upcoming “Act II” appears to have more of a country music influence.

In the days since the singles’ release, some outlets have been questioning whether Beyoncé can overcome “the exclusion of Black musicians from the genre” to succeed in country music.

“Whatever happens, or doesn’t, is likely to create waves, given the star’s status as certainly one of the two or three biggest music luminaries in the world, moving toward a format that has proven famously resistant to making its homegrown Black women into stars,” a Variety article read. 

Beyonce

Beyoncé released two country-influenced singles following the Super Bowl on Sunday night. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety)

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It continued, “If Beyonce doesn’t get big (or any) play at country, will it be a sign of entrenched racism? Or just a sign of country radio doing what country radio always does — move slowly and cautiously, that is, while waiting for cues from a powerful record company? Nervousness about how these questions might play out amid nearly all-White-male playlists is understandable.”

The article noted that regardless of how Beyoncé’s songs are received, race along with “the near-complete lack of success of Black women in the format providing a historical backdrop,” will “inevitably be at the fore.”

Speaking with the New York Times, Charles Hughes, the director of the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College, also claimed “country radio has systematically excluded artists of color” and that Beyoncé may be no exception.

“Maybe that power will create an expanded space for all these great Black women making country music,” Hughes said, “to make it more in line with the people who love country music and the country it’s supposed to represent.”

Beyonce and Jay Z

Media outlets have claimed that Beyoncé’s upcoming album’s success could be determined based on the genre’s racial tension. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Time Magazine went even further to insist “Beyoncé Has Always Been Country” because “the truth is that country music has never been White.”

“It is time for the institutional oppressive regimes of country music to be removed, and for those who have continued to carry on the legacy of country’s music heart and soul to be seated at the table,” the Time article read.

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It continued, “Whether Knowles-Carter will address country music’s racialized past or shed light on its inherent lies is unknown, but like archangel Gabriel who blew the horn to bring forth Judgment Day. She has the ability to call into account those who kept country music from its rightful heirs. And maybe that’s all she needs to do on Act II.”

Freelance writer and music commentator Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos called out this media response, pointing out that by insisting on country music’s “racism,” it ignores Black artists’ contributions to the genre.

“The sad irony of these accusations is they are actually the vehicle that is erasing the Black legacy in country music in real time. You cannot find a single history book or documentary on country music that doesn’t cite country music’s Black influences, from the African origination of the banjo, to Rufus ‘Tee-Tot’ Payne teaching Hank Williams guitar, to Charley Pride earning thirty #1 singles, and becoming the first male country performer to earn back to back CMA Male Vocalist of the Year awards,” Coroneos told Fox News Digital.

Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks performing

Beyoncé performing with the Dixie Chicks at the 50th Annual Country Music Awards in 2016. (Image Group LA/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

He added, “By claiming ‘exclusion,’ you ironically overlook all of these contributions. This is often done by activist journalists and academics who have perverse incentives to portray country music as more racist than it actually is, often for clout on social media.”

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Much of the discussion was stirred up when an X post went viral on Tuesday of a man claiming an Oklahoma country music station was racist for rejecting a request to play Beyoncé’s new single. The station subsequently sent out a statement saying there was a misunderstanding about the original request and the song would be played. 

“We initially refused to play it in the same manner if someone requested us to play the Rolling Stones on our country station,” KYKC general manager Roger Harris said in a statement. “Fact is we play Beyoncé on TWO of our other stations and love her… she is an icon. We just didn’t know about the song… then when we found out about it, we tried to get the song… which we did and we have already played it three times on YKC, our country station. We also play her on 105.5, KXFC-FM and KADA-FM 0n 99.3.”

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