Although Beyoncé is a global star, known for her dance songs, her big ballads, her choreography, her silver glitter and her looks impeccable, there is something that is unappealable about her as a person and as an artist: that she is a Texan. Born in Houston 42 years ago, the singer has gone through all the genres she has wanted, playing with the most commercial pop in her youth—especially with her band Destiny’s Child—and playing and experimenting with a multitude of genres, especially R&B. But there was something that escaped her and that was deep inside her: country. On Sunday night she filled that gap.
Beyoncé tapped into an audience of 110 million people to tell her story. The Super Bowl, which was held in Las Vegas on Sunday the 10th and was broadcast around the world, is a football game, but also an immense billboard in which the intermission (this year with Usher as the protagonist) and the advertisements ( at a rate of seven million dollars per 30 seconds of broadcast) are key. In one of those breaks, Beyoncé appeared announcing a telephone company and joking about how to “break the internet” by becoming president of the country, becoming Barbie, or becoming the first to perform in space; In the end she realized that she could only achieve it by releasing new music. The joke could have stopped there… but in less than half an hour she posted a barely one-minute video on her social networks announcing the new album, which will be the second part of the announced trilogy of Renaissance. Release date: March 29.
In the images you could hear her singing for just 10 seconds, but then she posted another photo to announce that she had already released two songs: Texas Hold ‘Em and 16 Carriages. The first could be heard on Spotify; the second only on Tidal, the music platform that belongs, among others, to her husband, the businessman and musician Jay Z. In less than an hour, Texas Hold ‘Em saw the light, and it was also proven that the artist’s Tejano aesthetic in the images to advertise it and the word Texas in the title made sense. The queen of pop (or her mother, as Generation Zeta would say) has immersed herself fully in country, a genre practically unexplored for her.
The first thing you hear in Beyoncé’s new song is a banjo. A very identifiable instrument and clearly belonging to the world of country. The lyrics leave no room for doubt: the artist quotes Texas and talks about tornadoes, whiskey, boots, spurs, a step to the right, a step to the left… It is not known how many themes this second act of Renaissance (there will be three albums, as she said when she released the first two years ago; she had gone six without a new album) or how important the country genre will be in it, but her first single It is a declaration of intentions, both in its title and in its sound and aesthetics; also in his collaborators.
The person who plays the banjo is Rhiannon Giddens, a well-known musician, but above all an educator regarding the importance of this string instrument as an original part of the black community and which later, as he defends, was appropriated by the white community to make country music. , a genre that for decades has belonged solely and exclusively to whites and where blacks have had very little room. Beyoncé chose Giddens for more than just his mastery of the instrument, and she knows the importance of the message. And although 16 Carriages be more pop, for her she has another important black musician, Robert Randolph, who in addition to playing the pedal has a powerful gospel band.
Until now Beyoncé had only explored this sound in one song, Daddy Lessons (inside his album Lemonade, in 2016), which has a country touch but also southern music, with a burst of air instruments that give it a very New Orleans touch. The one from Houston made a version with the band The Chicks, also from Texas, from Dallas, with whom she sang it live at the country music awards that year. It was another moment in her career, and she appeared on stage in a large transparent dress with large tulle sleeves and pearl necklaces. For the aesthetics of these songs, however, she is much closer to classic country: in the short video and in the two photographs (both the one of Texas Hold ‘Em like the 16 Carriages, which is a more classic ballad) appears with wide-brimmed hats. An image similar to the one she wore at the Grammys last week, which gave a clue that few caught on to this album and that they saw as a nod, without further ado, to her origins. The Texas ascendant is powerful in the United States. It is the second largest state (after Alaska) and the second most populated (with 30 million inhabitants, only after California, with almost 40), and its music, customs, food and styles prevail throughout the south.
Everything seems to indicate that Beyoncé will be a powerful catalyst for the genre. Country is a particular type of music: it has its own music stations and its own awards, a territorial demarcation, its own lexicon and style. You either love it or hate it. The fact that one of the biggest pop stars of recent times is coming to shake it up from within and also give it greater visibility can be a source of pride or a slap in the face for those from Nashville. It is also not negligible that this artist is also a woman. In the last almost 40 years, the most important award at the Country Music Awards, Entertainer of the Year, has only been won by five women: in 1986 Reba McEntire (who precisely on Sunday she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl), and this past 2023 Lainey Wilson. In between are Shania Twain in 1999 and precisely the Dixie Chicks in 2000. And also, in 2011, Taylor Swift. The pop star began her career in country and from there it evolved into pop and other genres. Beyoncé is now making the return trip. Although we will have to wait until March to see her complete evolution in this unexplored territory.
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