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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Texas can’t hold her

A look into Beyoncé’s new country music
Elizabeth Larson

The Super Bowl is known for many things. Whether you’re in it for a night of nail-biting football, a hit-or-miss halftime show or a seemingly-endless cycle of star-studded commercials, the multi-hour event has a little something for everyone.

However, this year, the NFL’s biggest night brought audiences to their feet for a very different reason: brand new Beyoncé music. In a series of “Veep”-themed commercials for Verizon — oh, Tony Hale how I missed you — the global superstar announced two new songs, which dropped across streaming services several hours later.

But this was no ordinary Beyoncé drop. While the singer has cemented herself as a living legend in pop, R&B and house music, her newest foray finds her throwing on her cowboy hat. That’s right, folks: Beyoncé is going country.

The two new tracks — “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” and “16 CARRIAGES” — are part of Beyoncé’s newest project, “Act II,” the second installment of her critically-acclaimed and ridiculously good 2022 album, “Renaissance.” And while fans will have to wait until March 29 for the full album, the surprise music drop is plenty perfect enough to enjoy during the wait.

“TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” makes it clear from the very first second that if you’re here for a Beyoncé pop hit, you’re in the wrong place. The opening notes of twangy banjo have transformative properties; one second you’re nodding your head to the beat and the next you’re in a dive bar, ready for a hoedown.

The usage of classic country elements — easily recognizable instruments, a knee-thumping beat and lyrics all about dancing, drinking and family — prove that the singer’s Houston roots run strong. It’s not just the instrumentals that lend strength to the song, but Beyoncé’s impeccable vocals. They flow like butter on the track, making for easy, sweet listening.

And while “16 CARRIAGES” is no less of a hit, it finds the singer diving into her emotions in a truly gorgeous country ballad. Paired with a smooth guitar and crashing organ, Beyoncé croons about her years of blood, sweat and tears put into an unforgiving industry.

For those unfamiliar with the cultural icon’s beginnings, Beyoncé — born Beyoncé Giselle Knowles — began working in the music industry at only eight years old. Her rise to a household name was less than easy, from the strain it placed on her family to the impact mass media attention had on the mental health of a young woman just trying to find her place.

With lyrics such as, “The legacy, if it’s the last thing I do / You’ll remember me cause we got something to prove / In your memory on a highway to truth,” Beyoncé makes it clear that her years of fighting will not be for nothing.

While the tracks have been met with love from the general public — “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” has racked up over 29 million streams on Spotify in a little over a week — the country world has been far less welcoming.

Variety referred to the tracks as “country-themed” and “country-esque,” as opposed to actual country songs. An Oklahoma radio station initially refused to play “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM,” citing that “we do not play Beyoncé at KYKC as we are a country music station,” according to The New York Times. While the station later revised its decision after receiving mass backlash, this is not the first time the genre has tried to keep the doors closed on the singer.

In 2016, Beyoncé was joined by country legends The Chicks on stage at the Country Music Awards to perform a collaboration of her song “Daddy Lessons.” From the moment the performance was announced, country fans immediately exploded in protest. It didn’t seem to matter that the song was actually a country track or that The Chicks themselves couldn’t stop singing the artist’s praises; country music fans insisted that Beyoncé didn’t belong.

So eight years later, it’s no coincidence that Beyoncé is going full-blown country, the same way it was no coincidence that two years ago, “Renaissance” was revealed to be an epic mix of dance, disco and house music. The singer’s new acts are not just new eras; they are a reclamation and a celebration of Black music.

“Renaissance” was a reckoning of Black joy, drawing its inspiration from the world of Black dance music and Black queer ballroom and club culture of the 1970s. Beyoncé dedicated the album to her Uncle Jonny — her cousin who helped raise her and introduced her to a great deal of the culture that would inspire the album — and “the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.”

Much of “Act II” is still being kept under wraps, but the Black origins of country music are an undeniable part of the singer’s glorious return to music. From the banjo’s introduction in America tying back to the transatlantic slave trade or the influence southern Black church music had on early artists, country music as we know it would not exist without the Black musicians the genre is so keen on excluding.

So when Beyoncé sings, “Don’t be a bitch, come take it to the floor now,” you better grab your cowboy boots and listen. We have some celebrating to do.

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Zoe Leone, Arts & Life Editor

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