Post 9/11 especially, the genre became increasingly nationalistic, and confederate flags have been commonplace at country music events (the Country Music Festival banned them in 2022). But more recently, black artists have been incorporating country music into their sound – one of the biggest examples being Lil Nas X’s mammoth 2019 hit Old Town Road (“Beyoncé finna make me put my cowboy hat back on” he posted on X after her latest announcement). Meanwhile, country star Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 folk song Fast Car resulted in Chapman becoming the first black songwriter to win song of the year at the Country Music Association Awards. “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honoured to be there,” she said.
It certainly feels like country music is having a moment within pop circles. Earlier this month, Lana Del Rey announced that she was going in a new direction for her next album, Lasso, due out in September. “We going country, it’s happening,” she said. Rapper Post Malone – who performed an acoustic rendition of America the Beautiful at the Super Bowl – has also confirmed he has a country album on the way. Malone has collaborated with Taylor Swift on a track on her upcoming album – though whether Swift will return to her own country roots is unknown, having seen her career go stratospheric when she made the move into pop.
With more contemporary pop artists experimenting with country music, the genre looks ripe to enter an interesting new era, and we can expect Beyoncé’s take to be characteristically groundbreaking, immersive and thoughtful – taking in not just country music, but Western and cowboy culture as a whole. She’s previously talked about her desire to celebrate “the oft-hidden history of black pioneers within cowboy and cowgirl culture.”
Fans are speculating that Renaissance act ii could be the second in a three-part project to reclaim musical genres that have their roots in black music – first dance music, then country and next – potentially – rock ‘n’ roll. For now though, it’s time to saddle up and get ready for the Beyoncé rodeo.
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