Beyoncé responds to racial criticism of country album as she unveils ‘Cowboy Carter’ cover

The singer has responded to racial backlash of her upcoming album. (Getty)

Beyoncé has responded to racial criticism of her upcoming country album Cowboy Carter as she unveiled the cover art. 

The singer recently revealed her upcoming body of work will be a country album to the delight of her BeyHive (that’s Beyoncé’s fanbase, if you’ve been living under a rock). However, she has been subjected to racism for her right to occupy country music spaces. 

She began her 19 March post by thanking fans “from the bottom of my heart to all the supporters” of her new singles ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ and ’16 Carriages’

“I feel so honoured to be the first Black woman with the number one single on the Hot Country Songs chart,” she continued. However, the ‘CUFF IT’ hitmaker noted that the colour of her — or any other artist’s — skin should not play a role in whatever genre of music they decide to create. 

Potentially referencing her Country Music Awards performance in 2016, the singer said the album idea came from a time she “did not feel welcomed”. The star performed her Lemonade track ‘Daddy Lessons’ alongside The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks), and was subjected to racist abuse at the time.

“Because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive,” she said in the post. “It feels good to see how music can unite so many people around the world, while also amplifying the voices of some of the people who have dedicated so much of their lives [to] educating on our musical history.

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“The criticisms I faced when I first entered this genre forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me. act ii is a result of challenging myself, and taking my time to bend and blend genres together to create this body of work.”

The New York Times previously reported that Oklahoma-based country radio station KYKC refused to play her new singles from the upcoming album.

The station manager responded, “We do not play Beyoncé on KYKC as we are a country music station,” diminishing the singer’s place in the country music scene following her recent releases, as well as her previous endeavours into the genre. The backlash from listeners paid off, and eventually, KYKC added the tracks into its rotation. 

But this isn’t the only example of gatekeeping in the genre. It has long been dominated by white performers and listeners, without any regard for the Black forerunners who shaped the genre through popular music of the South, as explained by Karl Hagstrom Miller, professor of critical and comparative studies at the University of Virginia. 

Lil Nas X was met with similar racial-based criticism for his 2019 single ‘Old Town Road‘, which was pulled from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for apparently failing to “embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version”.