Beyoncé: “This ain’t a Country album. This is a “Beyoncé album.”

And folks, that’s the ballgame.

Because just like many Division 1 college football teams, Beyoncé is way more cool-headed, informed, and mindful than her fanatical fan base, including those fans who’ve embedded themselves in the media to become the soundboards of false information.

Are we reading too much into this Beyoncé statement? I don’t think so. In an Instagram post on Tuesday (3-19), Beyoncé addressed her upcoming album act ii COWBOY CARTER for the first time in a meaningful, direct way. All we’ve really seen heretofore is opinion, prediction, conjecture, and sometimes outright unhinged obsequious lies perpetrated by people who believe they’re doing Beyoncé’s bidding.

And along with clarifying that Beyoncé herself believes her upcoming release “Ain’t a country album,” she also further reiterates that the project came about from, “taking my time to bend and blend genres together to create this body of work.”

So yes, just to underscore, Beyoncé herself is stating that in her opinion, her new album is not a country album, but a “bending” and “blending” of genres together, which is what you hear when you listen to the first two singles of the album, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages.” This is also the conclusion that most actual, honest critics and music journalists came to when they first heard these new songs.

Sure, there are elements of country instrumentation in these tracks. That’s what makes them a blending of genres. But they were never slam dunk 100% country as many have attempted to assert. They’re meant to be a fusion of multiple influences, and declaring them as country—and demanding the world bend a knee and adhere to that characterization—is not only false, it’s also an insult to Beyoncé’s artistry and artistic intent. This is very likely why Beyoncé took the time to clarify these matters, and on the point of genre specifically.

Beyoncé did not intend to make country songs. She intended to make Beyoncé songs that were inspired by country influences, and what she characterizes as a the moment when she “first entered this genre [and it] forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me.”

Similar to people falsely and presumably declaring Beyoncé’s new project as more country than actual country, we’ve also seen a lot of false characterizations and assumptions about the moment Beyoncé first entered country. Beyoncé says about her new album, “It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed [in country] …and it was very clear that I wasn’t.”

Most everyone is equating this to the moment Beyoncé appeared on the 50th Annual CMA Awards in 2016 to sing her song “Daddy Lessons,” and also collaborated with the [Dixie] Chicks. But this was not the moment that Beyoncé first entered the genre. That would be when she first revealed “Daddy Lessons” as part of her 2016 album Lemonade that was released on April 23rd, 2016. The CMA Awards weren’t until November of 2016. So even though it’s certainly possible Beyoncé is referring to the CMA Awards, we don’t know this for sure.

But what happened at the 2016 CMA Awards with Beyoncé has been the victim of reams upon reams of false reporting, including false reporting that perhaps Beyoncé has fallen victim to herself.

First, what people need to appreciate is that the 2016 CMA Awards were the 50th Anniversary of the CMA presentation. It was an unprecedented event with an extended broadcast time, and extra effort to make sure all the stars of country music’s past and present were there. There had never been a CMA Awards presentation as big as the 50th Annual awards, and there has never been a CMA presentation as big since.

And who was given the longest performance slot out of all of the performers, and was placed as the centerpiece of the entire presentation? It wasn’t Alan Jackson. It wasn’t Dolly Parton. It wasn’t “King” George Strait, or Loretta Lynn, or Reba McEntire, or Willie Nelson. It wasn’t one of the top contemporary stars of the time like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, or Chris Stapleton.

It was Beyoncé. Beyoncé was the performer who received the centerpiece, marquee performance at the 50th Annual CMA Awards in 2016 with the longest performance slot and in the best primetime block, along with the [Dixie] Chicks.

This underlying point really deserves to be emphasized as outlets rush to declare that the CMA Awards somehow disrespected Beyoncé in 2016. Beyoncé is not a country artist. At that time, she had only released one song that people were attempting to characterize as country, though Billboard and the Grammy Awards screening committee both declared “Daddy Lessons” did not have enough country elements in it to qualify for the genre.

Nonetheless, Beyoncé was given the best and longest performance on the presentation. Period. And it doesn’t matter how anyone wants to characterize that moment, it’s hard to say the CMA, or “country music” disrespected Beyoncé by extending this opportunity to her on such a prestigious occasion.

Was Beyoncé booed when she took the stage? No. Was her performance generally well-received by the audience, critics, and her fellow performers? Yes. In fact, there is a video of country performers reacting to Beyoncé’s presence and performance at the awards that night.

But of course, not everyone had a positive take on the Beyoncé performance. Alan Jackson reportedly walked out during Beyoncé‘s performance. Though Jackson has never explained why he walked out—perhaps he had to use the restroom, or perhaps his beef was with the [Dixie] Chicks and not Beyoncé. But it has been verified that Jackson did leave.

Travis Tritt left no room for speculation about his disdain for Beyoncé performing at the CMA Awards. But the actual quotes from Tritt made sure not to single out Beyoncé, or her performance specifically. Instead, Tritt said,

It wasn’t so much about just Beyoncé. This is a complaint that I’ve heard for a long time, actually for decades. Every year the CMA television producers feel a need to bring in acts from other genres, and it’s always done to boost ratings. I understand the concept behind that but at the same time I’ve always found it a little bit insulting … we’ve certainly become strong enough to stand on our own two feet without the help from outside sources.”

Tritt is correct. Every year the CMAs tend to invite a pop or hip-hop star onto the awards show to collaborate with a country star. The previous year to Beyoncé’s performance, it was Justin Timberlake who performed “Tennessee Whiskey” with Chris Stapleton, sending Stapleton into the stratosphere of popularity that Stapleton and “Tennessee Whiskey” still enjoy today.

But the biggest concern about the feedback Beyoncé received after the 2016 CMA Awards was not from Alan Jackson or Travis Tritt.

After the 2016 CMA Awards, the CMA posted videos of the Beyoncé performance to social media platforms such as Twitter (now X) and Facebook. Though many of the comments below the videos were positive, others were quite the opposite.

The comments section of these posts became a forum for shitposters and outright racists to say very racist things about Beyoncé. This went beyond criticism of Beyoncé simply being there as a pop/hip-hop star, or criticizing the performance.

And so to stop the flow of negative comments, The CMAs chose to take down the posts. They did this in part due to public pressure from proponents of Beyoncé asking the CMAs to police the comments. The only way to truly ensure those comments would not continue to be posted was to take the posts down.

But instead of being applauded for stamping down on the negative comments, the situation got falsely twisted into the CMAs either giving into the demands of the racists by talking down the posts, or in some of the most unhinged takes, saying that the CMAs themselves were actively working to erase the fact that Beyoncé had even performed on the CMAs at all.

If the CMAs had not taken the posts down, they would have faced even further criticism. It was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. It’s the racist posters that are to blame. Not the CMA. If the CMAs were trying to hide the fact that Beyoncé performed at all, why did they post videos of her performance to social media in the first place?

This canard has persisted since 2016, and is completely false and an unfair characterization of how the CMA’s handled Beyoncé and “Daddy Lessons.”

Perhaps something else happened backstage at the CMA Awards that made Beyoncé feel slighted or unwelcome. Perhaps the CMA was a party to that unwelcome feeling in some capacity. If that’s the case, then we should hear about it, and figure out how to rectify it so it does not happen in the future. But to characterize the CMA or “country music” as disrespecting Beyoncé when they extended her the biggest invitation they could to their 50th Annual Awards show seems like a gross aberration of the truth.

– – – – – – – –

Beyoncé’s new album Cowboy Carter will be released on March 29th. Until then, we do not know just how “country” it will be, and it would be unfair to assume one way or the other what the album contains until we hear it. After Beyoncé’s Instagram statement, it also underscores just how unhinged some of the most egregious takes on this situation have been.

This includes Ayman Mohyeldin at MSNBC who said, “Go listen to ‘Texas Hold ‘Em.’ It’s good country music. And to anyone who says otherwise well, ‘Bless Your Heart.'”

This also includes the patently irresponsible characterizations of TIME reporter Taylor Crumpton, who used the forum of Beyoncé’s new songs to declare that “Beyoncé Has Always Been Country,” and that, “The truth is that country music has never been white. Country music is Black.” And by keeping “white” in lowercase, and putting “Black” in uppercase, it speaks to the racist tones in which this false information was shared.

It’s pretty clear now that Beyoncé disagrees with these characterizations, though of course, some will still try to twist the words of Beyoncé to make it seem like she is saying something she’s not. Because for some, this moment is not one to learn from, but to win arguments online from. This is how these distinctly online voices continue to win every battle, but lose the war. Meanwhile, it’s Beyoncé herself who is trying to diffuse and offer a cool-headed perspective moving forward. As she says,

“I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive. 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 educating on our musical history.”

This is the opportunity that Cowboy Carter could have for the Black legacy in country music—to stoke important discussions about the role Black people have played, both in the formation of the country genre, and throughout its history. But unfortunately, so many are using this moment as a forum to spread verifiable falsehoods, as an attack vector upon the country genre in its entirety.

As Saving Country Music laid out in detail recently, the Black legacy in country music was never erased from history, despite the continued characterization by many. What is true is there has been a prevailing public perception that country music is predominantly, or exclusively White that deserves to be scrutinized and given proper context.

But of course White people also have agency in both the formation and popularization of country, just as popular Black performers have always been a part of the genre, despite the erasure they have suffered inadvertently (and sometimes purposely) by people trying to fete the accomplishments of Beyoncé and others as novel or unprecedented.

As Beyoncé says, “It feels good to see how music can unite so many people around the world.”

And that’s what the release of Cowboy Carter could be. The people using this moment to co-opt the conversation for ulterior political and culture war purposes are disrespecting Beyoncé’s efforts, just like they are when they demand Beyoncé’s songs and album be considered 100% country.

So let’s all do each other a favor. Let’s listen to what Beyoncé has to say as opposed to the pundits, and heed her words. And when Cowboy Carter is released, let’s all listen to it and judge it upon its own merits, not as country music, but as Beyoncé says herself, “Beyoncé music.”

Beyoncé Full Statement:

Today marks the 10-day countdown until the release of act ii. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the supporters of TEXAS HOLD ‘EM and 16 CARRIAGES. I feel honored to be the first Black woman with the number one single on the Hot Country Songs chart. That would not have happened without the outpouring of support from each and every one of you. My hope is that years from now, the mention of an artist’s race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant.

This album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t. But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive. 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 educating on our musical history.

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.

I have a few surprises on the album, and have collaborated with some brilliant artists who I deeply respect. I hope that you can hear my heart and soul, and all the love and passion that I poured into every detail and every sound.

I focused on this album as a continuation of RENAISSANCE…I hope this music is an experience, creating another journey where you can close your eyes, start from the beginning and never stop.

This ain’t a Country album. This is a “Beyoncé” album. This is act ii COWBOY CARTER, and I am proud to share it with y’all!

© 2023 Saving Country Music