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Beyonce becomes first Black woman to helm top country songs chart

by Agence France Presse

NEW YORK, United States: Ahead of the release of her album that’s set to take the country music scene by storm, Beyonce this week became the first Black woman to top the US charts in that genre.

Her song “Texas Hold ‘Em” dropped smack in the middle of the Super Bowl earlier this month, and has debuted on the Billboard charts on the number one slot of “Hot Country Songs.”

A second single, “16 Carriages,” is also on that chart, clocking in at number nine.

“Prior to the triumph for ‘Texas Hold ‘Em,’ no Black woman, or female known to be biracial, had previously topped” that chart, said industry tracker Billboard.

Country is a quintessentially American style of music with influences from Africa: the banjo notably grew out of instruments brought to the United States by enslaved people in the 1600s and 1700s.

And yet on the surface contemporary country has developed an overwhelmingly white image.

The issue came to a head in recent years when Lil Nas X soared to viral fame with his infectious, record-breaking “Old Town Road,” a single that mashed banjo twangs with thumping bass and dominated the industry’s most closely watched singles chart in 2019.

Controversy famously stoked the artist’s rise to fame after Billboard removed the fusion novelty song from the country charts but left it on the rap list, triggering accusations that the Atlanta musician’s work was pigeonholed purely because he is Black.

The tension simultaneously offered a moment to spotlight the vast contributions of Black artists to country both past and present, including today’s stars like Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer.

Beyonce’s new studio album, her eighth, is for release March 29, and as of now is characterized simply as “Act II.”

“Act I” refers to the 42-year-old’s album “Renaissance,” an ode to disco and house which reigned over the summer of 2022 as it paid homage to the Black, queer and working-class communities that molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.

She now appears primed to take a similar approach to country, reclaiming it as an emblem of Black American history.

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