Beyoncé makes history as the first Black woman to top Billboard’s country charts

Beyoncé has made history once again by becoming the first Black woman to land the top spot in Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. She achieved the feat after her single Texas Hold ‘Em steamed straight to the top, debuting at number 1.

Since its release, Texas Hold ‘Em has been streamed 19.2m times, with 39,000 downloads in the US.

An early first glimpse at the star’s forthcoming Renaissance Act II, Texas Hold ‘Em was a surprise release alongside another single 16 Carriages during last week’s Super Bowl.

Accompanied by Western-inspired visuals that came filled with plenty of cowboy iconography, it was the first taste of what to expect from the follow-up to Bey’s ballroom and club-influenced 2022 album Renaissance.

She has also become the first female solo artist to top Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hip Songs at the same time ‒ it is the first time this has happened since the charts began in 1958.

Beyoncé’s achievement is all the more notable given that a huge number of Black musicians have been historically excluded or shut out of the country genre. Back in 2019, Lil Nas X’s breakthrough single Old Town Road ‒ which fuses strong elements of the genre with trap and hip-hop ‒ was removed from Hot Country Songs after scoring a Number 1. Billboard claimed that “it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version” ‒ despite the fact that the song incorporates liberal amounts of banjo, and is about horse-riding.

Beyoncé has also experienced similar. In 2016 Lemonade track Daddy Lessons was rejected by the Grammys’ country music committee, despite the fact that it is a contemporary country song that explores the singer’s Houston upbringing, and Southern culture.

When Bey performed the track at the Country Music Association awards a few months later with genre legends The Chicks, it sparked a backlash. Some viewers were unhappy about the singer, who backed the Black Lives Matter movement and was also calling for police reform, performing at the ceremony. “Why are you showing Beyoncé &... Dixie Chicks?” one commenter wrote (The Chicks have since changed their name). “One doesn’t believe in America & our police force while the other didn’t support our President & veterans during war.” Much of said backlash had visibly racist undertones.

“Beyoncé was interested in country; I think she had had a really bad experience at a country music award show, and she wanted to research its African-American roots,” her collaborator Es Devlin has said, of the singer’s shift into the genre.

“She discovered that 50 per cent of cowboys were Black, in the 19th and early 20th century, and country music, of course, has been largely appropriated. She wanted to reappropriate Americana and country music from a Black perspective, hence the cowboys and why they are wearing red. They are her eliding those two ideas of redlining [withholding funding or resources from certain areas, often to discriminate against African-Americans] in those towns, and the cowboys.”

“One of my inspirations came from the overlooked history of the American Black cowboy,” Bey said in 2021. “Many of them were originally called cowhands, who experienced great discrimination and were often forced to work with the worst, most temperamental horses. They took their talents and formed the Soul Circuit. Through time, these Black rodeos showcased incredible performers and helped us reclaim our place in western history and culture.”

Beyonce’s new album, Renaissance Act II, is out on March 29.