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Hold Everything

When I saw a teenage Beyoncé play the lead in Carmen: A Hip Hopera, which was made for MTV, I figured there was no limit to how big a star she could become. That wasn’t just a Destiny’s Child-bills-or-jumpin’-voice; that was a voice that could master anything it wanted to. You didn’t place that voice in a category. That voice had categories. So other than racism, which is never a distant explanation in America, I didn’t quite get the blowback when Beyoncé dropped the single “Texas Hold ‘Em” and announced that an album of country music was on the way. After all, this daughter of Texas released the stellar “Daddy Lessons” on the 2016 Lemonade. What country music lover wouldn’t want a follow up? Or what music lover would want to restrict a major African American talent to one genre? You wouldn’t do that to jazz/classical Hubert Laws or Wynton Marsalis. Late in her career, Aretha Franklin took classical piano lessons. Before Jimi Hendrix led the widely successful Jimi Hendrix Experience, he paid dues--and blues—with the likes of Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. Ray Charles could sing anything. Bo Diddley could play anything You couldn’t pull Darryl McDaniels away from rock music during the heyday of Run DMC. Nas sampled Beethoven. Charlie Parker insisted on doing an album backed by strings. Satchmo, Ella, Sarah Trane, the Supremes, and the Temptations recorded show tunes. What didn’t Miles do? They didn’t please everybody, but the opinions of those they didn’t please aren’t important in the long run.


The same applies to Beyoncé. But then this recent blowback really ain’t about the art. It’s about the politics. It’s about blocking access by African Americans, especially African American women it seems, to country music radio. Radio exposure brings the sales, concerts, and tours. Blockage curtails the money opportunities for artists such as Mickey Guyton and Rissi Palmer, who should be much more widely known.    


Fortunately, for Beyoncé, the controllers of country music can’t block her action. As an international megastar, exposure is not her problem. After all, “Daddy Lessons,” as country a song as there ever was, wasn’t marketed as one. No worries for Bey. Lemonade sold 2.5 million copies and the associated Formation World Tour raked in a quarter billion at the box office.


Contemporary country music has formidable female singers no doubt. I mostly catch them in Cracker Barrel---Carrie Underwood (also an accomplished gospel singer), Lainey Wilson, and Little Big Town, to name only a few. However, Beyoncé can more than hang if she wants and maybe break down some barriers while she’s at it. She should.


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