April 15, 2024

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Radio request from Beyoncé sparks country music debate

Radio request from Beyoncé sparks country music debate

And in Oklahoma, a small country music station that initially declined a listener's request to play a new Beyoncé song was forced to change its tune after an uproar from fans who say black artists are too often excluded from the genre.

On Tuesday morning, Justin McGowan asked the DJs at KYKC, a country music radio station in Ada, to play “Texas Hold'em,” One of two new songs released by Beyoncé as announced in Sunday's Super Bowl ad.

Beyoncé, who grew up in Houston, sings about playing the banjo and viola.

The station manager, Roger Harris, emailed Mr. McGowan with a brief dismissal: “We don't play Beyoncé at KYKC because we're a country music station.” By sending the email, Mr. Harris inadvertently lit a new flame in a long-standing debate about how black artists fit into the genre in which black music has its roots.

In a Super Bowl ad, Beyoncé joked that her new release would “break the Internet.” She wasn't kidding.

Mr McGowan posted a screenshot of the rejection on social media, tagging a group of Beyoncé fans in a folder The post attracted 3.4 million views on X and sparked conversations on Reddit and TikTok.

“This is absolutely ridiculous and racist,” Mr McGowan wrote, urging people to email the station and request the song.

Fans bombarded KYKC with hundreds of emails and phone calls, criticizing the station for not playing the song, according to Mr. Harris, the station manager for 48 years.

“I have never experienced anything in my career like the amount of calls we received in support of the song,” he said in an interview.

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In between phone calls and emails from angry Beyoncé fans, Mr. Harris said the station scrambled to buy a high-quality version of “Texas Hold 'Em,” which the DJs played three times on Tuesday night.

Beyoncé's new songs appear on an upcoming album she has referred to as “Chapter Two,” part of a three-volume project that music critics say is about reclaiming black roots in popular music.

Mr. Harris said he was not aware of this project. The radio network, which is owned by the Chickasaw Nation, regularly plays Beyoncé on top 40 and adult stations, he said.

“We didn't play her on our country station because she's not a country artist,” he said. “Well, now I think she wants to be, and we're all for it.”

Their rotation is guided by where a song appears on the charts, and what larger stations are playing, Mr. Harris said.

This wasn't the first time Beyoncé's country music credentials were called into question by judges of the genre.

When the star submitted her 2016 song “Daddy Lessons” from the album “Lemonade” for a Grammy Award in the country music category, the Recording Academy’s Country Music Committee rejected it, The Associated Press reported at the time. (Beyoncé brought rodeo elegance to her Renaissance World Tour and to this year's Grammy Awards, where she wore a white cowgirl hat and a Louis Vuitton leather suit.) Some fans responded to her live performance of “Daddy Lessons” with the Chicks at the awards show Country music is looked down upon on the grounds that it does not belong in the party.

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The Black Opry – a social media hub for black artists and black fans of country, blues, folk and Americana music – used the radio station controversy involving Beyoncé to direct its online fans to its Spotify playlists featuring Other black artists in country music.

Charles Hughes, director of the Lynn and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College, said Beyoncé's initial dismissal from Beyoncé's Oklahoma radio station is symbolic of how country radio “systematically excludes artists of color,” especially women.

But if anyone can break down the country's barriers, Dr. Hughes said, it's Beyoncé and her fans, known as the BeyHive.

“Maybe this power will create an expanded space for all these great black women who make country music, to bring it more in line with the people who love country music and the country it's supposed to represent,” he said.