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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Michael Sun

New Beyoncé song Texas Hold ’Em gets country music radio airplay after online campaign

Beyoncé in New York
Beyoncé in New York. The artist has recently released the song Texas Hold ’Em as one of two surprise drops ahead of her new album. Photograph: Nina Westervelt/WWD/Getty Images

A country music radio station in the US that initially refused to play a listener’s Beyoncé request has now added the artist’s new tracks to rotation after an online firestorm.

On Tuesday, a Beyoncé fan contacted the station to request her song Texas Hold ’Em – one of two released in a surprise drop during the Super Bowl where the 32-time Grammy winner also announced the second album in her Renaissance trilogy.

The station, Oklahoma’s KYKC, responded to the request with an email from the general manager, Roger Harris. “We do not play Beyoncé on KYKC as we are a country music station,” Harris wrote.

The fan posted a screenshot of the reply on X, formally Twitter, accusing the station of “blatant racism and discrimination” in a post that urged others to “email the radio station to request the song”.

The post soon went viral within Beyoncé’s fanbase, dubbed the Beyhive. Among the users to share the tweet – which has now accrued more than 3.5m views – was @BeyLegion, a fan account with close to half a million followers.

Both of Beyoncé’s new singles – Texas Hold ’Em and 16 Carriages – have been widely considered country tracks which signal a western bent to her upcoming album instead of the dance and house traditions of Renaissance’s first instalment in 2022.

Beyoncé track artwork Texas Hold ‘Em.
Beyoncé track artwork Texas Hold ’Em. Photograph: Sony Music

On Texas Hold ’Em, the Houston-born star sings about hoedowns, dive bars and “rugged whiskey” above a twanging banjo played by folk star Rhiannon Giddens.

Harris told the New York Times that the station received hundreds of emails and phone calls asking for Texas Hold ’Em. “I’ve never experienced anything in my career like the amount of communications that we received in support of the song,” he said.

South Central Oklahoma Radio Enterprises (Score), the station’s parent company, told Entertainment Weekly that Harris was simply “removed and didn’t know otherwise” that Beyoncé had released country music.

“Up until now, she hasn’t been a ‘country artist’,” Harris said to EW. “So we responded to the email in the same way we would have responded to someone requesting a Rolling Stones song on our country station.”

He said that the station did not have the file for the song when it was requested, but had since tracked it down – as well as the file for 16 Carriages.

Four hours after the online campaign erupted, the station tweeted a photo of a digital run sheet showing that Texas Hold ’Em had been added to its playlist.

“Lots of call coming in,” KYKC wrote. “It’s coming up in minutes.”

The definition of country music and what falls under the genre has proved controversial in the past.

In a high-profile example from 2019, rapper Lil Nas X’s viral country-trap fusion Old Town Road was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs after it topped the chart.

Chart compilers claimed it wasn’t country enough – despite its banjo instrumentation and lyrical content about horse riding.

“While Old Town Road incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version,” Billboard wrote at the time.

In 2016, Beyoncé’s heavily country-inspired track Daddy Lessons was rejected by the Recording Academy’s country music committee, making it ineligible for country Grammys.

She later played the song at the Country Music Association awards with the Dixie Chicks in a surprise performance that sparked a fresh round of discourse around country music’s politics and ambiguous classifications.

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