Beyoncé’s new songs topped country charts, but are country fans listening?

Photo credit: Roberta Macedo

Country folk used to settle their disputes at the downtown saloon, but today they battle it out on the Billboard charts.

During the Verizon 2024 Super Bowl commercial, Beyoncé broke the internet with the release of two new songs as a promotion for her upcoming country album Renaissance: Act II.

Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em,” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs and topped the Hot Country Songs chart. Her other release, “16 Carriages,” appeared as No. 9 on the Hot Country Songs and No. 38 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. Most fans were ecstatic about the new songs and their success, but for some, the songs’ high rankings on country charts are a point of contention.

As a fellow Houstonian, I would totally line dance to Beyoncé’s new songs and consider them to be country. However, Beyoncé is not traditionally a country artist and doesn’t have an established fan base in the genre.

Her songs should be eligible for the Hot Country Songs chart, as they incorporate many traditional elements of the genre, but shouldn’t have debuted as high as they did. Billboard’s method for ranking country songs is a large reason her songs charted so high.

Billboard remodeled its genre-charts methodology in 2012, and now the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Country Songs charts take their data solely from the all-genre Hot 100. Any song on the all-genre Hot 100 that’s classified as country is automatically placed on the Hot Country Songs chart and the songs remain in the order seen on the all-genre chart.

The problem with this change is that the Hot Country Songs chart no longer accurately represents what country radios and country fans are actually playing. Instead, the country chart now reflects what the general population is listening to.

Artists like Beyoncé who have an already-established fan base are automatically going to receive a larger amount of streams than a niche, lesser-known country artist.

While Beyoncé’s songs deserve to chart the all-genre Hot 100, she worked for her streams after all, “Texas Hold ‘Em” shouldn’t have topped the Hot Country chart.

Billboard needs to reevaluate its selection process. None of the genre-specific charts should be based solely on the all-genre charts. Naturally, there will be overlap, but Billboard should source their data from radio stations and statistics from streaming apps.

Just because a Beyoncé fan listens to her country songs doesn’t mean that country listeners are streaming Beyoncé’s country songs more than Morgan Wallen or Zach Bryan.

Typical country fans don’t associate Beyoncé with country, which was highlighted when a program director for an Oklahoma country station declined a request to play “Texas Hold ‘Em.”

It was later revealed that he was unaware of her new songs. I didn’t know she had released country songs until a few days later either, and I’m an avid country listener.

Beyoncé’s songs may not have the prominent acoustic guitar people are used to when they think of country music, but her releases still deserve to be considered country.

Country music has roots in Black culture and “Texas Hold ‘Em” features elements of traditional country music. For instance, Rhiannon Giddens, a Black folk music artist, was featured playing the banjo. The banjo was brought to America from West Africa via the transatlantic slave trade and holds deep ties to Black culture.

Due to these references, fans theorize that Beyoncé’s three-part Renaissance album centers around going back to where historically Black genres began and reassociating them with Black culture. Renaissance: Act I was inspired by 1970s house music and disco, both of which were popular styles in Black queer communities. Act II focused on country music.

Beyoncé also incorporated modern country charm into her songs with her cowboy hat and Texas twang. Beyoncé and her recent songs are country through and through, there ain’t no doubt about it.