Houston native Beyonce saddles up a country sound for “Renaissance: Act II”

For her next album, Beyonce is trading the dance floor for, shall we say, wide open spaces.

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Houston-born superstar announced her next album, Renaissance: Act II (or just Act II), will drop March 29. Beyonce’s eighth studio album, and the second installment of the Renaissancetrilogy, will move away from the disco-drenched R&B of 2022’s Renaissance and toward country and folk.

Coming just days after Taylor Swift rattled the internet with the announcement of her new album, Beyonce used a Verizon commercial to tee up the release of a pair of new songs.

Those tracks, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” are gorgeous, a pronounced departure from Renaissance, but do hearken back to Beyonce’s first real stab at country music, the track “Daddy Lessons” from 2016’s Lemonade.

Beyonce, as she did on Renaissance’s first installment, is taking to curate her collaborators: She enlisted Rhiannon Giddens to perform on “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and Robert Randolph to contribute to “16 Carriages.”

“It’s great for her to go this route,” Randolph told Rolling Stone magazine. “In country music for a longest time, it almost seemed like it was supposed to be out of left field when a Black artist says, ‘Hey, I’m going to do a country record.’ It’s crazy that the whole world doesn’t understand the history of country music and fiddles, dobros and banjos. Where do you think that stuff came from? Who was living in the barn? Who were the people living in the back houses?”

Predictably, there has been backlash among the country music crowd over Beyonce’s foray into the genre. An Oklahoma radio station initially refused to play the new songs, before backtracking and adding them to the rotation. Endless think pieces about what Beyonce’s “country album” might mean for the genre have spun up online in the days since the announcement.

However, as Beyonce herself put it to Harper’s Bazaar in 2021, this is not some idle fascination.

“I grew up going to the Houston rodeo every year,” she told the magazine three years ago. “It was this amazing diverse and multicultural experience where there was something for every member of the family, including great performances, Houston-style fried Snickers, and fried turkey legs. One of my inspirations came from the overlooked history of the American Black cowboy. … 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.”

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.