Entertainment

Beyoncé says not feeling ‘welcomed’ at event spawned ‘Cowboy Carter.’ Why fans suspect she’s referring to 2016 CMA Awards.

With the release of Cowboy Carter just days away, Grammy Award-winner Beyoncé revealed her new album cover on social media and wrote that the music “was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed … and it was very clear that I wasn’t.”

It didn’t take long for the internet to come up with a leading theory as to what that experience was: her 2016 performance at the Country Music Awards that stirred controversy. Here’s what happened, why it may tie into Cowboy Carter and the personal details Beyoncé recently revealed about the forthcoming album.

Beyoncé addresses ‘criticisms’ entering country genre

On Tuesday, the singer thanked fans for helping make her record-breaking song “Texas Hold ‘Em” the No. 1 single on the Hot Country Songs chart. She’s the first Black woman to reach that milestone, and while she feels “honored,” she hopes “that years from now, the mention of an artist’s race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant.”

“This album has been over five years in the making,” Beyoncé wrote before alluding to an event that happened years ago. “But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of country music and studied our rich musical archive. It feels good to see how music can unite so many people around the world, while also amplifying the voices of some of the people who have dedicated so much of their lives educating on our musical history.”

The singer added, “The criticisms I faced when I first entered this genre forced me to propel past the limitations that were put on me. Act II is a result of challenging myself, and taking my time to bend and blend genres together to create this body of work.”

“Texas Hold ‘Em” isn’t Beyoncé’s first country song. Her initial foray into the genre came on 2016’s Lemonade with the song “Daddy Lessons.” She even performed the song with the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) seven months later at the CMAs that year.

The performance was polarizing, and fans have not forgotten; judging from the Instagram post’s comments section, many on the internet seem to believe that that’s the event in question.

A look back at the backlash

When the singer took the stage with the Chicks, who have their own complicated relationship with country music, the performance went off without a hitch. Yet opinion on social media became immediately divided. Some viewers and members of the BeyHive, or Beyoncé’s fan base, appreciated the event while others slammed the fact Beyoncé was allowed on stage because of her stance on police reform and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Videos of the performance on social media were flooded with racist comments.

Veteran country singer Alan Jackson reportedly walked out of the ceremony. Honoree Kenny Chesney had to issue a statement when the internet speculated he didn’t enjoy the moment. (“I love Beyoncé…”) The Country Music Association felt compelled to publicly deny it scrubbed the performance and any mention of Beyoncé from promotional material following the backlash. (TMZ claimed the organization “folded to fans who posted racist and other harsh comments.”)

The Chicks acknowledged “the hate” one day later.

What did Beyoncé say at the time?

The singer did not address the backlash, but the Chicks spoke about it years later.

“They treated us very weird backstage,” frontwoman Natalie Maines told the New York Times in 2020. “For them to disrespect her that way … was disgusting.”

‘This ain’t a country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album’

As Beyoncé said in Tuesday’s post, the experience impacted her artistic choices as it helped birth what will be Cowboy Carter. But it’s not your run-of-the-mill country album, naturally.

“I have a few surprises on the album, and have collaborated with some brilliant artists who I deeply respect,” she teased. “This is act ii COWBOY CARTER, and I am proud to share it with y’all!”

Cowboy Carter is out March 29.


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