I have to admit, I’m not a die hard Beyonce fan. I don’t follow the Queen’s life religiously, and I know only a few of her songs. (Seriously, I thought she was performing a cover last night.)
But her performance at the CMA Awards was a religious experience for me.
Not only was it a transcendent six minutes of perfect music making, it tackled all the preconceived notions of who owns art and who is allowed to create it.
So for all the haters out there (and there are many)–let me break it down for you.
For those who believe “Daddy Lessons” isn’t a country song, you should know country music does not have distinct boundaries that include or exclude. Country belongs to a tradition of American folk music that also includes R & B (which went on to be labelled “Rock n’ Roll”), blues, gospel, and bluegrass. Each of them share more than a few similarities, and the canon of American music from the 1920s to the 1950s was anything but clear cut. Songs blended traits of each genre, creating the rich musical culture that many contemporary pop musicians draw from.
Most importantly, the country music genre would not exist without the influence of black musicians and black culture in general. Facets of African folk music, combined with slave spirituals, provide the basis for all these genres. And country musicians, especially now, borrow freely from gospel, R & B, hip-hop, blues, and rock n’ roll.
So, to be clear, the preachy traditionalists who say that Beyonce’s song isn’t “country” enough are factually incorrect and seem to be blissfully ignorant of the present state of their pure, beloved genre (see Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake at last year’s CMA Awards).
For those who were angered at Beyonce’s presence because of her vocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the content of her Lemonade album….really? If I remember correctly, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and George Jones are among your esteemed list of country legends. One is essentially a walking, talking marijuana plant, another openly flouted the law with his brand of outlaw country (see “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Man in Black,” etc), and the other once made a five-mile-an-hour getaway on a lawnmower. Good times, I guess.
These men were/are brilliant musicians, but, to continue beating a dead horse, their brand of criticism and disregard for authority is accepted because they are white men. They are celebrated for it.
Beyonce’s music–especially the Lemonade album–is similarly critical of authority, but it is far less tongue in cheek. She has written about her reality, about what she sees, with visceral emotion. The songs are clearly personal, and “Daddy Lessons” is an unearthed remnant from her youth–her deeply Southern heritage.
To say that she can’t do “country” or perform for country fans is a mistake. Not only is she able to do it, she slays at it. Maybe people are jealous because she does country better than most country musicians? Seems accurate.
Performing with the Dixie Chicks was just icing on the cake.
After nearly a decade of ostracism from the country music community for their vocal politics, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire proved that their music is far greater and far more powerful than the denigrating comments that have been thrown at them since 2003.
Their beautiful, joyous, and emotional collaboration on “Daddy Lessons” was a confident affirmation that they’re exactly where they should be doing what they do best, which is, in my opinion, better than what many people in that room put forth last night.
So, wonderful and talented women, I salute you. Last night was truly brilliant. You burned the CMA Awards to the ground.