Music

Country Radio Has Been Slow to Play Beyoncé’s New Music, But That Doesn’t Mean It Won’t

During Sunday night’s Super Bowl, Beyoncé dropped two new country-flavored songs, the galloping “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and the more reflective “16 Carriages.” But country radio stations have been initially slow to add the Houston-born superstar. 

In the two songs’ first 24-plus hours of release (from Sunday night through the end of Monday), eight reporters to Billboard’s Country Airplay chart played “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and only one, KBAY San Francisco, played it more than once (two spins), for a total of nine early plays at the format, according to Mediabase. No stations on the country chart’s panel, which includes nearly 150 stations, played “16 Carriages” in that span. Overall, “Texas Hold ‘Em” received over 200 all-format plays, largely on pop radio, in that stretch, while “16 Carriages” drew just a handful of plays. Neither song registered enough plays through Monday to appear on Billboard’s building 60-position Country Airplay chart.

The situation at country radio may change, however. On Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 13), Columbia officially serviced “Texas Hold ‘Em” to country radio, whereas it had previously been sent to other formats, according to a source. Country radio has traditionally been reluctant to play songs that aren’t serviced to them or then actively promoted by the label. The two songs are part of Renaissance Act II coming from Beyoncé on March 29.  Beyoncé has flirted with country music before, releasing “Daddy Lessons” on 2016’s Lemonade and playing the track with the Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) on that year’s CMA Awards. That song was not actively worked to country radio, according to a Billboard story at the time, and did not chart at country radio, though it did reach No. 41 on the Hot 100.

Bo Matthews, programming director of Alpha Media’s KBAY, which played “Texas Hold ‘Em” twice on Monday and continues to play it, says listener reaction has been “split.” He says, “I think it’s different to hear Beyoncé on a country radio station. We’re going to play it more and see if it the audience likes it and let them allow to be the decider as to whether or not it continues to be on the playlist.” 

KBAY began playing “Texas Hold ‘Em” before Sony Music serviced to country radio, so Matthews grabbed the edit (which bleeps out the word “b—-”) from one of KBAY’s sister stations playing it, had KBAY’s midday host add it and asked listeners to weigh in. “It’s one of the biggest celebrities in the world doing a country song and I think that’s exciting for the format,” he says. 

On Tuesday, the Austin American-Stateman ran a news story based on a social media post claiming country station KYKC in Ada, Oklahoma, flat-out rejected a request to play “Texas Hold ‘Em.” The story included a screenshot of a post from X (formerly Twitter) user @jussatto, who said he had requested the station play the song and received the following response, “Hi, we do not play Beyonce on KYKC as we are a country music station.” Another fan posted another response from the KYKC, saying it will “happily play the song when it gets high enough on the chart.” 

These claims immediately sparked a broader online debate over whether country stations would play the song. On Tuesday afternoon, the station, which is not a Mediabase reporter, posted on Facebook that there were “lots of calls coming in” for the song and posted a log showing “Texas Hold ‘Em” played at 2:28 p.m. CT, sandwiched between Zach Bryan’s “Tishomingo” and Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted.” 

A source at the station, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Billboard that the initial email response posted on X was from the station’s general manager, who did not know that Beyoncé had released two new country songs. KYKC’s sister Top 40 station had already played the song, and while the country station tends not to add songs until they are in the top 30 on Mediabase, “based on the number of calls we got in, we realized we needed to add it to the country station,” the source says. The song is now in the station’s system and it will continue to play it. 

CMT immediately added “Texas Hold ‘Em” to its branded streaming stations and anticipates playing a video once one is released. A number of streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music have also added it to their playlists. The song is currently on Spotify’s Hot Country playlist and it is No. 1 on iTunes’ Top 100 Songs chart, with “16 Carriages” at No. 2. Neither song appears on iTunes Top 100 Country Song chart, which is dominated by songs from Toby Keith’s catalog, following his death Feb. 5.

Beyoncé is just one of several pop artists planning to release country projects, including Post Malone and Lana Del Rey. Ed Sheeran told Billboard that he’d like to make a country album and a country project recorded by Brian Wilson in the ‘70s, is finally coming out next year, according to Rolling Stone.

Audacy and iHeartRadio country executives did not respond to request for comment. Beyoncé’s representative declined to any answer questions about the releases and the plan at radio. 

Assistance on this story provided by Gary Trust.

Powered by Billboard.

Related Articles

Back to top button