Oklahoma Radio Station Agrees To Play Beyoncé’s Country Song After Social Media Stir

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On Sunday night, as part of the Super Bowl media circus, Beyoncé released a pair of country-adjacent singles. She also announced a new album, Act II, that seems like it’ll be her version of country. You already know what that means: Genre wars, baby! Lots and lots of tedious conversations about who gets to decide what belongs in what genre! Beyoncé already kicked this hornet’s nest in 2016, when she and the Chicks performed “Daddy Lessons” at the CMAs, drawing big ratings and a big backlash. Among other things, these new songs seem like an attempt to force the issue of whether country stations will play country songs from an established Black pop superstar.

At least one country station immediately took the bait. On Tuesday, a fan named Justin McGowan requested that a local country station play “Texas Hold ‘Em,” one of Beyoncé’s new singles. The station in question was KYKC in Ada, Oklahoma. As The New York Times reports, station manager Roger Harris emailed back, saying, “We do not play Beyoncé at KYKC as we are a country music station.” McGowan posted a screenshot of that email, calling it “ridiculous and racist,” and it kicked off a whole social-media storm. Now, KYKC has said that the station actually will play “Texas Hold ‘Em.”

Roger Harris, who’s been KYKC’s station manager for 48 years, tells The New York Times, “I’ve never experienced anything in my career like the amount of communications that we received in support of the song.” He also says that he didn’t know about Beyoncé’s country project: “We haven’t played her on our country station because she’s not a country artist. Well, now I guess she wants to be, and we’re all for it.” In the end, the station played “Texas Hold ‘Em” three times on Tuesday night.

Country music, in the country-radio sense, tends to be a closed-loop system, with its own songwriters, producers, and musicians. It tends to reject artists who don’t work within that system; even Zach Bryan, one of the biggest artists to come along in any genre in the past few years, doesn’t have the country-radio foothold that you might expect. On the other hand, artists from other genres who embrace the country system can often do quite well; that’s been the case with Hootie And The Blowfish’s Darius Rucker in recent years. We’ve also some success stories about Black country artists, but we’ve seen more about Black artists being locked out of that industry. What we haven’t seen is a star on the level of Beyoncé embracing country sounds and aesthetics without working with people from the Nashville system. I’m guessing we’ll see more stories like this before the Act II album cycle is over.