Beyoncé’s foray into country music, “Daddy Lessons,” is a song about going to war, about fighting the cads, about shooting before you get shot. But in the context of her album Lemonade, it’s also a moment of self-reflection about broken trust being passed down through generations. It’s a pivot point on the album’s journey from anger to peace.
Perhaps Beyoncé came to the Country Music Awards to put up a fight: a fight for the song’s legitimacy as country, for the black lineage of a genre typically thought of as white, and/or for some play on rural airwaves. But watching her joyous, wide-screen hoedown with the Dixie Chicks—followed by the release of a great new collaborative version of “Daddy’s Lesson”—it seemed more like she was on a mission of togetherness and friend-making, which is not an insignificant thing in this current moment.
Rumors that the pop superstar would perform at the Nashville ceremony hit the internet shortly before before the show began. Watching the telecast’s first two hours—a sprightly, revue-like affair highlighting the show’s 50-year history, anchored affably by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood—it was clear that the CMAs themselves didn’t want to make a big deal about Beyoncé: Paisley only mentioned her once or twice, quietly, when talking up the night’s coming attractions, and the CMAs official Twitter account never mentioned her at all.
This might have been a result of Beyoncé’s own penchant for mysteriousness. Or it might have been the producers playing to the culturally conservative portions of country’s fanbase, the people on social media airing their outrage that Beyoncé was there at all. (Of course, plenty of other country fans and performers expressed enthusiasm.) On Twitter, Paisley seemed to be doing pre-emptive explanation, writing, “Frequently, country crosses over. But every now & then a major pop superstar wants to be a part of this too. Welcome, Beyoncé.” The first reply: “fuck Beyoncé she supports thugs plus her music is garbage.”