Beyoncé is first Black woman to top Country Album charts

Beyonce walks onstage to accept the Innovator Award during the iHeartRadio Music Awards, Monday, April 1, 2024, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Beyonce walks onstage to accept the Innovator Award during the iHeartRadio Music Awards, Monday, April 1, 2024, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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Beyoncé has made history as the first Black woman to ever top Billboard’s Top Country album charts with her #1 album ‘Cowboy Carter’.


Beyoncé's ‘ Cowboy Carter  has rocketed up to the top of the US’s album charts, having sold 407,000 equivalent album units, making it the eighth #1 album in her career. It’s the biggest album release since Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) ' landed last year, and Beyoncé’s biggest first week sales since her 2016 album ‘Lemonade’.

Released on 29 March this year, it also made history as the first album by a Black female artist to top the Country album charts since its creation in 1964.

Beyoncé had already lassoed in another Country chart record when the album’s lead single ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ went to #1 on the singles charts, which had also never seen a Black female artist at its apex.

‘Cowboy Carter’ represented a genre shift for the chart-topping singer. After taking on dancehall in ‘Renaissance, the first album in a purported trilogy, she returned to her Texan roots to create a country-inflected album for Act II.

Euronews Culture's Theo Farrant and David Mouriquand gave their verdicts, with the former calling it "a deeply personal triumph", while the latter seeming a bit more divided, describing the new album as "slick, theatrical, but inescapably baggy." You can read their reviews here

Is it a country album?

The album refers back to the racist backlash she received after a performance with The Chicks at the Country Music Association Awards in 2016 and establishes her rightful place within the genre with featuring spots for legends like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Despite these big (white) names backing up her presence in the genre, Beyoncé has still unsurprisingly faced a lot of resistance within conservative circles for releasing an album in the genre.

Beyoncé has said that “this ain't a Country album. This is a 'Beyoncé' album.” Listening to the album, and Beyoncé is clearly working in many genres at once, often at the same time in the 27-song tracklist.

There are many interesting arguments against the pigeonholing that genre categorisation can create, but it’s still largely an accepted fact that she has created an album largely in the country genre.

Beyond the album’s attempts to appease the critics of her being in the genre, the more interesting aspects of her approach to country is in the ways she claims to sonically reclaim the genre for Black artists.

As American composer Yasmin Williams writes about the inclusion of musician-scholar Rhiannon Giddens and pedal steel player Robert Randolph on the album. “These are Black country and folk artists who work within Black traditional lineages that deserve to be highlighted and celebrated for their specificity.”

However, Williams points out that while Beyoncé puts paid to these important Black names within the musical tradition, the country sections of the album generally do still adhere to a more mainstream understanding of the genre: “it felt in greater conversation with an exclusionary mainstream – and like a capitalist gesture to insert itself into that world.”

However, as Craig Jenkins writes, that while some country traditionalists would rather she employed more specificity in her approach to the genre, he notes the power of a Black cultural icon tackling the genre from a mainstream perspective. “What she can do is challenge the great American canard that its straight, white, often male titans of industry are always its cultural starting guns and that their success is evidence of their primacy.”

Where Jenkins does take issue though is with the album’s missed opportunity to more directly call out the racism experiences by Black country music fans.

“She doesn’t even name and shame the parties whose rejection sparked the musical deep dive Cowboy sprung from,” he writes. “Storming this conservative-friendly field, where a love of tradition can ignite defensiveness, resistance to change, and exclusionism, opens the door to unpleasant MAGA-verse encounters. But there are Black country lovers on the front lines already, who can too quickly count numbers at shows, who can’t get the face time they deserve for their music, who spot more Confederate flags in their daily dealings than they care to. It’s too easy to bristle at this album’s hunger for crossover success and the reality that achieving it means making some inroads with white America.”

Act III’s genre?

Still, the album is another massive success for Beyoncé and a triumph for Black female artists within a historically exclusionary genre. The only question remaining is how she will pivot again for the expected Act III of this impressive trilogy.

“Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they? In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand, but in practice, well, some may feel confined.” Linda Martell says in ‘Spaghettii’ on ‘Cowboy Carter’.

Fans have already started suggesting that Act III could be a rock album. It would have some precedent as Beyoncé has often employed rock stylings into her work and also counted rockstars Tina Turner and Prince as close friends.


Rock is, much like country music, a genre associated most often with white musicians but rooted in Black musical traditions, with much of its compositional styles taken from blues and jazz.

Beyoncé fans are pretty attuned to their Queen’s musical interests, with many predicting she’d have a country phase after ‘Daddy Lessons’ on ‘Lemonade’.

Additional sources • AP, Guardian, Vulture

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