Inside Beyoncé’s Latest Hit: Texas Hold’em

Inside Beyoncé’s Latest Hit: Texas Hold’em

Whether or not you’re a Beyonce fan, you’ve likely heard her latest hit, a country release from her upcoming album titled ‘Texas Hold’em’. The move comes at a time in the US where there seems to be an overwhelming interest in folk music and, in particular, country. For listeners abroad, the shift in genre may have come as a shock—and a potentially unwelcome one depending on their impression of Western music.

But that’s likely to change. Now that Beyonce is pivoting toward her country roots, there’s going to be a massive surge in interest from the ‘Bey-hive’ (aka Beyonce’s highly passionate fandom) from around the world. Anyone eyeing a pair of cowboy boots or a bolo has probably already hit the ‘buy’ button, while others are likely digging into classic country from long ago, from Dolly Parton to Blake Shelton. 

If you’re a little baffled about the hype behind this song, then we’ve got explanations. Let’s take a closer look at why everyone seems to be up in arms about this song and why it’s worth discussing for US listeners.

Ye Old Poker Saloons

Country music is easy to ignore or dislike for many Americans—but its cultural roots are absolutely undeniable. Country music stems from the rugged individualism and lone-star living that was popularized during the Wild West era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. You may not think this era lives on in many ways, but let’s just look at an example straight from the name of the song: Texas Hold’em.

Poker started out as a card game in the dusty saloons of the gold rush and cowboy era. Today, this game is played by upwards of 100 million people worldwide, according to estimates. Most players compete online, battling it out in qualifiers with the hopes of advancing to EPT and WSOP in Europe or the US.

That’s a long way for a card game to go in just over a century—especially one that was played in the forgotten backwoods of places like Texas, Arizona, and Colorado.

Deep Roots Down South

Texas Hold’em, much like Beyonce (from Houston, Texas), managed to become a global staple. But not all elements of deep south living are quite as visible. Beyonce, like many black people from the south, grew up going to rodeos and even performing at them. Though her song has a well-known game as its title, some of her other references are harder to catch. 

She references tornados and hiding in the basement, something that many country folk in the US grow up doing. She references dive bars, which are local watering holes common to small towns. At another point, she calls out ‘furs, spurs, boots’, which is a callback to the clothing popularized by cowboys and still worn by many living down south.

The reason that so many in the US have focused so much on the song is because Beyonce manages to repackage a genre they may not have gravitated toward. Nevertheless, there are deep cultural cues in country music, which can be enough to perk up their ears even if they hate the banjo.

Coming Home

Beyonce’s pivot to country music is being treated as revolutionary—but the intersection between black soul artists and country is absolutely nothing new. Though Beyonce is the first black woman to top the charts for country music, she’s certainly not the first to light up a country stage. In fact, black artists have been part of the country and folk music scene for generations. 

Beyonce’s release isn’t creating an interest in folk-western-soul mashups—it’s simply highlighting something that already exists. For example, Shaboozey has been considered the ‘modern cowboy’ for years. Also a southern boy, he’s been blending genres like hip-hop, rap, folk, and country since his come-up. Other stars like Nelly have worked with southern groups like the Florida Georgia Line to release singles. Viewed in this way, Beyonce is building off the foundation of other artists rather than leading the charge herself.

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