When Beyonce dropped a country tune inside her new visual album Lemonade, it was the biggest crossover news in country music since Justin Timberlake brought down the house at the Country Music Association Awards last year alongside Chris Stapleton.
The Houston native’s Southern music roots are interwoven throughout the No. 1 album, but on “Daddy Lessons,” she mixes New Orleans horns and country lyrics and messaging with a sprinkle of Texas enthusiasm. And many in Nashville are welcoming music’s reigning queen to the format.
Country singer Dierks Bentley said he loved the whole album, but when he heard “Daddy Lessons,” he immediately thought it was a country song.
“There is just something intangible about it that it feels like a country song,” Bentley said. “It’s not just choruses that are catchy and verses that could be intermixed anywhere as some pop songs are. It’s a real story that she tells about what’s going on in her life growing up.”
Added Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town: “She has some stories to tell – that’s clear on Lemonade. And that’s what makes country music great.”
The Dixie Chicks covered the song during their current national tour and even Blake Shelton defended the song from critics who say it’s not country. Female country artists in particular have loved Beyonce’s emphasis on the feminine perspective in pop music for years: Reba McEntire cut a version of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” in 2010.
Even country superstar Garth Brooks said he can learn from Beyonce.
“I was lucky enough to get to see Beyonce’s Vegas show … I mean, take out your notebook and take notes. No matter how long you’ve been on the stage – take notes on that one,” Brooks said.
“Daddy Lessons,” which debuted at No. 41 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, starts off with an extended horn intro, but then Beyonce namechecks her home state of Texas. Led by an acoustic guitar with hand claps marking the rhythm, she sings about lessons she learned from her father and former manager. With its lyrical references to the Second Amendment, the Bible and guns, “Daddy Lessons” could easily pass as the latest feisty hit from Miranda Lambert.
Fairchild said that Lambert would be a perfect duet partner for Beyonce on “Daddy Lessons,” adding “but I am getting in on that, if that’s happening.”
Nationally syndicated country radio host Bobby Bones played the song on his iHeartRadio morning show, “The Bobby Bones Show,” and said the feedback from his listeners was positive. Younger country music artists like Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini and Sam Hunt all draw on pop and R&B influences, so it’s not a stretch to hear a song that mixes genre on country radio.
“With country music it’s all about the message, how you are able to present it and the authenticity of it,” Bones said. “It’s not just an acoustic guitar and a cowboy hat. I think the message of being true and honest has stayed the same from the beginning and I think the Beyonce song fits that mold.”
He compared it to Timberlake’s “Drink Me Away,” a pop song that originally was released in 2013, but had a second life on country radio last year because of his well-received performance of the song with Stapleton on national television.
“Beyonce is an artist that you wouldn’t normally associate with country radio. And like a lot of new artists, I think it would take a lot of listeners a second to say, ‘OK, I get this,” Bones said. “I think it could be a No. 1 hit for Beyonce, if there is some time and effort put into it.”
Not that country radio is spinning “Daddy Lessons,” nor is it being actively promoted to country radio, or any format, by Columbia Records. The song has drawn only six plays on country radio to date, and none in the past seven days, according to Nielsen Music. (Among all formats, the tune has garnered 122 plays to date on the more than 1,200 stations monitored by Nielsen for the Hot 100; conversely, building Lemonade R&B/hip-hop hit “Sorry” has logged more than 10,000 plays and zooms 18-11 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart dated May 28.)
Country radio consultant Joel Raab says that, lyrically, “Daddy Lessons” is “somewhat” fitting for the format. Musically, too: “The feel of the song is very pop and then it transitions somewhat to a country feel as it gets going. I think it would need a serious remix to get consideration on country radio.
“Her image is pretty far from country,” Raab says. “I’d most likely never recommend [the song] for country radio. But it’s Beyonce. I’ve learned to never say never.”