Entertainment News

In Cowboy Hats and Fringe, BeyHive goes to Nashville for Beyoncé

Beyoncé fans had spent the day running from store to store, looking for their first cowboy hat or their first pair of white cowboy boots. They brought out the denim jackets trimmed with silver fringes, the brown and white cow print skirts and the silver rhinestones to nail just above their eyelids.

Then Friday night, they headed downtown to Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway honky-tonk and bar district to listen to Beyoncé’s new album, “Cowboy Carter,” a tapestry of not just music country, but also contemporary pop music, funk. and other genres.

“I’ve never seen so many people who look like me in cowboy hats in my life,” marveled Nia Blair, 24, as she danced in her own pair of new boots. She added: “One album did all that.”

There was no shortage of celebrations surrounding the superstar’s new album this week: there were listening parties from Atlanta to Houston, a fan day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and a seemingly endless stream of messages on the theme of brands and politicians. .

But here we are in Nashville, where the iron gates of the country music business and its radio stations have fortified its “Music City” brand with a history of downplaying the women and musicians of color who helped build its foundations or sought to broaden its horizons.

It’s also where some of her fans and critics pushed back on Beyoncé’s performance at the Country Music Association Awards with the Chicks in 2016, a moment believed to be the catalyst for the album’s creation.

This party was different.

“Tonight is just a message that we are here in Nashville,” said Dede Neahn West, who helped organize the listening party on the roof of Acme Feed & Seed, a renovated farm store that now has four floors of music and events. “It’s just about honoring and celebrating and celebrating our culture.”

A little more than a week before the album’s scheduled release, Ms. West and longtime Nashville producer and musician Aaron Bell began discussing hosting an event in the city to bring fans together. black people and celebrate what many consider to be triumph. of the album’s artistry, recognition of the additional barriers musicians of color face, and the promise of more to come.

“Being a black person here, Broadway doesn’t have anything that reflects us,” said Mr. Bell, a DJ who frequently performs under the name AB Eastwood and, like others, said he found a more inclusive space to perform at Acme Feed & Seed. “It was important to do it on Broadway.”

“Nashville, we love you,” he said, but “we don’t need to wait for someone to give us OK.”

The album’s release shook the country music industry. But it also created an exhausting and emotional whirlwind of attention for the legions of musicians, producers and artists who had already been working for years in Nashville to create space for black musicians in a genre they loved, some said during interviews.

“Beyoncé brought us all together just for this evening, which we can be grateful for,” said Tanner Davenport, co-director of the Black Opry, which has given a platform to black country and folk artists, including through a touring revue. since 2021. But he added that the reason he and others “stay in this area is because of the community that is here.”

There’s no indication yet that the Nashville conglomerate of labels and executives has radically changed its approach, especially given its enduring reliance on terrestrial radio. That leaves open questions about whether financial and institutional opportunities will present themselves to other black country artists, even though early songs from “Cowboy Carter” broke country music records.

“The biggest opportunity for change we have here is the fact that it exposed the idea of ​​country music to a ton of people who now seemed more receptive to the idea of ​​engaging with it – and the fact that “They weren’t receptive, it’s not their own fault,” said Holly G, the founder of the Black Opry.

She added: “I think what we have the opportunity to do right now is to build a fan base that can exist and thrive outside of these spaces that we don’t feel welcome in. »

And Friday’s listening party, titled “Kinfolk,” was a signal that those fans might be attracted.

On Friday night, as bachelor parties and tourists flocked to the rest of the famous strip of honky-tonks and bars owned by stars like Kid Rock, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, hundreds of people brought Acme Feed & Seed roof at capacity.

A line of fans dressed in fringe, jeans and leather snaked around the lower level, while others crowded onto the roof, posed for photos with friends and listened to calls to buy more records and tickets for other artists. Participants talked about it being the first country album they listened to in its entirety, how it inspired them to start listening to other black country artists, or the joy they felt being surrounded by other fans of black country music.

“We’ve never felt comfortable, even playing music – country music – on Broadway, but it’s nice to be here tonight with people who respect what we do and respect our appearance,” said Brandon Campbell, who plays with his twin brother. Derek, as country duo The Kentucky Gentlemen.

Celebrating a black woman’s country album on Broadway after a decade of difficult experiences in the city, he added, “is really important, mentally, physically, emotionally for us.”

Video of the 2016 Country Music Association Awards performance played on loop on the TVs behind the bar, as bartenders served drink specials like The Bey-Hive, a discounted can of cocktail, and the Texas Hold ‘Em, a whiskey sour made with whiskey from a Black-owned distillery in Nashville.

“It’s a lot of fun, and seeing that people are actually willing to dress up and go out?” said MaKayla Stovall, 25. “It makes me feel a certain pride in being black and from the South.”

Brandon Robinson, 27, said: “I hate that she didn’t have a good time last time, so I’m glad we can have a good time for her. »

When it was time to start playing the album, there was loud applause, phones and studded cowboy hats held high into the night sky to the beat of the music.

And when two of the black women featured on the album, Brittney Spencer and Reyna Roberts, appeared on stage together, the crowd roared. A woman wearing a cowboy hat and long white coat wiped away tears as the two women sang along to their own harmonies on the album cover of the Beatles’ song “Blackbird.”

“It’s amazing,” Ms. Spencer told the crowd before the next song began to play. “I love Black Nashville.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button