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Lana Del Rey and Beyoncé Take Part in the Revival of Country Music

Country music is experiencing a massive revival, topping the charts of the past year and attracting some of music’s most celebrated artists. While this might seem surprising, the insurgence of country music has been on a steady incline for the past decade. For instance, Lil Nas X’s collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus on “Old Town Road” and covers of popular songs such as Luke Combs’ version of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 folk record, “Fast Car,” have brought country music into the spotlight.

The latest update on the country music scene is the announcement of Lana Del Rey and Beyoncé’s newest projects. Both singers have recently announced albums that shift from their traditional genre focus, combining country-inspired beats and lyrics into their already extensive discography.

“The music business is going country; we’re going country,” Del Rey said at the NMPA x Billboard Songwriter Awards and Showcase. The artist’s attendance was in support of her co-songwriter, Jack Antonoff, to whom she attributes much of her success. Del Rey mentioned how the pair traveled around Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi over the past four years working on a very exciting new record, and she announced that she projects to release her tenth studio album “Lasso” this upcoming September.

The album strays from Del Rey’s popular status as an alternative icon engaged in rock, blues, and baroque pop. However, she acknowledges a known fact about the music industry: change sells. When artists can adopt many different music genres, they simultaneously enhance their range as musicians and attract a larger audience. Take Taylor Swift for example: an artist who began as a country music singer/songwriter and became better known as a “pop diva.” Or, Bob Dylan who shifted from folk to rock. This could mean exciting new opportunities for Del Rey.

While some may think this is entirely new, Del Rey has been teasing her immersion into country music for the past couple of years. Earlier this year, Del Rey teased a snippet of a new unreleased song “Henry, come on,” speculated to be featured on her new album. The singer tagged Luke Laird in her caption, who is known for his work with country icons like Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, and Luke Bryan.

In December of last year, Del Rey released a cover of John Denver’s classic 1971 hit, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Her most recent tour also largely spanned across the nation’s Bible Belt, with dates in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, and West Virginia. While not directly within the country genre, Del Rey often incorporates subtle beats with a Western swing and folk lyricism reminiscent of classic country. Throughout her eighth studio album “Blue Banisters,” the artist incorporates piano and acoustic guitar while mentioning cowboys, pickup trucks, and boots.

Beyoncé’s announcement of her new album “Act II”, coming out Mar. 29, has many wondering if she will release more singles like “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em.” Her upcoming album will be the third release from her latest project, “Renaissance,” with the production assistance of Rhiannon Giddens, known for her eclectic folk music, and steel guitarist Robert Randolph.

The 32-time Grammy winner released her two latest singles during the 2024 Super Bowl. The singer was also seen sporting a white country hat at the 66th Grammy Awards, hinting at her upcoming album release. The Houston, Texas, native has received many comments with criticism claiming her songs are not country enough for her entrance into the genre. However, Beyoncé has always had this penchant for innovation, offering a fresh take on country and doing what is not generally expected of her.

The radio station KYKC, based in Oklahoma, recently gained a lot of attraction, but not for good reason. On Feb. 13, a fan of Beyoncé’s Beyhive requested the station to play “Texas Hold ‘Em,” which was subsequently denied. General manager of the station Roger Harris released a statement asserting that the station “initially refused to play [‘Texas Hold ‘Em’] in the same manner if someone requested us to play Rolling Stones on our country station.” The manager later went on to mention that the station often waits to see how songs perform on the charts and in larger country music radio stations before they begin to air them. KYKC says that it often takes a while for bigger record labels to allow smaller radio stations to air their songs. However, fans warn that they should prepare for her upcoming album and allot her the acclamation she dutifully deserves as this seems to be a mere act of discrimination against Black female artists.

The music industry’s shift to country seems entirely pivotal. However, this marks one of the first times that mainstream popular artists are switching from their traditional genres to that with a rustic flair. Many music critics are wondering where this insurgence is coming from. The answer? Most likely, Morgan Wallen. In 2023, country music streaming grew 23% on Spotify with over a third of that number attributed to Wallen. Gen Z is controlling the music industry’s streaming popularity and with their interest in country already and admiration for the mainstream artists entering the genre, country music could become the biggest trend of the 2020s.