Does Country Radio’s Treehouse Have Room for Beyoncé?

When Beyoncé dropped two songs during the Super Bowl in February, it was almost pointless to ask whether they would become pop-culture phenomena. She’s Beyoncé; of course they would scale the charts and inspire a thousand memes.

But another, trickier question soon took shape, highlighting music’s complex genre and racial fault lines: Would country radio stations support Beyoncé’s new direction, with its plucked banjos, foot stomps and lyrics rhyming Texas and Lexus? Or would one of the world’s most influential stars languish in the margins of a format so inhospitable to female artists that, as one radio consultant advised in 2015, songs by women should be minimized on country playlists to ensure that “the tomatoes of our salad are the females”? (Even now, Nashville progressives seethe in remembrance of “Tomato-gate.”)

In the wider pop music world, radio has largely ceded its former star-making mojo to streaming and social media. But country stations still retain a significant gatekeeping power, elevating favored performers and mediating the genre’s metes and bounds for audiences and the industry at large.

With her latest album, “Cowboy Carter” — its cover depicts the star on a horse’s saddle, holding an American flag and decked out in a cowboy hat and red-white-and-blue rodeo gear — Beyoncé could be a litmus test for the format’s openness and adaptability. As many commentators see it, that goes for Beyoncé’s own music as well as for Black female country performers like Mickey Guyton and Rissi Palmer, who have found solid fan bases but barely cracked radio playlists.

“This could be a major turning point,” said Leslie Fram, the senior vice president of music and talent for Country Music Television and a former radio programmer and D.J.

Yet a month and a half after the debut of those two first singles, “Texas Hold ’Em” and “16 Carriages,” and on the eve of the release of “Cowboy Carter” on Friday, the results of that test are still murky.

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