Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” is country enough for the Country Music Association but not for the Grammys. According to the Associated Press, the song was rejected by the Grammys’ country music committee, even as Beyoncé was nominated nine times in other categories, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year.
A handful of country stations gave “Daddy Lessons”—whose lyrics, as the AP notes, “include references to the Second Amendment, the Bible and shooting guns”—a test spin when Lemonade was released in April, but they were met with a swift negative reaction from both listeners and industry tastemakers. “It doesn’t sound like a country song to me,” sniffed a writer for Country Music Television’s website. “She didn’t cut it at a studio in Tennessee, and it certainly wasn’t written by a group of Nashville songwriters.” Dixie Chicks, who have their own longstanding issues with the country establishment, made their feelings clear by adding “Daddy Lessons” to their live set list, and they came along when Beyoncé was asked to perform the song at the CMA Awards last month. (The Chicks’ Natalie Maines made it clear they were there at Beyoncé’s invitation and not the other way around.) But that performance was met by a new backlash, and the Grammys responded by chickening out.
Is “Daddy Lessons” a country song? Beyoncé thinks so, and country stars like Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley agree. More to the point, is it any less country than Maren Morris’ Hero, which is nominated for Best Country Album even though it tilts heavily toward pop and contains hip-hop–inflected lyrics like “Boy I'd be rich, head to toe Prada/ Benz in the driveway, yacht in the water/ Vegas at the Mandarin, high roller gambling/ Me and Diddy drippin' diamonds like Marilyn.” Artists have always pushed boundaries, and there’s no reason why Morris shouldn’t be recognized for doing so, but it’s hard to conceive a definition of “country” that fits her songs and not Beyoncé’s, unless you want to straight-up make the argument that “Daddy Lessons” can’t be country because Beyoncé is black.