Beyonce Turns The Spotlight On 4 Black Women In Country Music

Beyonce leaves the Luar fashion show at 154 Scott in Brooklyn during New York Fashion Week on February 13, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

by Liz Courquet-Lesaulnier

A week before the release of “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé’s new 27-track album, Queen Bey served notice on Instagram: “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”

One surefire way to tell it’s not a typical country album is that four Black women country artists — Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Brittney Spencer, and Reyna Roberts — are firmly in the spotlight on the track “Blackbiird.”

The struggle is real for Black folks in country music. As NPR pointed out last August, “The top three songs in America right now are country tracks, and the top two hits are by artists facing allegations of racism.” 

Country music historian Amanda Martinez, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told NPR that having those songs by white artists top the pop music charts “encourages the country music business to continue doing what it’s always done, which is making a product for a white, conservative base.” 

That makes Bey’s collaboration with these four artists on “Blackbiird” — a cover of “Blackbird,” penned by Paul McCartney for the Beatles’ 1968 album “The Beatles” — all the more fitting. McCartney wrote it as a metaphorical anthem about the racism and racial violence Black people, and Black women especially, experienced during the civil rights movement.

Paul McCartney with Mrs. Thelma Mothershed Wair and Ms. Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine on April 30, 2016. Screenshot via X.

‘I was sitting around with my acoustic guitar and I’d heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the ’60s in Alabama, Mississippi, Little Rock in particular,” McCartney told GQ in 2018. “I just thought it would be really good if I could write something that if it ever reached any of the people going through those problems, it might give them a little bit of hope. So, I wrote ‘Blackbird.’”

Given the infamous 1957 photo of Black student Elizabeth Eckford being verbally harassed by a crowd as she tried to enter Little Rock Central High and desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, it’s no wonder McCartney had Black girls specifically in mind. “I was thinking of a Black girl going through this. You know, now is your time to arise, set yourself free,” he said. 

Nearly 60 years later, here’s Beyoncé, a cultural titan in her own right, singing “All your life, you were only waiting/For this moment to arise,” and making a modern statement about the resilience of Black women forging a path through the racism and sexism in the country music scene — and the nation as a whole. This rendition of “Blackbird” is a reminder of the power of collaboration, of what happens when Black women unite their voices in song and spirit. Here are the four artists Bey’s making that statement with:

Tanner Adell

Kentucky-born, California and Wyoming-raised Tanner Adell shot to prominence in the summer of 2023 with her track “Buckle Bunny.” The song features the uber-catchy line “Looking like Beyoncé with a lasso.”

And it seems Adell truly manifested working with Queen Bey.

“As one of the only black girls in country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic for a collab,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter in February after the announcement of the release of “Cowboy Carter.”

“I always say Beyoncé raised me. Beyoncé taught me how to be soft but strong. A force of nature. I’ve watched her be forged like metal in the fire of this industry and she remained poised, and grateful,” Adell posted on Instagram on Friday after the release of “Blackbiird.”

To hone her country music prowess, Adell wrote that she headed to Nashville two years ago and “kept my head down, counted all my blessings big and small, and tried to perfect this craft of my artistry. When I saw Renaissance last summer, I knew I was NOT working hard enough. I was reminded again watching the Renaissance documentary. I sat in that theatre bawling my eyes out and said out loud, I will work with Beyoncé in 2024. NO IDEA HOW I WAS GONNA DO THAT 😂 but I felt it in my bones.”

Tiera Kennedy

“If your country-loving daughter, little sister or niece isn’t already a fan, expect that she will be soon,” Nashville Scene wrote about Alabama Native Tiera Kennedy back in 2020. Indeed, Kennedy’s 2023 song “Jesus, My Mama, My Therapist,” is an absolute bop.

“I cannot believe it. God is so good. I’m on a @beyonce record. And not on one but TWO songs. You can catch me on those harms on Tyrant too!” Kennedy posted on Instagram on Friday. 

Kennedy wrote that she’s spent the past eight years in Nashville “chasing this country music dream.” It hasn’t been an easy ride for Kennedy, but being on Beyonce’s album “takes the cake. I grew up listening to her music, practicing her runs over and over. Whenever people would ask me ‘Who’s your dream collab?’ the answer was always Beyonce but it was such a far away dream because BEYONCÉ?!” 

Brittney Spencer

“I’ve typed and deleted at least 10 captions. i don’t hv anything clever or curated to say. i’m on a beyonce record. the album is a masterpiece. ily @beyonce 🐝🌻,” Spencer wrote on Instagram on Friday about being included on “Blackbiird.”

The Baltimore native grew up singing in church and became a huge fan of Taylor Swift and the country duo The Chicks. (The racist backlash to Beyoncé’s 2016 performance with The Chicks of her track “Daddy Lessons” from “Lemonade” — is widely thought to be the inspiration for “Cowboy Carter.”)

With lyrics like “Oh you put your love on top like Beyonce/At my church on Sunday,” Spencer may have also manifested her collaboration with Bey in her 2023 track “Bigger Than the Song.”

Reyna Roberts

“I’M ON BEYONCÉ’S ALBUM😭❤️‍🔥My first feature ever is with Beyoncé, Thank you God. BLACKBIIRD feature and TYRANT back vocals,” Roberts posted on Instagram on Friday after the release of “Blackbiird.”

The “Princess of Outlaw Country,” as she calls herself, was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and raised in Alabama and California. She headed to Nashville in 2020 and released her debut album “Bad Girl Bible, Vol. 1” last year. “This is my story of being in love, on the run, my journey through Hell, and ultimately God’s salvation,” Roberts told Taste of Country.

So how did she end up working with Beyoncé on “Blackbiird”? In February, after Bey released two “Cowboy Carter” tracks — “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” — Roberts’ fans began tagging Beyoncé’s Instagram handle on a clip of Roberts.

“Thank you to everyone who tagged her in my videos and comments yall made this happen,” Roberts posted on Friday. “This is literally a dream come true. I will remember this day forever!” 

And as Roberts recently told Complex about Black women in the country music scene, “We’ve been here, but I’m thankful that people are seeing us for the first time and are actually taking the time to listen to us.”