When Beyoncé released Lemonade this spring, a silly debate kicked off: did her song “Daddy Lessons” count as country music? The answer was obvious (duh) and it was buttressed by support from her fellow iconoclastic Texans the Dixie Chicks, who began playing the song every night on their 2016 world tour. Still, there were those who argued that Beyoncé didn’t belong in the country world, to which she responded by headlining the Super Bowl, the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and—as of last night—the Country Music Awards, all in one year.
Don’t mess with Queen Bey, in other words. The most passionate and enthusiastic members of the BeyHive, the Dixie Chicks, supported her last night during that CMA appearance, jamming out “Daddy Lessons” for a full-band take on the rollicking Lemonade jam while she and the band intoned the words “Texas” one after another.
It was an uptempo moment during a ballad-laden CMA broadcast, and there was something especially joyful in seeing that come from Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks—two acts who, frankly, would have seemed like an unlikely choice for a marquee showcase at the CMAs back in, say, 2004. It’s an alliance that makes sense, though, with Beyoncé an ultimate outsider in country music, despite her Texas roots, and the Dixie Chicks only recently returned from the exile that was imposed on them for denouncing the president of the United States in the lead-up to the Iraq War. (Meanwhile, the GOP presidential nominee has argued that, despite what he said at the time, he opposed the war as stridently as the Dixie Chicks did.)
The performance incorporated parts of the Chicks’ own “Long Time Gone”—a hit from their pre-exile era—which felt like a nod to a country audience that may not have been entirely ready for the force of nature that is Beyoncé on their big night. But it was served up on the group’s own terms, a further reminder that the Dixie Chicks seem quite happy to have a place in country music these days, but that they are not particularly concerned with making anyone other than themselves happy with the way that plays out. That Beyoncé was in their corner for that moment serves as yet another reminder (as if we needed it) that you don’t mess with Texas women.