At last year’s CMA Awards, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake performed the country-soul collaboration heard around the world: versions of “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” so righteous that the bearded singer became a household name and the awards show, celebrating its 50th anniversary tonight, faced the seemingly impossible task of topping it. Solution: Beyoncé, because Beyoncé is always a good answer, alongside the Dixie Chicks. Together, they performed Queen Bey’s “Daddy Lessons.” Clad in a stunning gown and flanked by the Chicks, Beyoncé proved why she transcends genre altogether – and why the onetime super trio is sorely missed on the awards show circuit.
The collaboration was meant to be: the Dixie Chicks worked an acoustic version of “Daddy Lessons” into their at set at stops on their DCX MMXVI tour this year, and neither the Chicks nor Beyoncé are exactly “insiders” when it comes to Nashville (particularly since Natalie Maines’ famous anti-George W. Bush comments in 2003). Lacing in bits of their own hit “Long Time Gone,” the Chicks added more country orchestration to the deeply original “Daddy Lessons,” and it fit perfectly with Beyoncé’s unparalleled pipes.
“Daddy Lessons,” from Beyoncé’s 2016 surprise release Lemonade, disappointed some members of the BeyHive when it failed to be nominated for Song of the Year at tonight’s awards: it also spurred lengthy discussions as to whether or not the horn-laced, R&B incarnation of a murder ballad actually qualified as “country.” Wherever you fall on the “is it or isn’t it scale,” the track is undeniably connected to Nashville’s narrative tradition with its vivid storytelling and roots in American folk – the connective tissue between so many genres on all sides of the Mason Dixon. Leave it to the Queen herself to rule above it all.