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Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ took over the country charts. Here’s what happens when it comes on in country bars.

In Entertainment
April 03, 2024

Plenty of songs get people dancing on social media, but one of Beyoncé’s new tracks has people tapping their boots in real-life honky-tonks and country-western bars.

The buzz surrounding her new album, Cowboy Carter, contributed to a resurgence of western style in pop culture. One of its two lead singles, “Texas Hold ’Em,” spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. Notably, the song made Beyoncé the first Black woman to have a single hit No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart.

It was initially unclear if the song would be accepted as a true “country” tune. An Oklahoma radio station refused a request to play “Texas Hold ’Em,” sparking conversation about how Black artists are excluded from the genre. A petition calling for country stations to play the song garnered more than 28,000 signatures within a month.

Beyoncé is from Texas and grew up heavily influenced by western culture. She wrote in an Instagram post that she did an even deeper dive into the genre after she didn’t feel “welcomed.”

Now that her new wave of country music is out in the world, many country bars have welcomed it with open arms. They’re not just playing “Texas Hold ’Em” — they’re encouraging people to learn or perform country-western dances set to the song as a group, cementing it as part of the communal cultural experience.

Ingu Yun, co-founder of Sundance Saloon, told Yahoo Entertainment that patrons fill the floor of the San Francisco LGBTQ dance club when they’re invited to two-step to it.

Two-stepping requires a partner, while line dancing is done by individuals arranged in a line. What makes a song better for one style of dance over another can vary based on location and personal taste.

“We were a bit disappointed with Beyoncé’s full album release. Most of the tracks don’t work for country-western dancing,” Yun said. He added that they’re still two-stepping to her rendition of “Jolene” and doing West Coast swing to her new song “Bodyguard.”

Yun explained that Beyoncé’s 2016 country song “Daddy Lessons” is great for two-stepping or swing, and at Sundance Saloon it might even be more popular than “Texas Hold ’Em.”

“Texas Hold ’Em” has been getting a lot of buzz — it has been one of the most popular songs on TikTok since its surprise release during the Super Bowl. Creators rushed to choreograph an iconic dance for the song, but there were so many popular videos with over 1 million views that none of them emerged on top as the dance.

“Unfortunately if you learn a ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ line dance at one location, if you go to a different club, chances are it will be a completely different dance,” Yun said.

Rather than calling people to fill the dance floor for a uniform group dance performance, “Texas Hold ’Em” inspires individuals to put their own country-western spin on the choreography.

Nolan McCarthy, social media manager for the Brickette Lounge in West Chester, Pa., told Yahoo Entertainment that the honky-tonk’s instructor began teaching a line dance to “Texas Hold ’Em” shortly after it came out.

“Now that the full album is out, it’s been taking over our TouchTunes,” McCarthy said.

TouchTunes is a modern take on a jukebox that allows patrons to pay to play music in a venue from an app on their phones. According to data from 65,000 bars across the U.S. that TouchTunes shared with Yahoo Entertainment, March 2024 was Beyoncé’s most successful month on the platform to date. “Texas Hold ’Em” is her most popular song of the year and constitutes 32% of all her song plays on the app. People aren’t just listening to Beyoncé’s biggest country song — they’re making other people listen to it too.

It might take a while for the song to catch on with some of the more historic venues with stricter rules about what songs are played. B.T. Hale, who runs marketing for Cowboys Red River, a dance hall in Dallas, told Yahoo Entertainment that it doesn’t take requests, and “Texas Hold ’Em” sounds like more of a line dancing song to him than the two-step that’s popular with its patrons.

Amanda Banda, director of marketing for Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, told Yahoo Entertainment she hasn’t noticed the song played “more or less than any other new country song,” though the young bar staff enjoys it. The honky-tonk is located in the Stockyards, a historic district that preserves Wild West culture. Amid cattle drives and cowboy hats, Banda said she’d love to see “Texas Hold ’Em” line dances on the bar’s historic dance floor.

Beyoncé’s song topped country charts and made its way into country bars, but she isn’t planning on acceding to the genre’s expectations. As she said herself on Instagram, “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.”

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