Get Ready for Beyoncé’s ‘Act II’ With Our Queer Country Playlist

Are you ready to giddy up? Last month, Beyoncé’s announcement of Act II: Cowboy Carter, the second installment in her three-act Renaissance cycle, immediately marked a cultural vibe shift from the club to the saloon.

Although the lines between pop and country have long been blurred, Bey’s entry into the yee-haw canon has decidedly cemented the genre in the mainstream, bringing new fans into the fold. Her second single from the record, “Texas Hold ’Em,” hit the top of the country music charts — not only a first for Beyoncé but for any Black woman.

Renaissance itself was lauded as a joyous love letter to Black queer culture, featuring collaborations with mainstays like Big Freedia and Honey Dijon, which might make this pivot feel harsh at first blush. To an outside observer, house music may seem like an inherently queerer genre than country. But Black artists, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized creators have been absolutely integral to the shaping of country and Americana, too, and we’re here to prove it. Our playlist below contains some of the best twangy, boot-stomping, and yodeling tracks that queer country artists past and present have to offer.

Queer country pioneers Lavender Country released their self-titled debut in 1973 featuring their infamous song, “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.” The song is more than just a provocative title, with lyrics speaking to the oppression of queer people living under heteronormative and patriarchal systems. Dating even further back on our playlist is “Prove It on Me Blues” performed by Ma Rainey. Released in 1928, a bold Rainey sings about losing the woman she was with the night before, with lyrics that are unambiguously gay: “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends / They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like no men.”

Our playlist, curated by myself and staff writer James Factora, also features late ’80s sapphic classics like “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls (recently repopularized by the Barbie movie) and k.d. lang’s “Western Stars.” And while Tracy Chapman has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to Luke Combs’ cover of her understated folk hit “Fast Car,” her blues-rock chart topper “Give Me One Reason,” is similarly ripe for rediscovery. More recently, artists like Lil Nas X, Hurray For the Riff Raff, and Big Thief have all reshaped the sound of modern country by using its sonic palette as a jumping-off point for genre-bending tracks with queer heart at their center.