Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

News

Hear From the 4 Black Country Women on Beyoncé’s ‘Blackbiird’: ‘We Were Having a Little Destiny’s Child Moment’

When Beyoncé released her Cowboy Carter album on Friday (March 29), the second in a trilogy of albums following 2022’s Renaissance, one of the immediate standouts from the country music-influenced project was a lush, harmony-stacked version of The Beatles’ classic “Blackbird” (stylized as “Blackbiird” on the album).

Explore

See latest videos, charts and news

See latest videos, charts and news

Beyoncé’s lilting, gentle singing on the spare arrangement is accompanied by gorgeous, soaring backing vocals from a collective of rising Black female country artists — Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts and Brittney Spencer — whose profiles are already rising less than 24 hours since the album came out.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Kennedy, who also provides background harmonies on the Cowboy Carter track “Tyrant,” as do Spencer and Roberts. Of “Blackbiird,” she says, “It was so beautiful. It feels like we were having a little Destiny’s Child moment. To get to share that moment with them on such an important song, with Beyoncé, is cool.”

Paul McCartney, with contributions from John Lennon, wrote the original song as a tribute to the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students who in 1957 endured racial discrimination after enrolling at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. McCartney told GQ in 2018 that according to slang used in England in the 1960s, “A bird is a girl, so I was thinking of a Black girl going through this – you know, now is your time to arise, set yourself free, and take these broken wings.”

The women did not know that their song had made the final cut until Beyoncé released the track list on Wednesday and did not hear the recording until the album was released first thing Friday.

“I posted some pictures of me [on social media] seeing the track list for the first time,” says Adell — who, like the other women, added that her phone has been ringing off the hook all day. “I was waiting along with the rest of the world. You never know, right? Things change all the time. So to see my name on that track list was just as much of a gasp moment [for me] as it was for everybody else, I promise.”

The women, who recorded their four parts together without Beyoncé in the studio, are prohibited from sharing specifics about how they became involved with the record or the actual recording process. There is so much privacy around the project that Adell could not answer if she had already recorded the song by the time she posted this message to Instagram on Feb. 11: “As one of the only Black girls in the country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic for a collab.”

Kennedy says she heard the final version of “Blackbiird” the same time as the rest of the world, when the album came out at midnight. “It was crazy emotional hearing it for the first time,” she says. “I was bawling. Hearing my voice for the first time on that song and seeing my name, I’m still trying to process it. I dreamed that this would happen, but I never imagined.”

While Beyoncé sings lead on the majority of the track, Kennedy’s lead vocal can be heard as the song draws to a close, on lines including “Take these wings and learn to fly.”

“I get choked up every time thinking about it,” Kennedy says. “I’ve been in Nashville almost eight years, and there have been a lot of highs but a lot of lows, and sometimes you do feel broken. Being on the Beyoncé album, I feel like I’m soaring.”

“When I heard it, I thought it was so beautiful,” adds Spencer. “We hear it when we’re recording, but to hear the finished mix and the master, it’s really overwhelming. I listened to it with the ears of a fan.”

Though the four women were aware of each other and some of them are close friends, the quartet had never sung together and did not know how stunning their vocals would sound together. “It’s amazing just to hear the blend of all of our voices together and just how impactful it is — the fact that Beyoncé is lifting all of our voices simultaneously and taking it to the next level,” Roberts says. “I’ve been listening to it kind of nonstop, but it was definitely crazy to hear all of us together. It just sounded so beautiful, angelic and powerful.”

Adell, who also sings on the album’s  “Ameriican Requiem,” says her father’s favorite song is The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” so even though it came out long before she was born, she was very familiar with the song and its message. “It’s a powerful statement to have four Black country females on this track accompanying Beyoncé. … I’m grateful for Beyoncé to shed some light on other country artists like myself.”

To the women, Beyoncé — whose Cowboy Carter lead single “Texas Hold ‘Em” stands at No. 35 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and has spent six weeks atop Hot Country Songs — has long served as a paragon of possibilities and hope, even in a genre where they feel they are often swimming upstream, both as women and women of color.

“Beyoncé has always been my biggest inspiration and I’m just so thankful, because I feel like to hear all of us on her song, it just shows that she believes in us and that is so empowering,” Roberts says. “I’m still in awe of the fact that my favorite artist in the world that has shaped my music, my art and my vision is now uplifting me.”

“I’ve adored Beyoncé for so long. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in Nashville and would say to myself, ‘What would Beyoncé do?’ At times when things felt really hard or when I wanted to elevate my thinking or feel better, there’s so many times where she’s just been a beacon of light in my life personally,” Spencer says. “Just being on a record with her, I just never thought that would happen and so it’s really beautiful.”

Each of the women is already making inroads on their own.

Alabama native Kennedy, who hosts Apple Music’s The Tiera Show, has released songs including “Jesus, My Mama, and Therapy.” The former Valory/Big Machine artist also performed in a tribute to Shania Twain at the 2022 ACM Honors and appeared in Dolly Parton’s music video for “Peace Like a River.”

Tiera Kennedy at the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards from Ford Center at The Star on May 11, 2023 in Frisco, Texas

Tiera Kennedy at the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards from Ford Center at The Star on May 11, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.

Michael Buckner/Penske Media via Getty Images

Adell broke through with her debut single “Honky Tonk Heartbreak.” She followed with “FU-150,” “I Hate Texas” and “Buckle Bunny,” all included on her 2023 Columbia Records EP Buckle Bunny, a mesh of country, rock, hip-hop and R&B sounds. She has since parted with Columbia. Both her and Roberts’ songs saw an immediate increase in streaming after “Texas Hold ‘Em” was released.

Tanner Adell

Tanner Adell performs onstage for the 3rd Annual “BRELAND & Friends” benefit for the Oasis Center at Ryman Auditorium on March 26, 2024 in Nashville.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends

Elektra artist Spencer first garnered attention in 2021 after she covered “Crowded Table” from The Highwomen, who have invited her on tour with them. Spencer released her debut full-length album, My Stupid Life, earlier this year. 

Brittney Spencer

Brittney Spencer

Jimmy Fontaine

Roberts released her debut album Bad Girl Bible, Vol. 1 last year and has opened concerts for Reba McEntire. ESPN has used her tracks “Stomping Grounds” and “Countdown to Victory” on Monday Night Football.

Reyna Roberts

Reyna Roberts

Mark Gonzales

Spencer hopes their participation — and Beyoncé’s support of new Black country artists (Willie Jones and Shaboozey are featured on other songs on the album) — sends a message to the country community and its lack of diversity.

“I don’t know what exactly her intention is, but I think we can all assume that it’s a good one,” Spencer says. “She’s definitely made a statement, and I think she’s paying attention and she cares about what’s happening and she cares about Black country music. It’s powerful to watch. She’s the biggest artist in the world and she’s seeing what’s happening. To me, that says a few things: It says that the state of what’s going on is actually way more dire than I think people give it credit for. When I talk about that, I talk about, just honestly, the bigotry of this town. I think the world is watching. I think she’s making a statement. If anybody can get people’s attention in Nashville, I think it might be Beyoncé, and she’s done it in her own way. And it’s brilliant.”

Kennedy praises Beyoncé’s inclusion of country legends as well. “I think it is so beautiful what she has done with this album — the collabs with Willie [Nelson], Dolly [Parton] and Linda Martell and for her to give a spotlight to up-and-coming artists like me, I have no words,” she says. “I’m so thankful to her for giving us this spotlight, and I intend to keep shining that spotlight on other artists. There are so many amazing artists in country music who have been working so hard. There are so many different sounds in country music — hip-hop country, R&B country like I sing, Latin country — and she’s brought this entire audience to country music.”

For Roberts, her participation is a sweet victory of another sort. “I actually sang [‘Blackbird’] in middle school, and I remember auditioning for a solo and I did not get it,” she says, with a laugh. “It’s full-circle, because I definitely got it now.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

News

The 2024 inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will be announced live coast-to-coast during a Rock Hall-themed episode of American Idol...

News

Five of late reggae icon Bob Marley‘s musical scions announced their first joint tour in nearly 20 years on Monday (April 15), an outing...

News

Drake has long been able to leverage social media to his advantage when it comes to trolling and Metro Boomin is his latest victim....

News

As far as birthday serenades go, having Mariah Carey sing for you is pretty hard to beat. Da Brat knows this first-hand after the...