The 50th annual Country Music Association Awards were held Wednesday night in Nashville, and the opening act was a surprise performance from Beyoncé, who joined the Dixie Chicks for a rousing rendition of “Daddy Lessons,” from Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. It’s Beyoncé’s first appearance at the awards—although “Daddy Lessons” is unmistakably country, it was greeted with ambivalence by country music fans and the country establishment, as Sam Adams reported for Slate.
Indeed, a visit to the CMA’s Facebook page reveals plenty of fans complaining about Beyoncé’s appearance—and they’re not too happy about the Dixie Chicks either. It’s not as though Beyoncé is the first pop star to play the awards show—just last year Justin Timberlake stopped by to perform with Chris Stapleton—but musical purity isn’t really the issue. One user explained: “One doesn’t believe in America and our police force and the other didn’t support our President and veterans during war.” It seems like they just want the Country Music Association to return to its apolitical roots: honoring Lee Greenwood, applauding for George Bush’s Desert Storm jokes, and making mix tapes for Nixon.
But right-wing sourpusses aside, it was an excellent performance. Beyoncé, in pearls and a translucent white dress, traded verses with Natalie Maines, who, along with the other Dixie Chicks, wore black. Their performance of “Daddy Lessons” took its structure from the version the Dixie Chicks have been performing live, breaking into a major key for a few lines from “Long Time Gone” before heading back to the chorus. But the arrangement was heavier on horns than the previous versions (heavy horns, too—when’s the last time a baritone saxophone made an awards show appearance?) and a lot more raucous. Immediately after the show, the Dixie Chicks and Beyoncé made a studio recording of their collaboration available online as a free download. Check it out below: