At first, I thought this story was going to be about all of the salty white tears from the Country Music Association, but as the story unfolded throughout the day and evening on Thursday, I don’t think the CMAs are completely (or even partially) to blame. Here’s what we know for sure: Beyonce and the CMAs thought it would be a great idea for Bey to perform “Daddy Lessons” at Wednesday night’s Country Music Awards in Nashville. “Daddy Lessons” is the most “country” song on Bey’s Lemonade, and it was honestly the best performance of the night. Beyonce performed with the Dixie Chicks – who returned to the CMAs after a long absence, following their George W. Bush controversy in 2003 – and it was reportedly the highest-rated and most-watched moment of the CMAs.
The CMA producers should have been beyond pleased that Beyonce deigned to show up at their awards show. They should have been pleased that she and the Dixie Chicks rehearsed like hell and delivered the best-sounding performance of the night. But then people noticed that the official CMA site and the official CMA Twitter had scrubbed any mention of Beyonce, even deleting at least two previously published videos and tweets. TMZ theorized that the Country Music Association was trying to do damage control online after their posts about Beyonce got a lot of racist comments and comments about how Beyonce “hates the police.” TMZ’s sources claimed that the CMA people just wanted the whole mess to “go away” and that they regretted having Bey and the Dixie Chicks perform. But! The New York Times published this:
In an interview, Sarah Trahern, the chief executive of the Country Music Association, acknowledged the strong reactions on both sides but denied that any nefarious deleting had taken place. The initial promotional clip teasing Beyoncé’s performance was removed on Wednesday, before the performance, at the request of the singer, she said. (Representatives for Beyoncé did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“Beyoncé’s team hadn’t approved that, so we pulled it down,” Ms. Trahern said of the teaser. “Fans can get kind of passionate and read other things into it.”
As for the minimal after-the-fact documentation of the suddenly controversial performance on the show’s social media channels, Ms. Trahern said that Beyoncé, who is known to be vigilant about her image, provided her own photographer — pictures are available at Beyonce.com — and that the singer’s team had only approved one official live video of the song on ABC.com. (After the show, Beyoncé also released an alternate version of “Daddy Lessons” online — “If we all turn this up really loud, together we can drown out the hate,” the Dixie Chicks tweeted — as well as a stand-alone video for the song from her “Lemonade” film.)
“We stand by it,” Ms. Trahern said of Beyoncé’s performance, noting that the C.M.A.s had received not only spirited online comments but phone calls — both positive and negative — from viewers. “If a program moves people so much one way or another, I think we’ve had a successful show. We believe in free speech and people can post what they’re going to post. It’s about the music, not about politics.”
So, while there were definitely some salty white tears being shed in general, the CMA pull-down of Beyonce-related stuff was a combination of factors, like Beyonce’s hyper-vigilant image-maintenance and the CMAs actually trying to protect Beyonce a little bit, I would think. If you were in charge of a music awards show and people online started having racist hissy fits about one of the performers, would you try to protect the talent by deleting those posts? Still, the Beyhive was on top of everything – they were flooding the CMAs’ social media with bee and lemon emojis, because of course.
Also: Beyonce brought her own photographer??? That’s why there are photos of Beyonce in a different dress after the performance, but the photos are only available on Bey’s social media. Think of how crazy her image-control really is, peeps.
Last thing: Beyonce is reportedly going to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Ohio today. She and Jay-Z are doing a concert at Cleveland State University. Good.
— Natalie Maines (@1NatalieMaines) November 3, 2016
Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.