Midway through Beyoncé's Lemonade, the tone changes. The grinding beats and synth drops are replaced by horns, clapping, and a heavy dose of twang. Here is "Daddy Lessons," a country song for pop music listeners. Her Majesty Queen Bey rules all genres.
With strong elements of folk and soul, this addictive track—which debuted at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart—isn't cut-and-dry country music. Nevertheless, for many devoted Beyoncé fans, it's a gateway drug to previously unfamiliar category of music.
These 13 country songs don't all sound the same (nor do they sound exactly like "Daddy Lessons"), but we think you're gonna like them, a lot.
"We all like country music, don't we, girls?" Annie Pointer proclaims at the beginning of this 1974 performance. The Pointer Sisters' "Fairytale" is one of the most popular country songs performed by black women ever. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard charts, and contains true gems of lines like, "The way things have been / I think I'm better off alone than to be with you."
Mickey Guyton's May 2015 debut single does what the women of country music have been doing for decades: telling stories about men who have left and should stay gone. It's slower and more buttery than anything Beyoncé would perform, but its narrative ("I'm better than you left me / I'm better than I should be") has a lot in common with Lemonade.
In this video, Lindi Ortega tells the story of how she played a showcase for a room of suits in Los Angeles. When she finished singing, an "industry type" told her manager that "she's got potential, but I don't ever see her being legendary." Ortega has mastered the art of carefully executed country twang.
In 1969, Linda Martell became the first black woman to perform her music at the Grand Ole Opry. Like Beyoncé's "Daddy Lessons," this song isn't exactly pure country. "Color Him Father" is part gospel, part rhythm and blues, and all heart.
"We think the first time's good enough / So we hold on to high school love / So we don't end up like our parents," Musgraves sings in her Grammy-winning song "Merry Go 'Round." She's as Texas country as they come, but she's got an edge that most of modern country still hasn't quite figured out how to cultivate.
When Rissi Palmer's "Country Girl" hit No. 54 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2007, she became the first black woman to chart in the country genre since Donna Mason in 1987. To say that country hasn't exactly supported the careers of non-white performers would be an understatement. "Country Girl" is a little more country-pop than anything else on this list, but Palmer definitely deserves a listen.
This 1985 single by the Forester Sisters—which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart—is deep on twang and light in spirit. "Just in case you ever change your mind / If you suddenly decide to give me one more try / I'll be waiting in the wings / Just waiting for a sign" doesn't sound much like the furious woman scorned that Beyoncé embodies on "Daddy Lessons," but the song is still catchy as hell.
On "Daddy Lessons," Beyoncé sings about killing the man who cheated on her—infidelity being a major theme of Lemonade in general. Brandy Clark did the same on "Stripes," a 2013 single: "There's no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion / The only thing savin' your life/ Is that I don't look good in orange and I hate stripes."
Maren Morris, one of 2016's brightest young stars, has found a sweet spot between country spirit and anti-establishment vibes. In "My Church," Morris sings about how the radio is her only church: "I’ve cussed on a Sunday / I’ve cheated and I’ve lied / I’ve fallen down from grace/ A few too many times." There's something a little soulful and gospel about this country princess.
Mary Chapin Carpenter's 1991 hit "I Feel Lucky" mixes her honey alto voice with twinkling piano and electric guitar. Consider this chipper track a palate cleanser from the dark undertones heard in the rest of these songs.
Elle King's part-rock, part-country "America's Sweetheart" became a hit last fall. Its chorus contains peaks and valleys more thrilling than most recent work in either genre. King's almost gravely voice keeps this song from sounding too Top 40 even when its structure veers into that lane.
Alyssa Micaela's "Getaway Car" isn't available on YouTube, but that doesn't mean it's not worth your time. From the very first line of this song, Micaela's sass shines through: The song is about growing up country but wanting to leave that life. She sings, "One day I'll be ready to settle down / But right now all I want is to get out of this town."
With its thumping drum beat and Margo Price's sweet soprano voice, it's almost possible to ignore the fact that "Four Years of Chances" is a song about a marriage falling apart. "Ain't that just like a man / To change so fast / Because you want what you can't have," Price sings in the chorus, bringing a not-so-subtle reminder that female country artists have always loved singing songs about no-good cheaters—just like Beyoncé.
All 13 songs are available on Spotify and you can listen to them here:
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.