Country pioneer Linda Martell receives 127,430% streaming boost after featuring on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter

Country pioneer Linda Martell receives 127,430% streaming boost after featuring on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter

Country music pioneer Linda Martell has experienced a 127,430 per cent increase in streams of her music, after she featured on Beyoncé’s new album, Cowboy Carter.

Martell, 82, became the first Black woman to release a major country album thanks to her 1970 record, Color Me Country, but is often omitted from conversation despite the groundbreaking role she played.

That is, until last week, when she appeared twice on Beyoncé’s country-inspired eighth studio album, on the track “Spaghettii” and the interlude, “The Linda Martell Show”.

In both, Martell can be heard reflecting on the concept of “genre” in music. “Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?” she asks on “Spaghettii”.

“In theory, they have a simple definition that’s easy to understand, but in practice, well, some may feel confined.”

Her words speak to Beyoncé’s previous comments, and her creative approach to Cowboy Carter, that artists are often restricted by regressive attitudes towards genre. This is particularly pertinent for her latest work, which has received a backlash from certain figures in the notoriously insular country music scene.

Rolling Stone now reports that her collaboration with Martell has helped the latter achieve a huge uptick in streams, as fans old and new flock to her back catalogue.

Her song “Bad Case of the Blues” alone saw a 1,270 per cent jump in streams, while overall, she has experienced an increase of almost 127,430 per cent in streams of her music on Spotify.

The streaming giant said Martell also had a 1,145 per cent increase in first-time listeners over the weekend.

Martell, who was the first Black woman to perform at legendary Nashville venue the Grand Ole Opry, expressed her gratitude and pride for Beyoncé’s efforts in “exploring her country music roots”, in an Instagram post on Friday 29 March.

“What she is doing is beautiful, and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s Beyoncé, after all!” Martell wrote.

In 2021, Martell was honoured at the CMT Music Awards, in acknowledgement of the struggles she faced for much of her career. She frequently experienced racism while performing onstage and was shunned by the music industry as a mainstream country performer.

She also had her album shelved by her record label, and was prohibited from finding a new deal, causing her to ultimately leave country music. As well as performing in small clubs around the US, she also worked as an entertainer on cruise ships and later became a bus driver to earn a better living.

“No matter how good your performance was, no matter how well your record was doing, the color of the skin stopped you from working in a lot of great places,” Martell said in the 2005 documentary, Waiting in the Wings.

“A lot of the shows that I did was through a lot of pain. They loved to use the N-word (and say), ‘Go back where you belong. You don’t need to sing our kind of music.’ You’re trying to entertain and be called a name very, very loudly in a club or in an arena and try to get through the song without crying.

“You wonder how anybody can really be that cruel,” she continued. “A woman of color, if you go into country music — if the record stations don’t play you, you’re not going anywhere. Brace yourself. But don’t give up.”

Dolly Parton, whose hit song “Jolene” has also experienced a boost after Beyoncé shared her noticeably more menacing version on Cowboy Carter, with an 11,610 per cent increase in streams on Spotify.

After the album dropped, Parton wrote on Instagram: “Wow, I just heard ‘Jolene’. Beyoncé is giving that girl some trouble and she deserves it!”

Dolly Parton is a fan of Beyonce’s venture into country music (Getty)
Dolly Parton is a fan of Beyonce’s venture into country music (Getty)

On Beyoncé’s version, the pop megastar sings: “You’re beautiful beyond compare/ Takes more than beauty and seductive states/ To come between a family and a happy man/ Jolene, I’m a woman too/ The games you play are nothing new/ So you don’t want no heat with me, Jolene.”

An interlude from Parton herself before the song compares “Jolene” to “that hussy with the good hair you sing about”.

In a five-star review of the album for The Independent, Helen Brown wrote that Beyoncé drives “a coach and horses” through the racism and misogyny that has been prevalent in country music by “owning every country trope”.

Artwork for Beyonce’s album ‘Cowboy Carter’ (Parkwood Entertainment/PA Wire)
Artwork for Beyonce’s album ‘Cowboy Carter’ (Parkwood Entertainment/PA Wire)

“Throughout it all, Beyoncé’s hands are confidently and charismatically on the reins,” Brown said. “The righteous zeal of her mission, and the giddy range of sonic adventuring, repeatedly gave me chills I haven’t felt since the release of Lemonade.

“Back then she was fighting for her marriage. Now she’s fighting for a major culture shift. Throughout, she seeks to build bridges with the working men of the South, acknowledging their economic struggles.”

Cowboy Carter has continued to produce more surprises since its release last week; on Monday (1 April), Beyoncé revealed that Stevie Wonder is the harmonica player on “Jolene”, as he presented her with the Innovator Award at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.