UNC Greensboro alumna Rhiannon Giddens is featured on the lead single of Beyoncé’s upcoming album.
“I woke up surprised to find that some tracks that I recorded for a very secret project two years ago finally dropped last night (during a SUPERBOWL commercial) – the secret project was Beyoncé’s first lead single off her new country-inspired record,” wrote Giddens in a Facebook post.
Beyoncé teased new music during a Verizon Super Bowl commercial on Sunday and then released two new songs, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” from her upcoming studio album. The album, known as “Act II,” will be released on March 29, 2024 and is a country sequel to Beyoncé’s 2022 house/dance album “Renaissance.” Giddens is featured on the lead single “Texas Hold ‘Em.”
“The beginning is 12 seconds of my minstrel banjo – and my only hope is that it might lead a few more intrepid folks into the exciting history of the banjo,” writes Giddens. “I used to say many times as soon as Beyoncé puts the banjo on a track my job is done. Well, I didn’t expect the banjo to be mine, and I know darn well my job isn’t done.”
Giddens focuses her work on lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have been overlooked or erased and advocating for a better understanding of country music’s origins. She studied as a music graduate student at UNCG and is the recipient of two Grammy awards, is a MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, and, in 2023, won a Pulitzer Prize for her and Michael Abel’s opera “Omar.”
She keeps her strong ties to Greensboro and North Carolina. In December 2020, Giddens received an honorary doctorate from UNCG and addressed the graduating class during the virtual ceremony as the UNCG commencement speaker. Her show “My Music with Rhiannon Giddens” airs on PBS, with the first episode featuring her sister and UNCG faculty member Dr. Lalenja Harrington.
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane