EletiofeWhy Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ Has Taken Over TikTok

Why Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ Has Taken Over TikTok

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In her delightfully cheeky Verizon Super Bowl commercial, Beyoncé swore to do one thing: Break the internet. As the commercial demonstrated, she could not—at least not in the literal sense. Instead, after the commercial ended, she did something else: She hacked the internet, dropping two new songs, “Texas Hold ’Em” and “16 Carriages,” the former of which is already on its way to becoming TikTok’s viral dance song of the year.

This was always going to happen. Pretty much everything Beyoncé does—every album drop, every outfit—goes viral. That’s why her Verizon commercial didn’t look like a shallow attempt to astroturf hype. Moreover, “Texas Hold ’Em” is a big pop-country crossover track, and its rapid banjo riffs (from maestro Rhiannon Giddens) and lyrics about whiskey and taking it to the floor are perfect for line dancing. Line dances, which lend themselves to fun mimicry and interpretation, naturally do well on social platforms. It would have been weirder if TikTok hadn’t been flooded with new dances in the week after the song dropped. (If you’re looking for the video that best exemplifies this trend, check out this chart-topper from performers Matt McCall and Dexter Mayfield and then just follow the sound on down, down, down.)

Inevitability, though, isn’t the whole reason “Texas Hold ’Em” is currently the backing track to nearly 134,000 videos with millions of collective views. The song is boot-scootin’ its way onto TikTok at a time when a lot of music has been muted on the platform following a dustup between TikTok and Universal Music Group.

Back in January, after the two companies failed to come to terms on a licensing agreement for UMG music, the massive record company pulled songs that it owns the rights to from TikTok, including cuts from artists like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. That means any video using music from those artists now plays without sound. Beyoncé’s music is distributed by Columbia/Sony, a UMG rival, so “Texas Hold ’Em” now sits at Number 5 on TikTok’s Viral 50 list.

Now, like a shiny holographic disco horse, Beyoncé is atop the social web. When she announced her new album, Act II, and dropped “Texas Hold ’Em” and “16 Carriages,” the internet was in a tizzy about the fact that Beyoncé was making what appeared to be a whole country album, a continuation of the country-infused “Daddy Lessons” from 2016’s Lemonade. (“She coming to put the cunt in country!!” went the replies on the @BeyLegion X account. “‘Daddy Lessons’ reloaded!” went another.)

On Tuesday, “Texas Hold ’Em” made Beyoncé the first Black woman to debut at number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The song has currently been streamed nearly 20 million times.

TikTok sounds don’t count toward Billboard chart rankings, but there is no doubt that viral dances create the kind of hype that leads to song streams, album sales, and radio play. Beyoncé has no control over the TikTok/UMG situation (probably), and she had no way of knowing whether their licensing dispute would still be ongoing when her new music dropped (again, probably), but its existence has paved the way for her new song to be one of the biggest things happening with music on the platform right now. No doubt it would’ve hit these heights regardless, but with less competition, there’s nothing holding it back.

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