- 09 Apr 19
It’s a very happy birthday indeed for rising star Lil Nas X – the now 20-year-old Georgia native has officially hit No. 1 on the Billboard Music Charts with ‘Old Town Road (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) [Remix].'
The achievement comes after the single’s tumultuous journey through the online and mainstream music worlds. Written after Lil Nas X left college to pursue a career in rap, the song was initially released in December 2018 as ‘Old Town Road (I Got Horses in the Back)’ to overwhelming viral success, spurring its very own craze on the video app TikTok and thousands upon thousands of social media memes.
‘Old Town Road’ is more than country and more than rap, even sampling Nine Inch Nails’s ’34 Ghosts IV’ and earning band members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross their first credit on a No. 1 tune. The original version of the song shot to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot Country chart before it was removed, with Billboard justifying its actions by claiming that the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
Billboard later added that a song’s placement within chart categories “depends on a number of factors, most notably the song’s musical composition, but also how the song is marketed and promoted, the musical history of the artist, airplay the song receives and how the song is platformed on streaming services.”
In a flurry of controversy, many rushed to examine Billboard’s seemingly narrow definition of the country genre, defending Lil Nas X’s single and accusing the brand of bias.
Here’s where Cyrus comes in. On 5 April, he wrote in a tweet:
“It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time. I was thinking, what’s not country about it? What’s the rudimentary element of a country and western song? Then I thought, it’s honest, humble, and has an infectious hook, and a banjo. What the hell more do ya need?”
The same day, the duo dropped their remix of the track, which now includes Cyrus’s vocals. The song has unseated Ariana Grande’s ‘7 Rings’ as the No. 1 song on Billboard’s charts, climbed to No. 1 on the iTunes and Shazam charts and received a wide range of social media shout-outs from brands like Complex Music and Cartoon Network.
Where will the ‘Old Town Road’ lead next? We’ll just have to follow Lil Nas X on his meteoric rise to find out.
Listen to the chart-topping remix and its predecessor below.