‘Old Town Road’s’ Rise and Fall on the Charts


Cartoon by Aaron Sha

Lil Nas X’s addition of Billy Ray Cyrus to his newly released remix of “Old Town Road” sent a clear message to the Country Billboard Charts about its legitimacy as a country song.

Aaron Sha and Nicholas Hung

Rising American rapper, singer and songwriter Montero Lamar Hill, also known as Lil Nas X, released his hit single “Old Town Road,” in December 2018. The genre-bending song quickly became a national sensation due to its exposure on social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok.

“Old Town Road” brings a clever blend of traditional and contemporary music styles, incorporating aspects of country music such as the Southern drawl in vocals as well as instruments such as banjos and country guitars, all fused with a straightforward trap/hip hop genre beat in its production, setting it apart from all other country songs. Such a mixture allows the song to be catchy without losing the integrity of its genre. Its somewhat comedic lyrics also tie together both the “cowboy” nature of country songs as well as modern trap culture references.

However, as it climbed the Country Charts, the Billboard publication announced on March 27 that the song would be removed, immediately sparking immense disapproval from its loyal listeners. Critics have been quick to point out that the removal might carry racial undertones.

“It was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard’s country charts,” Billboard said in a statement to Rolling Stone at the time of the removal. “While ‘Old Town Road’ incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

In response to his song’s removal, X released a remix of the song, featuring well-known country artist Billy Ray Cyrus. The remix is currently the most streamed song in America, holding number one on the Top 100 charts for the second week as of April 8.

Ironically, the heated discussion about the song’s removal has fueled its popularity and attracted even more listeners, surpassing the streaming record previously set by hip hop artist Drake with an unprecedented 143 million streams in the United States, according to Highsnobiety.

Old Town Road was a hit”

— Lil Nas X