‘Old Town Road’ sparks controversy over genre



“Old Town Road (Remix)” blends trap and country beats that made the song an almost instant success.

Rosa Esposito, Staff Writer

Lil Nas X, a rapper, singer and songwriter hailing from Atlanta has rapidly risen to fame since the release of his unique and catchy “country-trap” single “Old Town Road.”

Although “Old Town Road” was released in December, the song has experienced a recent rebirth in part to the “Yeehaw Challenge” on the popular app TikTok.

Capitalizing on its success, Lil Nas X released a remixed version of the song featuring country artist Billy Ray Cyrus on April 5. It currently tops the iTunes and Billboard Hot 100 charts.

The song’s success is not without controversy. “Old Town Road” originally appeared on both Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart and its Hot Country Songs chart. However, Billboard removed the song from the country chart a week after its debut.

Billboard released a statement to Rolling Stone magazine regarding its decision to remove the song from its country chart, saying that it “does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard’s country charts.”

“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,” Billboard said.

Listeners as well as artists are divided as to whether the song should be considered country at all since the beat leans toward hip- hop. The lyrics and sounds lean more country, but some argue that mentioning horses in the song is not enough for it to be considered country.

Others claim that the inclusion of Cyrus in the remix causes it to lean more country. Despite the song’s removal from the country charts, the controversy has made the song even more successful.

This is not the first time that the line between country and other genres has been blurred. Recent events have caused many to wonder if Billboard should broaden its horizons by creating additional charts in order to be more inclusive of songs that mix genres.

Although Billboard denies that Lil Nas X’s race played a part in its decision, it led many to believe that the decision was based upon a black man disrupting a predominantly Caucasian genre. There is also a tendency for the country charts to not recognize rappers.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding “Old Town Road,” it has a deeper meaning than most would expect. In an interview with The New York Times, Lil Nas X explained that he was in an uncertain and challenging part of his life where he “felt like a loner cowboy.”

“I wanted to take my horse to the Old Town Road and run away. The horse is like a car. The Old Town Road, it’s like a path to success.Inthefirstverse,Ipack up, ready to go,” Lil Nas X said.

Amid the controversy, there is still an important question that hasn’t been answered: is it imperative to confine a song to one specific genre, especially when music has evolved and gravitated so far away from what was once considered “the norm?” It might be up to the listener to decide.

“Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus is now available to purchase and stream.