We are watching pop-chart history unfold. Right now, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ singular country-rap crossover “Old Town Road” has been the #1 song in America for the past 14 weeks. If it makes it two more weeks, “Old Town Road” will tie two different songs — Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” — as the longest-reigning #1 single of all time. In the past 14 weeks, a whole lot of new singles from a whole lot of big-name stars have come out, doing their best to challenge “Old Town Road.” They have all failed. And now Lil Nas X has unveiled a new “Old Town Road” remix, which seems designed to keep the song atop the charts for at least another week.
The new “Old Town Road” still has Billy Ray Cyrus, and it also features a fascinating pair of additions. Young Thug, the freaky Atlanta rap cackler, has now joined up on “Old Town Road.” Thug seems like a leftfield choice here, but he makes sense. Thug, like Lil Nas X, comes from Atlanta. Before Lil Nas X came out as queer, Thug was pushing rap’s gender norms, wearing a dress on an album cover. And with his 2017 album Beautiful Thugger Girls, Thug helped pioneer rap’s recent fascination with cowboy aesthetics. On the new “Old Town Road” remix, he and Lil Nas X trade off verses, and there’s a nice complementary high/low balance to their interplay.
The other new guest is Mason Ramsey, the yodeling kid. Last year, Ramsey, an 11-year-old kid from one of the more remote regions of Illinois, sang a Hank Williams song in a Wal-Mart aisle. Video of Ramsey singing went viral, and he quickly signed a label deal, released a single, and met Justin Bieber at Coachella. These days, he’s just starting to carve out an actual country-music career. So he’s an ultra-country child with experience in virality, and that makes him weirdly perfect for “Old Town Road.” On the remix, he sings a quick verse in that Billy Ray Cyrus cadence, and he sounds pretty good!
There’s a whole context for this thing. It’s a chess game. For weeks, Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” has been stuck behind “Old Town Road” at #2. Yesterday, Justin Bieber showed up on a “Bad Guy” remix. That remix doesn’t really work musically, but it has an inherent fascination to it. Eilish’s label is clearly pushing for “Bad Guy” to finally conquer “Old Town Road” and make it to #1. So this new “Old Town Road” remix might exist for its own reasons — Lil Nas X is, if nothing else, a savvy internet operator. But the timing of the release suggests that it’s the response to Billie Eilish’s move. This story is a whole lot of fun, and so is the new “Old Town Road” remix. Check it out below.
The new “Old Town Remix” is out now on all the streaming platforms.