Is “Old Town Road” a country song? This has been a contentious question throughout the song’s historically dominant run. Back when Lil Nas X’s viral smash was making its way up the charts, the song became a cause célèbre when Billboard removed it from the country chart on the grounds that it did not sufficiently line up with the sound of country music today. The argument was that it’s a rap song that plays around with country tropes, not a pure hybrid of the genres. Lil Nas X responded by getting Billy Ray Cyrus on a remix, which underlined the track’s country bona fides became the definitive version of “Old Town Road.”
In the interim, “Old Town Road” has become one of the biggest singles in popular music history, a juggernaut the likes of which we rarely see. Last week it tied the record for most weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, matching the 16-week runs of Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito.” It seems extremely likely to set a new record today and become the longest tenured #1 single of all time.
One way Lil Nas X worked to keep “Old Town Road” on top was releasing remixes with new, disparate collaborators at strategic moments. Most importantly, just after Billie Eilish shared her “Bad Guy” remix with Justin Bieber in an attempt to surge past “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X unveiled a version of “Old Town Road” featuring Cyrus, Young Thug, and Mason Ramsey, the preteen country singer who went viral yodeling in a Walmart and has since been subsumed into the music industry.
OK, so: This past Saturday, Cyrus played Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, the most famous venue in country music. During his performance, he did “Old Town Road,” and Ramsey joined him. It sounds like a country song to me! Also present was Billy Ray’s daughter Miley, who posted video of herself singing “Old Town Road” with Ramsey backstage. Check out footage of all that below.
— Billy Ray Cyrus (@billyraycyrus) July 28, 2019