Old Town Road

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"Old Town Road"
Old Town Road cover.jpg
Single by Lil Nas X
ReleasedDecember 3, 2018 (2018-12-03)
FormatDigital download
Recorded2018
Genre
Length1:53
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • YoungKio
  • Reznor
  • Ross
Lil Nas X singles chronology
"Old Town Road"
(2018)
"Sonic Shit"
(2019)
Visualizer
"Old Town Road" on YouTube

"Old Town Road" (also known as "Old Town Road (I Got the Horses in the Back)") is a song by American rapper Lil Nas X. It was initially released independently on December 3, 2018, and gained popularity on social video sharing app TikTok. As a result, Lil Nas X was signed to Columbia Records, which now distributes the single. A remix of the song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus was released on April 5, 2019, and another remix featuring Young Thug is in the works.[1][2]

In March 2019, the song reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart before the magazine disqualified it from being included on the chart on grounds that it did not fit the country genre, sparking a debate on the definition of the genre.[3] Had it not been disqualified, "Old Town Road" would have been the Hot Country Songs number-one song, as of the chart dated April 6, 2019.[4]

Though the song was not re-entered onto the country charts, both the original version of the song and the remix featuring Cyrus eventually reached number one on the flagship Billboard chart, the Hot 100.[5][6] Internationally, "Old Town Road" also topped the national singles charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; and charted within the top 40 in various other markets.

At under two minutes in length, "Old Town Road" is the fifth-shortest number-one single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, and the shortest since 1965.[7][8]

Background[edit]

Country rap, and its subgenre, country trap, began making a resurgence into the mainstream following American rapper Young Thug's experimental mixtape Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017). Lil Nas X has cited Young Thug as a pioneer of the country trap genre.[9] In May 2018, Lil Tracy and Lil Uzi Vert reignited the trend with their country rap single "Like a Farmer (Remix)".[10][11]

In 2018, Lil Nas X dropped out of college to pursue a musical career, but was discouraged by his parents. He moved in with his sister, spending time promoting his music on the Internet while getting just three hours of sleep each night. Lil Nas X began writing "Old Town Road" after he felt like he was "out of options." Lil Nas X says his sister's and parents' frustration inspired the song's chorus, "can't nobody tell me nothing." Within the month of writing it, Lil Nas X chose to spin the song's meaning so that the "old town road" would be a symbol of success.[9]

Dutch record producer YoungKio produced the beat a year prior to the song's release and uploaded it to his online store for selling beats. He sampled Nine Inch Nails' track "34 Ghosts IV" and kept the song intact instead of chopping it as a challenge to himself, saying he "didn't really have any country thoughts about it." Since purchases on his online store were anonymous, YoungKio didn't know the song was purchased by Lil Nas X until he saw it in an Instagram meme in December 2018.[12]

Composition[edit]

"Old Town Road" has been variously described by publications as a country rap,[13][14][15][16] country,[17][18] trap,[19][20] or Southern hip hop song.[21] Produced by YoungKio, the song partially samples Nine Inch Nails' track "34 Ghosts IV" from their sixth studio album Ghosts I–IV (2008).[22] The song prominently features the playing of a banjo and trap drums throughout.[3] The song has been compared to Lil Tracy's 2018 single "Like a Farmer", which was later remixed by Lil Uzi Vert.[23] The song is composed in the key of B major with a chord progression of G7-Badd9-Fsus4-E6. It has an approximate tempo of 69 beats per minute.[24]

Release and promotion[edit]

"Old Town Road" was released independently as a single on December 3, 2018, during the rise of the "Yeehaw Agenda" meme, a movement appropriating cowboy fashion and culture.[25] Danny Kang, manager of viral country artist Mason Ramsey, suggested to Rolling Stone that Lil Nas X listed the song under the country music genre on SoundCloud and iTunes as a way to manipulate chart algorithms, as it would be easier to top the country charts than the dominant hip hop/rap charts.[3] Lil Nas X began creating memes to promote "Old Town Road" before it was picked up by TikTok users.[9] The song's official music video is composed entirely of footage and clips from the 2018 Western action-adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2.[26]

The song gained traction in late December 2018 after becoming the "Yeehaw Challenge" meme on TikTok, where users created short videos set to the song. The challenge is credited with launching the song to debut at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100,[27] where the song has since peaked at number one on the chart.[28] The song's popularity grew so quickly that radio stations had to download the audio from YouTube.[3] On March 22, 2019, the success of the song allowed Lil Nas X to sign to Columbia Records, which now distributes the single.[22]

"Old Town Road" broke Canadian rapper Drake's song "In My Feelings"'s previously held streaming record for a single's debut week.[29]

Billboard controversy[edit]

Billboard (logo pictured) controversially removed "Old Town Road" from its Hot Country Songs chart after it debuted at number 19

"Old Town Road" achieved a rare feat in Billboard history when it simultaneously charted on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts in March 2019.[a] However, Billboard quietly removed "Old Town Road" from its Hot Country chart for "not [embracing] enough elements of today's country music".[3] "Old Town Road" would have peaked at number one on the April 6, 2019 Hot Country Songs chart if it were never removed.[31]

Lil Nas X stated he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.[32] In an interview, Time reporter Andrew R. Chow brought up Billboard's decision to remove "Old Town Road" from the Country chart but keep it on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, asking Lil Nas X if he considers "Old Town Road" a country song. Lil Nas X replied, "The song is country trap. It's not one, it's not the other. It's both. It should be on both [charts]."[9]

The exclusion of "Old Town Road" brought criticism of the evaluation of the work of non-white artists in the country genre, with Rolling Stone writer Elias Leight referring to Beyoncé, another black artist, whose song "Daddy Lessons" failed to be considered a country song by The Recording Academy in 2016. Leight also pointed out other difficulties faced by black artists making cross-genre music, noting that rapper Juice Wrld's Death Race for Love (2019) would "probably be the most commercially successful rock album of 2019", but would never appear on rock charts or playlists, another genre like country predominated by white artists.[3] In light of the criticism, Billboard later stated that the decision to remove "Old Town Road" from the Hot Country Songs chart had nothing to do with Lil Nas X's race.[33] When asked if he believed the decision by Billboard had any racial undertones, Lil Nas X replied, "I believe whenever you're trying something new, it's always going to get some kind of bad reception."[9]

Commercial performance[edit]

The track lead the Streaming Songs chart for a second frame with 143 million U.S. streams in the week ending April 11, according to Nielsen Music. The sum easily surpasses the prior mark, set when Drake's "In My Feelings" drew 116.2 million streams, as reflected on the chart dated July 28, 2018. (Both the remix and original version of "Road" count toward the song's singular chart placement.)[34]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[35]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2019) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[36] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[37] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[38]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
7
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[39]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
31
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[40] 1
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[41] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[42] 7
France (SNEP)[43] 76
Germany (Official German Charts)[44] 4
Hungary (Single Top 40)[45] 13
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[46] 2
Ireland (IRMA)[47] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[48]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
32
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[49][50] 1
New Zealand (RMNZ)[51] 10
Norway (VG-lista)[52] 1
Portugal (AFP)[53] 68
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[54] 9
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[55] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[56] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[57] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[58] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 1
US Country Airplay (Billboard)[59] 53
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[60][b] 19
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[62] 1
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[63] 21
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[63] 15
US Dance/Mix Show Airplay (Billboard)[64] 38

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[36] Gold 35,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[65] Gold 15,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Billy Ray Cyrus remix[edit]

"Old Town Road (Remix)"
Old Town Road Remix cover.jpg
Single by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
ReleasedApril 5, 2019 (2019-04-05)
Format
Genre
Length2:37
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • YoungKio
  • Reznor
  • Ross
Billy Ray Cyrus singles chronology
"Achy Breaky Heart 25"
(2017)
"Old Town Road (Remix)"
(2019)

"Old Town Road (Remix)", featuring American country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, was the first official remix of "Old Town Road" to be released. It was released on April 5, 2019 by Columbia Records. The remix was recorded in support of "Old Town Road" being recognized as a country song.[66]

Background[edit]

In December 2018, a day after the original version's release, Lil Nas X tweeted out that he wanted Billy Ray Cyrus on the song.[67]

Billy Ray Cyrus stated he loved the original version the first time he heard it.[68] Cyrus related to the song the first time he heard it, connecting the "old town road" to the Old Town Bridge in Argillite, Kentucky that he used to play on as a kid.[69] In response to Billboard removing "Old Town Road" from the Hot Country Songs chart, Cyrus tweeted his support for Lil Nas X and noted that the removal put him in the ranks of great outlaws like himself.[70] The remix charted at number one on the Hot 100, surpassing "Achy Breaky Heart", which peaked at number four in 1992, as Cyrus' highest-charting single in the United States.

Remix personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[71]

  • Lil Nas X – main artist
  • Billy Ray Cyrus – featured artist
  • Jocelyn "Jozzy" Donald – background vocals
  • YoungKio – producer
  • Trent Reznor – sampled production
  • Atticus Ross – sampled production
  • Andrew "VoxGod" Bolooki – vocal producer
  • Joe Grasso – engineer
  • Cinco – recording engineer
  • Eric Lagg – mastering engineer

Charts[edit]

Chart (2019) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[72]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
7
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[73]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
31
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[74] 1
Denmark (Tracklisten)[75] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[76] 8
Italy (FIMI)[77] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[78]
credited to both original and Cyrus remix version
32
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[79] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[80] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[81] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[82] 1
US Country Airplay (Billboard)[83] 53

Young Thug remix[edit]

Lil Nas X and producer YoungKio have both praised Young Thug (pictured) prior to the recording of the remix

On April 9, 2019, a second official remix of "Old Town Road" featuring American rapper Young Thug was previewed by Lil Nas X and Thug himself.[84]

Background[edit]

Young Thug has been credited with bringing country trap into the mainstream with his experimental mixtape Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017). Lil Nas X credited Young Thug with being a pioneer of bridging the gap between country and trap.[9] In an interview with Billboard in March 2019, producer YoungKio was asked who he would want for a remix of "Old Town Road"; YoungKio responded that he would want Young Thug, stating "I've listened to every single song of his, and I think he's qualified to do this remix. I've listened to Beautiful Thugger Girls, and he has some country vibes on there."[12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ While at least one source claims that this was the first instance,[27] there has been at least one other song to achieve that circumstance: "We Are the World", which appeared on six charts simultaneously, the aforementioned three plus the dance, adult contemporary, and rock charts.[30]
  2. ^ "Old Town Road" was removed from the Hot Country Songs chart in late March 2019 after Billboard reevaluated the song's genre and deemed it did not fit its qualifications for a country song.[61] "Old Town Road" would have peaked at number one on the April 6, 2019 chart if it had not been removed.[31]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Young Thug teases "Old Town Road" remix". The FADER.
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  4. ^ Adjei-Kontoh, Hubert (April 2, 2019). "Lil Nas' song was removed from Billboard for not being 'country' enough. But who gets to decide categories?". The Guardian. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
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External links[edit]