‘Old Town Road’ isn’t country enough for Billboard, but it should be

By Sam Newlon, Associate Editor
On April 10, 2019

Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' features country lyrics and themes, but is not country enough for Billboard's Hot Country charts.

Lil Nas X’s pinned tweet is a video of a cowboy who appears to be at a rodeo dancing.

But it’s no square dance.

The cowboy is flailing around, moving his hips and kicking his boots out as far as his blue jeans will allow him. The video is paired with the song “Old Town Road” which is definitely a country song, but we’ll get to that later.

The tweet that accompanies the video is “country music is evolving.” Is it?

“Old Town Road” currently has more than 87 million plays on Spotify and has secured its spot as the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, which ranks songs based on radio airplay, sales data and streaming data. It was ranked No. 15 last week.

Before the song emerged as the top hit, according to Billboard’s list, it climbed onto two other Billboard charts: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop and Hot Country.

“Old Town Road” was ranked as high as No. 19 for the March 16 edition of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs but was removed the following week. Later, Billboard issued a statement saying the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music chart in its current version.”

What about the song isn’t “country” enough?

Lil Nas X references horse tack, a matte black hat with boots to match, bull riding, Wrangler jeans, horses, porches and riding on a tractor. He even goes so far as to make fun of people who drive Porsches.

In an interview about the song, Lil Nas X gives the backstory behind the song’s inspiration. He said he felt like a cowboy after leaving his sister’s home and knew he had to make something of himself.

“Old Town Road” should have its place on Billboard’s country chart reinstated.

Luke Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy” currently sits at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. That song has no references to horses, tractors or cowboy hats. Instead, Combs sings about an “unpredictable, unforgettable” girl but “she’s crazy but her crazy’s beautiful to me.”

No. 2 on the country chart is Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” which highlights drinking tequila, dancing with a sorority t-shirt on and being “sky high in Colorado.”

It would appear that Billboard’s definition of “today’s country music” is about drinking and men calling women “crazy.”

Lil Nas X has since released a remix of “Old Town Road” that features country music star Billy Ray Cyrus and the song has once again become viral.

“Old Town Road” is completely deserving of its spot on top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and the idea of the song being taken off of the country music charts is unfair. It is a song full of references and themes found across other songs that have been historically labeled as country.

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