ICYMI: Old Town Road

Old Town Road is the surprise viral hit of 2019, partly due to the instant controversy that was sparked when Billboard removed it from its country charts. Via Pitchfork:

Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X is the country-trap star who never was. His viral hit, “Old Town Road,” was removed last week from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, after just one week there. But it remains on the Hot 100 chart and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

First came ire from Nashville types—“‘Old Town Road’ is no more country than the Beastie Boys’ ‘High Plains Drifter,’” wrote Saving Country Music on March 23—before Billboard put its boot down. “Upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard’s country charts,” Billboard said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. 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.”

The aftermath of this decision has prompted fierce debate about what is and isn’t country, bringing up longstanding questions about where black artists are allowed to exist on the charts. Black country stars like Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and Jimmie Allen may be thriving, but the whitewashing of the genre is well documented. Just last year, Rucker and Brown became the first pair of minorities to follow each other with No. 1 country songs in the 28-year history of the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

Posted in
Scroll to Top