"Old Town Road" Sparks Controversy

The song “Old Town Road” released by artists Lil Nas X and Billie Ray Cyrus has Billboard confused. The song quickly became a hit and skyrocketed to the top of the charts since its release. The catchy lyrics and hybrid genre have allowed for the single to reach a wide audience. There is only one problem: what chart does it belong on?

The song debuted on three different Billboard charts. A week ago, the hit song was removed by Billboard from the Hot Country charts where it had placed number one. The track remained on the Hot 100 and Hot R&B/ Hip Hop Songs. Billboard’s comment regarding the removal of the song was that it “does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version" (CBS). However, Billboard did not release exactly what those elements were that “Old Town Road” lacked.

The removal of the song from the Hot Country list has sparked major controversy. Lil Nas X thinks that he might know why: “I started to think about it, I was like, you know, why? After like listening to other songs that's actually on that chart, it's like, wait a minute, something's not right, basically" (CBS).

Is this a race issue? This question entered the minds of many, including Elias Leight from the Rolling Stones. Historically, it has been incredibly difficult for black artists to succeed in the country genre. Black artists typically have a harder time moving between genres, whereas white artists have been able to collaborate with many mainstream pop artists and still keep their country title.

Some prominent country collaborations include Florida Georgia Line’s collaboration with Bebe Rexha on “Meant to Be” and Marren Morris and Zedd and Grey’s “The Middle.” Both of these collaborations included genre-crossing but were allowed to remain on the Billboard Country Hit list. The removal from the country charts has surprised many, including Billy Ray Cyrus.

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Billy Ray was devasted by the removal of “Old Town Road” from the country charts. He tweeted, "I thought, it's honest, humble, and has an infectious hook, and a banjo. What the hell more do ya need?” (CBS). The remix of "Old Town Road" featuring Billy Ray Cyrus was released on April 4 and has immediately become a hit, leading to an even larger audience questioning why this song isn't on the country charts.

The song has received support from country artist such as Jimmie Allen who has been reported saying, "either way it's a good song, it's catchy, and people are talking about it, and they're playing it. And at the end of the day, that's all that artists want. So Lil Nas, bro, [thumbs up]” (CBS).

Billboard has maintained their stance that this was not a decision made by race and that they support the movement of crossing genres.