There’s a storm a-brewing in both country and hip hop at the moment, and the gentleman you may know best as Miley’s Dad just threw a ten-gallon hat full of fuel into the fire.
Billboard have been copping it all week for removing a song from the top of its Hot Country chart – after it climbed to #1 on the back of a TikTok meme – for not “embracing” country elements enough.
You’d think a song about horses, tractors, cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans that’s called ‘Old Town Road’ and builds on a slow, lonesome plucked guitar note is giving country a pretty solid hug – but it’s also by an Atlanta artist called Lil Nas X and has a big old trap beat right down the middle, so apparently that cancels out the cowboy tropes.
After an uproar about genre, race and who owns what labels, Lil Nas X came back with a surprise remix featuring none other than Billy Ray Cyrus.
Yes, that’s Cyrus Senior dropping – and I cannot stress this enough – straight fire.
That is some gotdamn wholesome content.
After the backlash and the incredible response to the remix – including it hitting #1 on US Spotify – Billboard suddenly (heh) changed their tune and said it would revisit whether ‘Old Town Road’ would in fact now be country enough for the country chart.
“Billboard welcomes the excitement created by genre-blending tracks such as Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road; and will continue to monitor how it is marketed and how fans respond,” Billboard told Rolling Stone.
“Our initial decision to remove “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country Songs chart could be revisited as these factors evolve.”
“The song is country trap,” Lil Nas X told TIME when asked whether it belonged on the country or hip hop charts.
“It’s not one, it’s not the other. It’s both. It should be on both.”
It’s pretty wild how controversial this has been considering how many R&B and hip hop artists have embraced yee-haw energies to various degrees over the years.
Just a few years ago Beyoncé hit us with a New Orleans-flavoured country track in the middle of Lemonade, and then brought the Dixie Chicks on board:
Taylor Swift was as into huge pop synths as guitar-strumming by the time she had Kendrick feature on the far-superior-to-the-original ‘Bad Blood’ remix (which, by the way, didn’t chart on Hot Country, nor should it have), but she’s still one of the biggest country crossover stars ever:
Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg also hang out heaps. Can’t think why.
But the one artist being brought up more than any other in comparison to ‘Old Town Road’ – over and over, you could say – is Nelly.
This is a guy whose international breakout single was called ‘Country Grammar’, after all.
Anyway, we can all agree that the only losers in this truly iconic peak crossover moment in music history are those basics who describe their music taste as “everything except rap and country”.
There are no genre silos any more, Stacey. Hop on this label-free future-horse and ride til you can’t no more.