By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |
I know most of you have been bored by the constant repeat of “Old Town Road,” but let me say it this time: The song is deserving of its fame. It was born out of a place of controversy; after failing to chart on the Billboard Country charts because of its ambiguous genre, Billy Ray Cyrus jumped into Lil Nas X’s defense and collaborated on a remix version that ended up nabbing the spot as Billboard’s longest-running number 1 track, and therefore, a hit is born out of obscurity.
The center of the controversy is what makes “Old Town Road” the phenomenal song it is. It comes with a question: What is country music? What elements make country music? Some people might answer through the country twang, some might say through the lyrics. “Old Town Road” has it all, with a mix of hip-hop in it. However, Billboard refused to acknowledge it as a country song; this is problematic as other genre-bending songs (for instance, rap-rock) has the ability to penetrate both the genres’ markets, while “Old Town Road” is being barred from doing so. This also spewed a significant reminder that country music has always been dominated by white musicians without room for musicians of color to contribute, albeit sharing the same American identity. By placing “Old Town Road” in the charts, Lil Nas X proved that everyone can make country music, regardless of your background.
Additionally, Lil Nas X paved the way for more artists embracing the cowboy aesthetic. In an article by Pitchfork, there is an argument that Mitski and Solange deconstructed and reconstructed what it means to be a cowboy. They’re then followed by musicians like Orville Peck, SPELLING, and Lil Nas X. By putting Lil Nas X’s identity and his association with “yeehaw culture,” American pop culture is slowly reconsidering the image of a white male cowboy riding off into the sun with people who are no less American than the image.
Finally, “Old Town Road” is universal—everyone desires freedom, everyone wants to get on their horse and go. “Old Town Road” is relatable to old people, young people, and even elementary school kids.
Therefore, even though some might think that “Old Town Road” is another overplayed radio hit, we must all admit that the song’s ripples can still be felt for years to come. And because of the song’s historic climb to the charts, it will pave the way for more creative minds to redefine what American music is.