How "Old Town Road" Blew Up
By: Franky Ly
On July 29th, 2019, the record of the longest reign for any #1 song on the music chart, Billboard Hot 100, previously held by Marish Carey’s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” for 17 weeks straight, had been finally beaten. However, triumphed over the likes of Mariah Care with a shocking new record for 19 weeks. So, you may be thinking, how exactly did a Soundcloud rapper/twitter comedian singing over a beat stripped off YouTube about his horses in the back obtain such success? Well, it’s a fantastical story that is endearing to hear.
Just last year, Lil Nas X was 19 and a broke college dropout living with his sister in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to Old Town Road, Lil Nas X’s time was spent by dropping songs on his Soundcloud and goofing around on Twitter. Finally, it wasn’t until he paid a measly $30 for producer Youngkio for the beat of what soon became “Old Town Road”, that his path to success was lit up.
As soon as the song was uploaded to his rather obscure Soundcloud page, Lil Nas X, seeing the potential comedic impact, started aggressively promoting the song on his decently sized Twitter page and other sites sometimes anonymously, talking about how silly the song was and how it should be a meme. Alas, hi swish came true and the song spread like a wildfire and ended up being used on social media platforms such as Tik Tok. It had also garnered the attention of big celebrities like Justin Bieber, who talked about the song on his own Instagram. Soon enough, the song managed to controversially make it onto the Hot 100, Hot RnB/Hip Hop, and surprisingly enough, the Hot Country song charts for Billboard. However, its placement on the country charts managed to propel its success more than it had ever-reached.
“Old Town Road”’s placement on the country charts was deemed by Billboard as a mistake, and due to this, controversy arose among the public, arguing whether it had deserved to be on there or not. However, the controversy came to a conclusion, when Lil Nas X had released a remix the song with Billy Ray Cyrus, one of the country’s most recognizable artists. Whilst mostly resolving the conflict of it being on the country charts, the collab had also reached new territories of success for the 19-year-old. The remix was released on Spotify, receiving many streams and had eventually signed up for the label, a music video was soon created with the Billy and Lil Nas X starring in it. He also had the sponsors to finally create his own EP, featuring other notable artists, such as Cardi B. At last, on April 13, “Old Town Road” had finally reached the number 1 spot on the Hot 100.
However, this was not his peak as the song continued to top the charts week after week. Nearing the achievement of beating the longest-running #1, Lil Nas X had further released more and more remixes, featuring artists that ranged across genres. From other country meme artists like Mason Ramsey to popular K-Pop rappers, such as Rap Monster, Lil Nas X was determined to break that record, that to the public, it was almost overbearing. He acknowledges this when, in his recent VMA performance for his newer single, “Panini”, a satirical video was featured prior to his performance, stating how, in the distant future, the 3162nd remix for “Old Town Road” is coming out. After many remixes, Lil Nas X was finally triumphant and took the crown for the longest-running #1 for 19 weeks until “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish had halted his run.
Whether you can argue about the streams of remixes of the song should truly count as sales for the Billboard 100 or Lil Nas X’s longevity in the long run, it is undoubtedly remarkable that an artist with no background of any success besides his Twitter account had reached such success with a single country/hip hop song that talks about having his horses in the back.