Lil Nas X’s Controversial ‘Old Town Road’ Debuts on Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart
A controversial song from rapper Lil Nas X has debuted on Billboard's Country Airplay chart. "Old Town Road" debuts at No. 53, just weeks after Billboard removed the song from consideration for its Hot Country Songs chart.
Lil Nas X went viral in late March with the video for "Old Town Road," which juxtaposes a hip-hop beat with banjo and traditional country lyricism. The video prominently features Old West imagery, and it went viral online after it became popular via the TikTok app in March. "Old Town Road" debuted at No. 19 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart on March 16.
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Billboard subsequently removed "Old Town Road" from consideration on that chart, ruling that the song didn't contain enough country elements and informing Lil Nas X' label that its inclusion was a mistake. That decision touched off substantial debate as to whether race might have played a role in Billboard's decision, as well as what makes any given song country as the genre continues to evolve and take on outside influences.
Billy Ray Cyrus joined the rapper for a remix of the song that dropped on April 5, and "Old Town Road" registers at No. 53 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for the week of April 13.
According to Billboard, "Old Town Road" received 140 plays on 35 reporting stations, earning exposure to an audience of a million people. Headline Planet explains that most of the airplay is due to the "syndication effect," with the majority of spins coming from radio shows that are syndicated over a large number of stations.
No country stations have officially added "Old Town Road" to their rotation. Billboard reports that most of the spins it received came from the hugely popular Bobby Bones Show, which is syndicated across the country. One station in Madison, Wisc., reported playing "Old Town Road" 14 times over the reporting period, but no other station played the song more than five times. One station also played "Old Town Road" as part of a "TikTok challenge" listener promotion, and added to the curiosity spins after Cyrus' remix dropped, it seems that much of the song's success thus far is somewhat of a novelty.
"I've always loved every kind of music, and he wrote a song that came out, people obviously liked it enough to where it starts popping up charting on a country hit," Owen said in an interview with SiriusXM's The Highway host Storme Warren.
"Now, there's definitely elements that people think are country or aren't country, but I think at the end of the day, for me, anything that seems to pop up on our radar and people like it, it's welcome," Owen adds. "I leave my doors open any time, because you never know what's gonna walk through."