Lil Nas X‘s “Old Town Road” is a sensation. The genre-bending “country trap” song has jumped from TikTok-aided hit to a cultural phenomenon (see: Ellen DeGeneres dancing in a wig and cowboy hat), and its success may put it back on the Country charts after its initial removal. The song is earning more daily streams than any other song in America on Spotify, and its video has over 26 million views on YouTube. The Friday release of the song’s remix with Billy Ray Cyrus — which is great — couldn’t have hurt, either.
Fueling the success of “Old Town Road” is the controversy surrounding it: Over a week ago, Billboard opted to remove the song from its Country chart. According to the publication at the time, “it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” The decision to remove the song sparked a wide-ranging backlash, and led to an ongoing debate about genre, race and the music industry.
Since then, the song has only become more popular. It’s currently Number 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was the most-added song on pop radio last week. But its unexpected achievement adds additional scrutiny to its current genre classification. According to a Mediabase report, 33 country music stations played “Old Town Road” last week, and it received the co-sign of a recognized country star in Cyrus — both make the case that “Old Town Road” is a country hit, regardless of its chart classification.
Despite the mounting pressure, Billboard will not be adding “Old Town Road” — or its remix — to its Country chart. However, according to a statement released to Rolling Stone, the publication is still deciding how to classify the song. “Our initial decision to remove “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country Songs chart could be revisited,” a representative wrote. Read the statement in full below.
Billboard offers category-specific charts simply as a tool for people in the music business to better gauge the success of songs relative to others in a given format. We are often times faced with difficult categorization choices.
“Determining which chart a song lives on is an ongoing process that depends on a number of factors, most notably the song’s musical composition, but also how the song is marketed and promoted, the musical history of the artist, airplay the song receives and how the song is platformed on streaming services.
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.
Our initial decision to remove “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country Songs chart could be revisited as these factors evolve.