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Song You Need to Know: Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘Old Town Road (Remix)’

The matrix is glitching, but maybe we don’t need it to get fixed any time soon

Sony Music*

Lil Nas X’s lonesome cowboy trap ballad, “Old Town Road,” is a runaway hit that’s been banished from the Billboard country charts almost as quickly as it broke them. Evidently the song isn’t country enough — which is in and of itself a ridiculous sentiment, given country music’s recent years spent gleaning influence from Southern hip-hop.

Instead of letting the country life of “Old Town Road” die there, Lil Nas X decided to amp it up: For the official remix, he called up Billy Ray Cyrus, a country veteran with his own history of infuriating genre purists. Together, they’ve created something magical. Cyrus’ “Old Town Road” remix is a campy bit of country-trap that is somehow as earnest as it is utterly insane. The matrix is glitching, but maybe we don’t need it to get fixed any time soon.

Cyrus’ contributions are simple, and they don’t change the song’s fundamental aspects. “Old Town Road” was already a short, simple piece, and anything extra would be obscene. Showing his respect for Lil Nas X’s craft, Cyrus merely sings his version of the chorus at the opening and returns at the end for what I can only describe as some of the best bars ever dropped by a country artist (sorry but not sorry to Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” and Taylor Swift’s “Thug Story“). I find it incredibly hard to believe that Billy Ray wrote this verse himself, but would also love to be proven wrong; it’s almost too satisfying when Cyrus convincingly spits, “Hat down, cross town, livin’ like a rock star/Spend a lot of money on my brand new guitar” over the spare, hollow repetition of the song’s own guitar riff.

This might be one of country’s greatest outlaw moments, pairing two stars who can relate to being outcasts in the genre. In the same way Cyrus helped country turn over a brand new pop leaf, could “Old Town Road” fully turn trap-country into its own sub-genre? Let’s at least hope this gives a second chance to “Old Town Road” and its country chart moment. Maybe some other country names will give it their own remix treatment as the song continues its inescapable rise. Florida Georgia Line, are you listening?

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