'Old Town Road' beats 'Despacito', sets new Billboard record


  • Music
  • Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019

Lil Nas X. Photo: Tribune News Service

Move over, Mariah and Daddy Yankee – there's a new cowboy in town.

Billboard announced Monday that Old Town Road – the left-field country-trap smash by 20-year-old Lil Nas X – has held on to its spot atop the Hot 100 for a record 17th week.

The placement makes Old Town Road the longest-running No. 1 hit in Billboard history, having outlasted two songs that each spent 16 weeks dominating the music industry's most closely watched singles chart: Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's One Sweet Day, from 1995, and Despacito, the Latin-pop juggernaut by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber.

A slow-rolling tune about horses set to a banjo lick sampled from an obscure Nine Inch Nails song, Old Town Road first caught on among users of the video-sharing app TikTok, who used the track as part of a viral dance challenge. The song received a boost of mainstream attention in March when Billboard declared it ineligible for its country chart – a controversial ruling that led to a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, the Achy Breaky Heart singer with his own complicated relationship with Nashville.

That's the version that's kept Old Town Road at No. 1 for the majority of its stay. (Provided a remix doesn't stray too far from an original, Billboard combines streams, downloads and radio spins in its chart tabulations.) But it's hardly the only take on the song we've heard over the last few months.

In April, Diplo released a thumping dance remix timed to his performance with Lil Nas X and Cyrus at the annual Stagecoach country-music festival in Indio. This month Lil Nas X invited Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, the latter better known as the Walmart yodeling kid, to contribute verses.

And last week – in a clear bid to garner the streams necessary to break the Billboard record – Old Town Road reappeared as Seoul Town Road with an appearance by RM of the ultra-popular K-pop group BTS.

The remixes helped Lil Nas X – who came out as gay in June, adding another wrinkle to the story of a young black artiste navigating the largely white world of country music – fend off an impressive array of tracks by some of pop's biggest names, including Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Drake, Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello.

Taylor Swift released three separate singles from her upcoming Lover album, none of which managed to bump Old Town Road from the Hot 100's top spot.

During its run at No. 1, the song has also spawned countless internet memes and covers by acts as varied as Blondie and Old Crow Medicine Show. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service


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