Getty Images/Instagram
Getty Images/Instagram

There are some songs that seem to come out of nowhere, and then instantly, they are everywhere. And right now, there is no escaping Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.

According to Nielsen, “Old Town Road” was the most added Top 40 radio single this week. Scroll through your social media channels, and you’ll see captions featuring the lyrics “Can’t nobody tell me nothin'” and friends posting clips while proclaiming “I got horses in the back.” Open your streaming service, and it’s at the top of the charts. On YouTube, the video is consistently trending.

But part of the songs’s success has been because of its controversy. The song was originally released by 19-year-old Lil Nas X—born Montero Hill, a social influencer turned rapper from Atlanta—back in December. Its popularity began in Tik Tok, an app where you can create and share short music videos. The tune was already well on its way to becoming a hit—back in March, it landed at number 19 on the “Hot Country Songs” Billboard charts. But a week later, Billboard removed “Old Town Road” from inclusion on the country charts, later stating to Rolling Stone that the song doesn’t “embrace enough elements of today’s country music.”

The decision immediately raised several questions, plus some debate about musical genres: How could a song with a clear banjo twang and rollicking yet sorrowful lyrics not be classified as country? Was it because of the addition of booming bass and rap influence? And, more pointedly: Would Billboard have done the same if Lil Nas X wasn’t Black?

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