Music

Billy Ray Cyrus Declares ‘Old Town Road’ To Be Country Music And Collaborates On A Remix

Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' has sparked debate regarding the definition of country music. Now Billy Ray Cyrus has contributed a verse to the song's remix.

Lil Nas X's Old Town Road remix feat Billy Ray Cyrus

Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ is not your typical country song. The certified tune mixes country and trap, prominently featuring the twang of a banjo alongside a rap about horses, bull riding and tractors. The song sparked a debate about what is classified as country, and now country star Billy Ray Cyrus has thrown his cowboy hat in the ring – along with a remix.

Nineteen-year-old Lil Naz X released ‘Old Town Road’ in December last year, along with a music video of footage from cowboy video game Red Dead Redemption 2. The song soon gained popularity via a TikTok meme in which people suddenly change from regular clothes to boot-scootin’ attire.

However, late last month Billboard removed ‘Old Town Road’ from its Hot Country Songs chart for not being country enough.

“When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition,” said Billboard in a statement to Rolling Stone. “While ‘Old Town Road’ incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”

Had it not been removed, ‘Old Town Road’ would have hit number one on the chart this week. It is currently at 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Billboard’s decision disappointed many, and sparked a debate regarding race, genre and music. Some have pointed out that white artists such as Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean and Sam Hunt often chart on country music lists with songs that aren’t completely country.

Now, Lil Nas X has released an ‘Old Town Road’ remix – featuring none other than country music icon Billy Ray Cyrus, singer of 1990 classic ‘Achy Breaky Heart’.

The remix adds a new verse sung by Cyrus about his move from is country roots to the big city, and his desire to return. “Hat down, cross town, livin’ like a rockstar,” sings Cyrus.

“Wish I could roll on back to that old town road / I wanna ride ’til I can’t no more”.

Cyrus also weighed in on the genre debate via Twitter. “It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time,” he tweeted yesterday. “I was thinking, what’s not country about it? What’s the rudimentary element of a country and western song? Then I thought, it’s honest, humble, and has an infectious hook, and a banjo. What the hell more do ya need?”

In a video posted to Twitter of his recording session with Lil Nas X, Cyrus shared his personal reaction to the song.

“I used to play as a kid in this town called Argillite, Kentucky, and there was an old, covered bridge outside Argillite called Old Town. And there was the road that lead to the covered bridge, it was Old Town Road,” said Cyrus. “I heard this song, like, ‘Oh my gosh, man.’ I just love what this is saying, plus I can relate to this.”

Billboard has since sent a second statement to Rolling Stone, published this morning. It it, Billboard states that their “initial decision to remove ‘Old Town Road’ from the Hot Country Songs charts could be revisited”.

“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,” said Billboard.

‘Old Town Road’ fans are thrilled at Billy Ray Cyrus’ endorsement, with some hoping that the song will be reinstated to the country chart. The remix also caught Will Smith’s attention, who used footage of his 1999 film Wild Wild West to express interest in a potential ‘Old Town Road’ video on Instagram.

Lil Naz X is just happy ‘Old Town Road’ it got on the charts in the first place. Since it took off, he’s been signed by Columbia Records, and is already teasing his next track.