“Old Town Road” is now much more than an inescapably catchy song — it’s a history-maker. At 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which tracks the sales and streaming data of music’s biggest singles, Lil Nas X’s genre-redefining hit has become the longest-running No. 1 single in Billboard’s history.
The song has outlasted previous record-holders “One Sweet Day” from 1995, by Mariah Carey featuring Boyz II Men, and a remix of “Despacito,” the Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, and Justin Bieber collab from 2017. Both held onto the No. 1 spot for 16 weeks.
Lil Nas X began his record-breaking run on the Billboard chart in early April, following months of mounting popularity surrounding the track. First came a goofy dance meme set to“Old Town Road” on TikTok, the beloved lip-syncing video platform; then, by late March, came controversy that undoubtedly raised the rapper’s profile. At only 20 years old, the Atlanta, Georgia, native made headlines for releasing a song that uniquely blended country tropes and trap-styled beats. Listeners with antiquated, racially-tinged notions of “pure country” balked at the song, a backlash that had a Streisand effect — to Lil Nas X’s benefit. Basically everyone in the country had heard of, and wanted to hear, “Old Town Road.”
A remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus brought “Old Town Road” more attention, and it’s that version of the song that has won the charts each week since April 13. But four separate remixes, like one released just last week featuring the artist RM from the Korean boy band BTS, helped keep the interest going. So, too, did a music video that had a guest appearance from Chris Rock, and an EP with a handful of other great singles-to-be.
But it’s “Old Town Road” that has continued to define Lil Nas X, his image, and his music. While he considers himself to be a rapper, not a country artist, he continues to rock the spurs and cowboy hats in honor of his danceable ballad of the lonely cowboy. And after 17 weeks straight, we have yet to tire of it.
I’ll hand the mic over to Lil Nas X, who shared an Instagram post expressing his gratitude to those who helped make his debut single such an indelible force.
“This song has changed my life and the way I see the world around me in less than a year,” he wrote, referring to its initial December release. “Thank you to every single person who has been a part of this journey with me.”
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Vox’s Allegra Frank chronicles Lil Nas X’s challenges with the charts and Charlie Harding, co-host of the “Switched on Pop” podcast, attempts to figure out what counts as country.