If Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” didn’t pop up on your radar back in March when it first started spreading like wildfire across the Internet, then it surely did when the big debate was sparked regarding whether Billboard was at fault for removing the song from its Hot Country Songs chart. Many were quick to point out that this decision was racially-motivated, as country music has remained a predominantly white sphere, despite being birthed out of Black folk and blues. Although “Old Town Road”‘s removal seemed like a gatekeeping tactic, Billboard responded to the controversy by denying that this was the case:
“Upon further review, it was determined that “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard‘s country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. 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.”
Although “Old Town Road” never made it back onto the country chart – despite adding a guest verse from Billy Ray Cyrus for the remix – it spent a record-breaking 19 weeks at the top of the Hot 100 and is now receiving the ultimate revenge of being nominated for a Country Music Association award. The song will be up for Musical Event of the Year, which I suppose still doesn’t recognize the musical merit of the track, but definitely acknowledges its influence in the country community this year.