Pop music is a sham. We all know it. The Billboards, commercial radio, Good Morning America. It’s a machine created by and for major labels to process their factory made hits through with a high degree of reliability.
But every once in a while, a song comes along and mucks up the hit machine, with the latest, greatest example being Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”
The unlikely hip-hop/country crossover hit, which has launched the unsigned 19-year-old from Atlanta into the mainstream, has had a brilliant and controversial ascent. After becoming a meme on the youth-fueled TikTok app, it initially topping the Billboard Country charts, only to be removed for “not being country enough” for the infamously conservative Nashville establishment.
The mess helped get Lil Nas X signed to Columbia Records, spawning the first of several remixes featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, which has since climbed to the tippy top of the all-powerful Billboard Hot 100, where it has remained for seven straight weeks. So far, “Old Town Road” has epically deflected goliath challengers like Taylor Swift’s “ME!” and Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber’s “I Don’t Care” from reaching the #1 spot.
Is “Old Town Road” a great song? Definitely not. Is it fun as hell to see it succeed, in spite of Nashville’s rejection, and while cockblocking Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran? You better fucking believe it is!
And to top things off, the song finally has the music video it deserves. Featuring cameos from Chris Rock, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty and Diplo, the hilarious cinematic epic coyly nods to the song’s controversy and its confused genre identity. Above all it celebrates how goshdarn silly this whole saga has been.
I, for one, am rooting for Lil Nas X’s continued chart dominance. Yee-haw!
Ryan is a writer, editor and vinyl collector currently based in Los Angeles. He started Mini Music Critic in 2017.