Lil Nas X, (Montero Lamar Hill), a musician from Atlanta, has blessed listeners with the un-country, country song, “Old Town Road (I Got The Horses In the Back)” that has taken the internet by storm. Although I’m not unfamiliar with, “taking my horse to the old town road”, there were some that felt there was no room for Lil Nas to ride at all. WHYYYY???
As far as American culture goes, we love to be judgmental. It is what sets us apart from other countries culturally. And , although we like to also pretend we are self-righteous enough to refrain from judging everything and everyone we see as being or not being enough, we have struck again in true “judgy-mc—judgerson” fashion. But in 2019, why is it so difficult for us to see things evolve, or be free of labels and boundaries?
I know that’s a lot to think about at once. So what happened this time?
Last week, Billboard’s Hot Country Song list had the song “Old town Road” removed from the list. Some of the people who compile the list came to a consensus that the song “wasn’t country enough.” But, it’s not like they had an actual reason or anything. Of course not, because that would just be….weird. The song definitely has reference to country elements, and hip-hop sounds to stomp your boots to. So why isn’t that enough???
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Billboard stated, “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.” BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Aside from the ongoing debate about what makes a country song, or what constitutes a song being “country enough”, Lil Nas enlisted the country croonings of Billy Ray Cyrus to boot stomp it up. And if that can’t mend your achy-breaky heart, the song is still trending in an upwards direction on YouTube. To add insult to injury, the chart data suggests that the song would have been on track to achieve the #1 spot this week.
This recent event has sparked intense debate over the rejection of the song as well as, what the elements and vision of today’s country music actually is. And furthermore, what direction music as a whole should be going in. This is oddly similar to when Beyoncé tried to enter “Daddy’s Lesson” to the Grammy committee in the Country music category and was denied as well. Although many believe this decision has racial undertones, many more are concerned about what algorithms and methods are being used to reflect music culture. How can artists be free to create in the spaces and platforms they create if they are not allowed to let their talents be fluid and uncontained? The noticeable confines are certainly at the center of this conversation.
I’m not musical strategist, but I definitely gave the song 10-20 listens. At this point I’m just going to ride off into the sunset “with my cowboy hat from Gucci, wrangler on my booty” and yee another haw.
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