Maybe don’t fill up your cowboy hats with concrete and fling them through the glass doors of Billboard’s HQ just yet, y’all. After receiving widespread criticism for removing Lil Nas X’s smash country-rap hit “Old Town Road” from the Country charts, due to the song “not embracing enough elements of today’s country music in its current version,” Billboard is both defending the decision and implying it could be overturned. In a new statement to Rolling Stone, the publication asserted that while the original “Old Town Road” and its subsequent Billy Ray Cyrus remix continue to climb the Hot 100 charts, there are ongoing discussions if they should be classified as country, too. “Billboard offers category-specific charts simply as a tool for people in the music business to better gauge the success of songs relative to others in a given format. We are often times faced with difficult categorization choices,” the statement read, continuing:
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. Billboard welcomes the excitement created by genre-blending tracks such as Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and will continue to monitor how it is marketed and how fans respond. Our initial decision to remove “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country Songs chart could be revisited as these factors evolve.
Cyrus, who’s featured prominently in the “Old Town Road” remix, endorsed the song because he believed the original version was a bonafide country hit. “It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time,” Cyrus wrote on social media. “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?” Another prominent player in the country music scene, John Rich, said that “fans” should decide whether the song is legit or not.