Saturday, August 3, 2019

“Old Town Road” became biggest #1 in Hot 100 History

Old Town Road

Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus

Writer(s): Montero Hill/Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross/Kowa Roukema (see lyrics here)

Released: December 3, 2018

First Charted: May 4, 2019

Peak: 119 US, 16 A40, 19 CW, 118 RB, 12 UK, 118 CN, 113 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 17.5 US, 2.4 UK, 21.75 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 3439.98 video, 2690.90 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

At 19 years old, Montero Lamar Hill (professionally known as Lil Nas X) released his debut single, “Old Town Road.” On August 3, 2019, it spent its 17th week atop the Billboard Hot 100 making it the biggest #1 in the chart’s history. The song’s U.S. chart run has been marked by eight weeks in which it accumulated twice as many chart points as the runner-up song, a feat last accomplished by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in 1992-93. WK

Hill initially wrote the song out of frustration at being discouraged by his parents and sister. After writing it, he spun the meaning so that “old town road” was a symbol of success. WK YoungKio, a Dutch record producer, produced the beat a year before the song’s release by sampling Nine Inch Nails’ “34 Ghosts IV.” Hill bought the beat for $30. WK

He released it independently and after creating memes to promote the song, it was picked up by users on TikTok, a social video sharing app. The song got picked up on radio when the daughters of two different program directors – DJ Riddler in Houston and Indianapolis and Joe Mack in Memphis – showed their dads the TikTok memes. RS The song grew so quickly in popularity that radio stations had to download the audio from YouTube. WK The song had the rare distinction of debuting simultaneously on the Hot 100 and Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop and country charts in March 2019. However, after its #19 debut on the latter, Billboard magazine disqualified the song, saying it didn’t fit the definition of the genre. WK The move sparked controversy as some, such as music critic Robert Christgau said, “Taking ‘Old Town Road’ off the country chart strikes me as racist pure and simple.” WK When asked if he consider it a country song, Lil Nas X said, “the song is country trap. It’s not one, it’s not the other. It’s both.” WK

Hill was signed to Columbia Records on March 22, 2019 and then they distributed the single. WK The song hit #1 the week ending April 4, 2019. At one minute and fifty-three seconds, it was the fifth shortest single in the history of the Hot 100 to reach #1 and the shortest since 1965 when Herman’s Hermits topped the charts with “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” WK

In the wake of the controversy about whether or not the song was country, a remix was released featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, best known for the 1992 country hit “Achy Breaky Heart.” That resulted in 143 million streams in a week, breaking the previous record of 116.2 million streams by Drake’s “In My Feelings.” WK The song exceeded 100 million streams in each of the next eight weeks, landing 9 of the 11 highest streaming weeks in the history of digital music. WK Another remix featuring Cyrus and Diplo was released on April 29. WK Various versions of the song topped the charts in more than a dozen countries. WK


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First posted 7/6/2019; last updated 3/31/2024.

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