We are sure that you already heard about what we are talking about. The song in the subject, ”Old Town Road”, is practically everywhere. It has just reached the top of the Billboard chart, Instagram is full of western-themed memes and the sales of cowboy hats have grown by 300%. No, ok, we were joking on the last one, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it would really happen.
If there’s one thing we’re sure of, it’s that the Internet is weird! But really weird. It’s like a parallel world, where anything can happen and you never know what to expect. In this specific case, in recent weeks there has been, indeed, an interplanetary success of the song ”Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. Many may think that everything happens by chance on the Internet and there is no real reason behind the virality of something. But nothing more false. Behind this incredible story, there are several interesting details.
These days, instead of playing Red Dead Redemption II (featured in the original visuals of the track) we have disguised ourselves as a secret agent and we have dug into Lil Nas X’s past. Let’s find out together who he is.
Who’s Lil Nas X?
Born in Atlanta in 1999, he lived for most of his life with his father, who took him into custody after divorcing with his mother. At the age of 14, he moved to Georgia and began to approach music, thanks also to his father, who was a gospel singer. Shortly thereafter, he left school to pursue a full-time musical career.
‘It was originally Lil Nas just to be ironic ’cause every new rapper’s name has ‘lil’. Kinda got stuck with ‘lil’ after building a small fanbase. Added the x later on, standing for the number of years until I feel like I will be considered a legend’
Lil Nas X talking about his artist name.
Unlike what you might think, ”Old Town Road” isn’t his first song. But yes, it’s his first track with a country sound. In fact, before the release of this viral hit, he released several songs strictly related to trap sounds with Gunna inspired flows.
”Honestly, I got bored last year and made a rap song. People liked it. I kept making them. But I didn’t start taking music seriously until about my 5th song”
He said about his music.
How it went viral?
Artists, nowadays, don’t need any more to sign a contract with a major, get your song played on the radios, make appearances on TV and so on. Yes, obviously these things still help, once you are already popular, to expand your business. But in this historical period, the debut is made on the Internet.
Lil Nas X is the perfect case to confirm how important online marketing is. He’s a very special and interesting case to analyze. The rapper, in fact, spent days and nights thinking about innovative marketing tactics to make his songs popular.
‘Probably get three hours of sleep, staying up on the internet trying to promote my music at my sister’s house before coming back home. I would sleep on the floor. I didn’t want to come back home because I knew my parents would be mad at me’.
He said in an interview with Time.
Let’s try together to see what is behind the success of Old Town Road.
Lil Nas X used to run a Nicki Minaj stan account on Twitter. Now the profile has been turned off so people don’t talk about it, but in the past, the rapper, in addition to posting various tweets about Nicki and memes, also used it to promote his music.
“By paying my phone bill, my dad allowed me to promote my music heavier on the internet through my Twitter account. My Twitter mutuals helped me out a lot too”
He said in an interview.
As Tik Tok may seem at first look a social network that doesn’t matter, it’s a platform that is becoming stronger day by day. It’s pretty much Vine 2.0. Knowing that, Lil Nas X and his producer, Youngkio, after releasing the song, they managed to start a challenge. It was simple, it consisted of turning into a cowboy at the drop of the beat. Shortly after, the videos from Tik Tok have reached millions and millions of views.
He listed the song as ‘Country’ on iTunes and Soundcloud
The choice to release a song with country sounds is not as senseless as it may initially seem. Think about it, if you release a song in the hip-hop section how many other competitors would you have? Millions. If you release it in the country section? Far fewer. Also Lil Uzi Vert, XXXtentacion and Ski Mask used to do so. Their songs were always listed as alternative rock, so they could reach a high spot on the rock chart. In this way, the algorithm is slightly deceived and the song requires lower numbers to be noticed.
Many celebrities shared his song shortly after it started getting the first attentions. Lil Nas X has received the support of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Reba McEntire, Brian Kelley, Will Smith, Dennis Rodman, Ski Mask The Slump God, Rico Nasty and many others. Also, the Texas Tech‘s video where they are celebrating with the song in the background received a lot of internet buzz.
The Billboard controversy and Billy Ray Cyrus
“Old Town Road” entered Billboard‘s Hot Country chart in early 2019, peaking at number 15. It also reached number 7 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts. However, in March 2019, the music and sales reporting brand announced that it was removing the song from its chart.
“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”
The statement from Billboard.
Fans and artists immediately took to Twitter to express their disappointment about the move being potentially discriminatory and the erasure of a black artist from a white-dominated music genre. Among the many names defending Lil Nas X, we also find Billy Ray Cyrus. As you for sure know, he also offered to collaborate on the remix of the song.
And how about you? What do you think? Is it a song that embraces country culture or is it simple marketing? Let us know! In the meantime, to remove any doubt, you can listen to the remix below.