"Old Town Road:" A Fluke, Or A Part Of Country Music's Future?

Before you say "no way," consider a little history...

July 10, 2019
Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X and Keith Urban perform at 2019 CMA Music Fest.

Photo by Jason Kempin - Getty Images

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This guy may force the issue sooner than any of us imagined. 

 

In just THREE weeks, "The Git Up" has become the #1 tune on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, which measures streaming, sales, downloads and radio play. 

Coming on the heels of Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," whose remix with Billy Ray Cyrus has made it one of the longest-running Number Ones in the history of recorded music - 14 weeks and counting on Billboard's Hot 100...

Waitaminute Charlie, that's a POP chart. Doesn't count...

Well, not so fast. 

Kindly consider this all-time Country Classic...

When it was a new song, it was REJECTED by Country listeners for being "Too Pop."

Oh, it poured out of radios coast-to-coast late in the Summer of 1971...radios tuned to the TOP 40, POP & ROCK STATIONS. NOT Country, where "Take Me Home, Country Roads" stiffed at #50.

It would be another three years before John Denver was fully accepted as a Pop Country artist. 

Yes, POP Country. 

Sounds as Traditional as can be today, doesn't it? 

John Denver's just one of countless examples of music once seen by Country fans as out-of-bounds, but was eventually accepted. 

And it's nothing new. 

Imagine your great-grandparents, used to Country & Western, or Hillbilly Music - that's what they called it way back then - sounding like this...

...hearing the Sons of the Pioneers for the first time.

It was COMPLETELY different from what came before. 

I'll even make the argument that "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" was Pop Country in its most embryonic form, dating all the way back to 1934 in the movies, though the definitive version shown here was recorded in 1946.

And lyrically, is it all that different from "Old Town Road," really? 

Really?

But Lil Nas X is a Hip-hop artist, and his album isn't Country, it's Hip-hop!

Not so fast...

Listen to the songs again, all hybrids with different genres of music. Can it even be categorized? 

It's not like we haven't been there before...

Ray Charles' "Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music" albums belonged to Pop, R&B AND Country, although again, it took years, and arguably some help from Willie Nelson, before Ray Charles was fully accepted in Country.

 

Ray Charles called Country Music "the white man's Rhythm & Blues," and saw zero problem blending the two genres, as countless hitmakers, from Ronnie Milsap to Sam Hunt, have done since.

Hip-hop elements - descended from R&B - have been a part of Country Music for a long, long time. Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem", Big 'N' Rich "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)", Toby Keith's "I Wanna Talk About Me" are three excellent examples. 

Some people worry about Country losing its identity, but I'm pretty confident as I type this...as long as there's room for George Strait's brand of Country...

 

...there's room for Lil Nas X and Blanco Brown, even if it takes a few years. Country Music is a very large tent.

So said Hank Williams Jr...over 30 years ago.

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