As the age old saying goes, “when in doubt, call in the big guns,” (I don’t know if that is a real saying but I’m going to go with it). Just when you thought that Lil Nas X’s viral hit could not get any better, he recruited country music legend Billy Ray Cyrus onto the remix. Yeah, that Billy Ray Cyrus. What started off as a random Twitter meme song has spiraled into a mega hit in the drop of a hat. It’s not a coincidence that just a few days before, the Billboard music charts removed “Old Town Road” from the country charts, citing that the song did not represent the values and the sound of the genre. So naturally, adding one of the staples of country music to the viral “trap country” hybrid is the ultimate chess move.
What makes the move even more poetic is that the song knocks. It’s hard, it’s perfection exemplified. It’s everything that the original song is, which captured the hearts of Black Twitter and white frat kids alike. No one thought there was a piece missing from the track, but the addition of Billy Ray Cyrus brought the song to a whole different level, elevating it past any boundary of genre. The song is number one on all of the streaming charts as of when I’m writing this, surpassing new tracks from Billie Eilish and Khalid. It’s untouchable, with no signs of stopping.
What is the cause for its rampant viral nature, you might ask? Well, I will tell you audience. The rest of this article will serve as a definitive list of all the times the “Old Town Road” Remix achieved perfection. While the song only runs for 2 minutes and 37 seconds, there are plenty of moments that build the case for this being the song of the year. Let’s get into it.
The first time you hear Billy Ray Cyrus hum.
I believe that a well-executed hum is one of the most powerful tools in all of music (see Kid Cudi’s hums). It can set the tone of the song immediately, making it apparent that the track will be perfect. From the moment you hear Billy Ray hum, you’re transported to a country wonderland, wearing an egregiously large cowboy hat, Wrangler boots that fit just right, and riding the finest horse this side of the Mississippi. The sweet and drawn out hums set the stage perfectly for the rest of the track, making it actually feel like a country song.
Billy Ray singing the chorus.
From the very first time I heard his voice singing the chorus, I was sold. I never realized how well the song actually fits into the country genre. Maybe I was just focusing on the trap aspects of the song, but hearing Billy Ray on the chorus opened my eyes and ears back to the country side of the song. It’s probably just my bias.
Lil Nas X’s verses.
Nothing changed from the original song, and nothing needed to. He did so many things right, potentially crafting the song of the year on his own. His redneck/country/southern accent is perfect. It almost makes you forget that he was making fun of the genre of country because it’s so damn good. From the first time that you heard “I got the horses in the back,” it was stuck in your head. Hell, you were probably repeating it for the rest of the day. I know that I was. The southern drawl that he employs perfectly meshes with the lyrics, with the combination worming its way into your brain and staying there for the rest of your life.
He accomplishes the same thing when he begins the second verse, which is objectively the funniest part of the song:
Ridin’ on a tractor
Lean all in my bladder
Cheated on my baby– via Rap Genius.
You can go and ask her
My life is a movie
Bull ridin’ and boobies
Cowboy hat from Gucci
Wrangler on my booty
I think that was the first part of the song that I knew fully by heart. The juxtaposition of riding on a tractor with a bladder full of lean is a hilarious and perfect representation of the mixing of the country and trap. It doesn’t seem like it should work, but each time we get it, we’re 100% thankful for its existence.
Billy Ray’s verse.
Bars. Absolute bars. He did not have to go this hard. It’s crazy that in 2019, Billy Ray Cyrus released a better rap verse than Eminem has in the past 10 years. The amount of flexing that was fit into the eight lines of his verse was phenomenal. Unlike other artists that dip their foot into the Black sphere of rapping (looking at you Miley), Billy Ray didn’t try to become something that he was not. Instead, he translated his already perfect persona into rap lyrics, talking about spending money on a brand new guitar and even dropping in a reference to the Marlboro Man.
And here’s the thing: it worked. It didn’t seem out of place or forced. He was seamlessly added into the fabric of the track, making the mega-hit even more perfect.
Their duet on the chorus.
I assume the final chorus is the song that plays once you reach the gates of heaven. Their duet is what dreams are made of. The over exaggerated southern drawl of Lil Nas X’s voice perfectly merges with Billy Ray’s real accent. I can’t fully explain my emotions when I heard their duet for the first time, but I felt at peace, as though everything in the world was perfectly balanced at that moment.
The whistle at the end.
The metaphorical chef’s kiss.