Trent Reznor has been honored with a Country Music Association (CMA) Award, for his contributions to the Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus hit “Old Town Road.” The Nine Inch Nails frontman and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross were billed as producers on the track, thanks to the track’s producer YoungKio, who made sampled NIN’s “34 Ghosts IV” for the addictive beat of “Old Town Road.”
“Old Town Road” won in the Musical Event of the Year category, besting songs by country music heavyweights including Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, Brooks & Dunn, Maren Morris, and Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell. It’s Cyrus’ first CMA win since 1992, when he took home a trophy for “Achy Breaky Heart.”
The accolade is one of two that were announced early on Wednesday’s Good Morning America ahead of the CMA Awards, airing later today at 8 p.m. on ABC. Country duo Maddie and Tae also proclaimed Kacey Musgraves the winner of CMA’s Music Video of the Year for “Rainbow.”
Even though the CMA win for “Old Town Road” was expected, it has not been without controversy. The diamond-certified track was eliminated from the country charts by Billboard in March because “it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
Reznor didn’t acknowledge his role in the song for a long time, finally breaking his silence in an interview with Rolling Stone in October. He admitted he “felt a little violated” when he heard the song for the first time, comparing that moment to what he felt when he first heard Johnny Cash’s version of his song “Hurt.”
“The music from ‘Ghosts’ that turned into ‘Old Town Road’ certainly didn’t come from as intimate a place as the song ‘Hurt’ did, but it’s still something that I remember what I was thinking about when we did it and then you hear it turned into this other thing — it feels strange at first,” the rocker said. “But I thought he did a good job with that.”
This is Reznor’s first CMA Award; in addition to two Grammys, he, along with Ross, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe in 2011 for their score for The Social Network.