I don’t know anyone who hasn't heard “Old Town Road” at this point. No literally, I don’t know anyone. A few months ago, most people didn’t even know who Lil Nas X was, and Billy Ray was not the Cyrus that we thought we wanted new music from. When Billy Ray Cyrus hopped on the track for a remix, two worlds collided and something that can only be described as *magical* was produced. Lil Nas X actually called the genre “country trap” but magical works too. The hip-hop/country crossover was a musical shock at first, but once it started gaining popularity, it never stopped. People who never thought they’d be fans of country music were instantly obsessed and bumped the song over and over again.
Within a matter of months, “Old Town Road” has completely blown up and is one of the hottest tracks of summer 2019. It’s even on its way to breaking a record of being the longest leading number 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song is currently tied with “Despacito,” although it doesn’t seem to be coming down anytime soon.
But the catchy hit is also super confusing. Like where is the Old Town Road? And why does Lil Nas X have a horse? What happened to his car? Check out our explainer below and hopefully your, or mostly just my own, confusion is cleared up.
Old Town Road, horses in the back, wait what?
The lyrics of “Old Town Road” go something, actually exactly, like this:
“Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road / I’m gonna ride ’til I can’t no more”
And it turns out these lyrics are actually deep AF, as explained by Lil Nas X himself, to Genius. He basically said that the Old Town Road represents the path to success, wealth, fortune, and all that good stuff that he’s experiencing right now. Lil Nas X believes his opportunities are limitless, hence why he’s going to ride ’til he can’t no more. “I got the horses in the back” represents how Lil Nas X is traveling on his journey to success, and his acknowledgement of the talent he has to give to the world. The lyrics “Ridin’ on a horse, ha / You can whip your Porsche” are meant to show that he knows he has the talent to make it in hip-hop and doesn’t need anything special or complicated to make it. All he needs is an old-school horse to get where he wants to go.
You can’t tell Lil Nas X anything
“Can’t nobody tell me nothin’ / You can’t tell me nothin’” These lyrics are a crystal-clear message to anyone who has or tried to doubt the 20-year-old singer. Lil Nas X is basically saying, “Hi, haters, and bye!” He won’t let anything bring him down on his way to the top. And if you too were wondering if that line was paying homage to Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” it was not. But Lil Nas X knows that real recognizes real!
Things get wild in the second verse...
“Ridin’ on a tractor / Lean all in my bladder / Cheated on my baby / You can go and ask her / My life is a movie.” Hard drugs, adulterous relationships, and living life like it’s a movie doesn’t sound like the simple life we were just talking about. But Lil Nas X is only imagining what life is like when you actually achieve rock-star status. The tractor is a major step up from the horse, but don’t worry he’s still humble. And about the drugs, he says he’s, “not trying to endorse that, by the way.” He’s just high on life. Lil Nas X makes sure to end the verse with a slight flex though, when he sings “Cowboy hat from Gucci / Wrangler on my booty.”
And then Billy Ray Cyrus comes in
The beginning of Billy Ray Cyrus’s verse, on the other hand, is a huge flex on all our lives. He sings, “Hat down, cross town, livin’ like a rock star / Spent a lot of money on my brand new guitar /Baby’s got a habit: diamond rings and Fendi sports bras / Ridin’ down Rodeo in my Maserati sports car.” There’s lots of name-dropping about expensive things, but hey, who can blame you when you’re a rock star? Billy Ray goes on to explain that he’s been through the hardships in life and had to ride his own journey to success, like Lil Nas X.
“Got no stress, I’ve been through all that / I’m like a Marlboro Man so I kick on back.” That line references the Marlboro Man, an iconic representation of a relaxed cowboy. Cyrus finishes his verse with the line, “Wish I could roll on back to that Old Town Road / I wanna ride ’til I can’t no more.” Here, he’s telling us that he might be sick of fame, and he is ready to just chill, out of the spotlight now. He’s passing the torch on to Lil Nas X to take over.
“Old Town Road” is really a message that Lil Nas X wrote to himself as words of encouragement
In an interview with Time, Lil Nas X revealed that “Old Town Road” was written at a time where he felt discouraged to pursue his music career. He said that in that period, he felt like was “out of options.” But once he started making the song, he realized that it would be “the symbol for success.” Crazy how this all turned out.
The song is a total phenomenon and having a major cultural moment
The cultural commentary via hilarious tweets doesn’t add any meaning to the song, but they’re too good not to mention. Here are some personal favorites:
Me whenever I hear country music:😒— Patty (@RealPattyWap) April 5, 2019
Me listening to the Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus remix of old town road pic.twitter.com/qhuGd6uCHz
Nobody:— Assante Ndongo (@thatdarkboi) April 5, 2019
Me when Billy Ray Cyrus remix plays: pic.twitter.com/kpfxJLZxoG
ᴿᶦᵈᶦⁿ' ᵈᵒʷⁿ ᴿᵒᵈᵉᵒ ᶦⁿ ᵐʸ ᴹᵃˢᵉʳᵃᵗᶦ ˢᵖᵒʳᵗˢ ᶜᵃʳ pic.twitter.com/Q0jETHNDer— ellie sunakawa (@elliesunakawa) April 5, 2019
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