Music Reviews

Track Review: Old Town Road Remix – Lil Nas ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

Lil Nas and Billy Ray Cyrus carry on the tradition of Nelly and Tim McGraw but make a much better song

What a time to be alive. Billy Ray Cyrus AKA “Mr. Achy Breaky Heart” has jumped onto Lil Nas’ viral hit “Old Town Road” and the resulting track is even goofier and fun than the original.

Lil Nas’ was understandably upset when his track was excluded from the “Hot Country Songs” list because Billboard claimed, “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.” What does that even mean? There weren’t enough references to jean shorts, kegs, or other modern country music boilerplate horseshit? They’re basically saying “It wasn’t formulaic enough”.

This sparked a debate on race and how white artists such as Sam Hunt or Taylor Swift are allowed to blend genres and appear on the country charts while black artists aren’t allowed the same freedom. Musicians were understandably pissed and came to Lil Nas’ defense, one of them being Billy Ray Cyrus. Lil Nas invited Billy Ray onto his remix and that’s how we got to where we are today. If you didn’t know all of that, I can’t imagine how confused you must have been when this track started blowing up on social media.

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Most people trying to figure out what’s going on

I’m a big fan of the original “Old Town Road” because it’s an irreverent, hilarious take on country music from a young hip-hop artist that does an admirable job of blending both genres. It’s not a great song, but Lil Nas’ fake southern drawl mixed with the trap lyrics filtered through a country lens along with the acoustic guitar sample makes fun to listen to. It’s not a great song but it’s earnest and genuine, and really catchy. People either love it or hate it (if you’re my friends you hate it because I won’t stop playing it) but regardless of your opinion, you can’t deny how unique it is.

Billy Ray Cyrus, the man who is most well known for being Miley Cyrus’ dad and creating the infuriatingly tacky yet catchy “Achy Breaky Heart” from the early 90s, jumps on the remix and good lord does he deliver. He immediately understands what the track is going for and adds his own verse about Maseratis and Fendi, Rodeo Drive, and buying a brand new guitar. His verse is right in line with the original track and makes the whole thing even goofier.

Culturally and meme-wise, this is a perfect song and collaboration. Judging it as a piece of music without context it’s just OK. Billy Ray’s verse is pretty good but his scratchy voice doesn’t have the same impact it used to and the harmonizing on the last chorus is pretty bad. I do love the whistle on the outro and the lyrical content because it’s just so ridiculous but the performances leave a lot to be desired. It reminds me of Ugly God’s “Beat my meat” where the beat is just the iPhone ringtone reversed and there are 3 lengthy verses about jerking off. Great song? No. Hilarious and meme-able? Yes.

Music is different these days, young up and comers can make a big splash if they have a good idea and raw talent. Think about Desiigner on “Father Stretch my Hands pt. 2”. He had a great single but was still a long way away from being a fully-formed artist. This collab is one of quirkiest, goofiest songs in recent memory and I hope that Lil Nas can continue to develop as an artist instead of being remembered as a one-hit wonder. Either way, this song was built for 2019 and will be remembered as a cultural point in history when a washed-up country star with a pop star daughter made a hip-hop/country song with a 19-year-old college student. Like I said, what a time.

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