The song — created by an aspiring teenage rapper with a $30 beat — now holds the stand-alone record for the longest-running No. 1 on Billboard’s coveted Hot 100 songs chart, logging 17 consecutive weeks in the top slot.
“Old Town Road” tops an estimated 28,000 songs — and 1,086 No. 1 hits — to reach the Hot 100 since the chart began in 1958, Billboard reports.
Can’t nobody tell Lil Nas X nothin’, indeed.
Utilizing streaming, social media and star-studded remixes, the yeehaw rap tops a previous record of 16 weeks — achieved in 1995 by Mariah Carey and Boys II Men with “One Sweet Day” and in 2017 by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber.
Ahead of Billboard confirming the record, Nas X, now age 20, shared his appreciation last week on Twitter.
“THANK U TO EVERYBODY WHO STREAMED OLD TOWN ROAD THIS WEEK,” he wrote. “IT’S BEEN A LONG JOURNEY & WHETHER WE HIT IT OR NOT I APPRECIATE & LOVE ALL OF YOU.”
Cyrus, speaking to the Tennessean, echoed praise: “The people really became the power behind the song.”
This spring, after Nas X inked his record deal and Billy Ray Cyrus offered his stamp of approval with a remix to the western bop, “Old Town Road” ascended from Twitter memes and TikTok video lore into all-engrossing cultural phenomenon.
How’d he do it? Streaming and remixes, mostly. The song — which gained online momentum for being rejected in early April by Billboard country charts for not embracing “enough elements of today’s country music” — gets regular spins on Top 40 radio, but thrives on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and the like.
With the first remix, Nas X and Cyrus deliver a compact, catchy earworm that — at two-and-half-minutes — practically demands the listener to play it multiple times.
And people listened. A lot. “Old Town Road” began its residency at No. 1 in April by crushing the single-week song streaming record with 143 million plays in a seven-day frame. It now holds the top three slots in the single-week streaming record book and nine in the top 11, Billboard reports. Combine the Lil Nas X original with its Billy Ray Cyrus remix and “Old Town Road” nears 1 billion plays on Spotify alone.
Cyrus took “Old Town Road” to the historic Grand Ole Opry Saturday night, performing a duet with ‘Yoldeling Kid’ Mason Ramsey that earned a roaring ovation.
“The record took off and that first week, it was a big deal,” Cyrus said, later adding: “I didn’t know there would be a week 2 or 3 and then all of a sudden it starts becoming competitive.
“What I’ve always said is you play this game one week at a time.”
Nas X doubled down on the yeehaw agenda throughout the summer by creating can’t-miss milestones associated with “Road.” A star-filled music video, a pop-up Keith Urban and Billy Ray Cyrus collaboration at CMA Fest, a spirited performance at the BET Awards — every time the song began to slip out of the cultural purview, it came roaring back with a new, consumable twist.
Still, “Old Town Road” didn’t reach the top without formidable challengers. The song held off bids from global powerhouse Taylor Swift and newfound anti-pop star Billie Eilish.
Swift attempted to dethrone “Road” with “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” a pair of traditional singles off her upcoming “Lover” album. Eilish, on the other hand, tried to beat Nas X at his own game … remixes.
The 17-year-old challenged Nas X earlier this month with a Justin Bieber remix to her hit “Bad Guy,” which sat behind “Road” at No. 2 for nearly two months. Nas X countered hours later by dropping a version of “Old Town Road” that included Cyrus, Young Thug and Ramsey.
“Old Town Road” won again.
At Billboard, streaming carries the most weight in calculating the Hot 100 and, in most cases, remixes and original versions combine toward one unified chart entry. Nas X embrace the system by releasing a total five versions of the song to fuel its No. 1 reign.
“Not only do remixes jump-start a new level of excitement for (and consumption of) a song when they’re done right,” a Billboard article said, “but they also just allow for multiple versions of a song to feed into the same Hot 100 listing, giving the overall entry a natural advantage over songs with just one prominent version to their credit.”
Streaming changed how fandom influences the chart, the article said: “stream counts can stay enormous as long as listeners are still engaged with a song.”
Nas X embraced his race to the top by encouraging followers with self-aware quips at his absurd ascent. After releasing the fourth version of “Old Town Road,” he flooded the Internet with jests that anyone from Dolly Parton to Mariah Carey to Smash Mouth could drop a new verse on the song.