What’s Country Enough?
This month musical artist Lil Nas X hit a major milestone in his career with his viral song “Old Town Road,” which charted on Billboard’s cross-genre Hot 100 chart, the Hot Country Songs chart and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart all at once. That was short lived however, when Billboard suddenly removed his viral track from the Hot Country songs list with no public announcement.
Billboard eventually commented through Rolling Stone that the song, “Does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard‘s country charts.” The song does blur the line of genres, however fans as well as some country artists have begged the question what makes a song country enough and if other factors were at play. This wouldn’t be the first time that a Black artist with a genre bending sound was seeming denied access into the “country club,” with the most notable example being Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” being rejected by Grammy’s for consideration as a country song.
OTR’s situation raises the question of how innovation can be welcomed without alienating or completely disrupting the status quo. There may be no clear answer, but as society grows more culturally fluid, adjustments likely need to be made across categories. In Lil Nas X’s situation, one answer is the co-sign of a long standing industry name: Billy Ray Cyrus, who was also once denied access to the country billboard charts.