The next stop on the highly unlikely journey of Lil Nas X and his smash hit, “Old Town Road,” is the star-studded stage of CMA Fest, airing Aug. 4 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Lil Nas X (born Montero Lamar Hill in Atlanta) will perform the cool and quirky country song with multiple Grammy and Country Music Award (CMA) nominee Billy Ray Cyrus, who appears on the ground-breaking recording. They will be joined by four-time Grammy winner, Keith Urban, winner of 15 CMA Awards.
“Old Town Road,” written by Lil Nas X, Kiowa Roukema, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, recently made history, becoming the longest running No. 1 single on Billboard, maintaining the position for 17 weeks and surpassing the 1995 hit “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men as well as “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber, which both held the spot for 16 weeks.
Created while Lil Nas was homeless and sleeping on his sister’s couch, and built on a “beat” that he purchased from a music website for $30, “Old Town Road,” which is accompanied by a zany video featuring Billy Ray Cyrus and comedian Chris Rock, was met with controversy shortly after debuting at No. 19 on the Hot Country chart. Billboard removed the track, stating that ir was not a country song, while allowing it to remain on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop list.
Upon hearing of the Billboard decision, Lil Nas told Time magazine, “The song is country trap. It’s not one, it’s not the other. It’s both. It should be both.” When asked if he believed that race was a factor, he responded, “I believe when you’re trying something new, it’s always going to get some kind of bad reception. For example, when rap started, or when rock and roll began.”
Amid the public outcry and allegations of racism, given that white artists are allowed to move freely between different musical genres, country star Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame voiced his support of Lil Nas tweeting, “Been watching everything going on with OTR. When I got thrown off the charts, Waylon Jennings said to me, ‘Take this as a compliment.’ Means you’re doing something great! Only outlaws are outlawed. Welcome to the club!”
Back in April, Cyrus joined Lil Nas X on an “official” remix of “Old Town Road,” and before long the song was reinstated onto the Hot Country chart, although Billboard denied that race played a part in any of its decisions.
Hosted by Kelsea Ballerini and Thomas Rhett, this Sunday’s television special, filmed during Nashville’s 48th Annual CMA Fest in June, features a number of creative country collaborations that could engage the non-tradition viewer including:
Kelsea Ballerini and The Chainsmokers-”This Feeling”
Brothers Osborne with Brooks & Dunn and Ashley McBryde-”You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”
Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Eli-”What Happens In A Smaill Town”
Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus and Keith Urban-”Old Town Road”
Carrie Underwood and Joan Jett-Medley of “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Fresh Start” and “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”
Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile-”Common”