The new, viral song "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X hit the Billboard charts in three different categories, but this week that changed when Billboard said the song “does not embrace enough of today’s country music.”
The Atlanta artist—who recently signed with Columbia Records—created the song in December, but it didn’t go viral until Justin Bieber endorsed it to his 100 million+ followers.
"Old Town Road" is now #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, #13 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Chart, and as of last week, #19 on the Billboard Hot Country chart. But this week, you won't find it there, because Billboard took it off that chart.
As to why, Billboard responded to KARE 11 saying, "Upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard's country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. 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."
Elliott Powell, a professor of American Studies and Pop music at the University of Minnesota, had a number of questions for Billboard and its choice to remove the song from the list.
“So for me, the question is, what are these standards?” said Powell. “If we have an album like 'Golden Hour' by Kasey Musgraves, most people will argue that doesn't actually sound like a Country album yet wins best Country Album at the GRAMMYs and wins best Country Album at CMAs, that begs the question, how expansive are we trying to make country music?”
Powell also notes that PSY’s 2012 hit "Gangnam Style" charted number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs.
“I think it makes an interesting counter-example to say that PSY is rapping, but I think very few people would qualify it as a rap song. And yet, Billboard didn't pull PSY off of the charts,” said Powell.
He also makes the argument of Beyonce’s "Daddy Lessons" hit not making the GRAMMYs list for best Country songs of the year, despite clearly being a Country song.
“It's possible for songs to hit multiple charts. It could be on the Pop chart, it could be on the Country chart, it could be on the Rap chart. That's fine. But to take (Old Town Road) off the Country chart just seems to be odd,” said Powell.