Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ exposes the whitewashing of Country music
In a recent deleted tweet, Miley Cyrus shows her support for the song by referring to OTR as her “Daddy’s” song.
This erasure of Lil Nas X’s claim over the song is another example of how Country music and Western/Southern American culture, in general, excludes or erases Black artists.
Symbolism and History
Country music is a specifically American genre, and everything associated with it has a very traditional American vibe.
By excluding Black artists who are not only deserving of credit but are essential to Country music and Western/Southern culture, society is trying to remove Black claims over American culture.
This continues the “othering” of Black Americans.
The most obvious symbol of Country music might be the cowboy hat. In the American subconscious, the cowboy hat is exclusively linked to a white man. The John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods of Hollywood’s Westerns have made sure of this association.
These films effectively whitewash the historical truth of the Cowboy that was mostly Black and Mexican. Still, Hollywood really violates POCs with Western films that make the antagonist either Black, Mexican or Native.
Hollywood gives POCs side character roles with negative stereotypes like the lazy drunk or victims like the abused woman. And the hero is always white even if he kills a bunch of POCs for no good reason.
Erasure in Country Music
Fast forwarding to present day, the music industry kills Black artists’ claims of the country genre.
Lil Nas X’s original song “Old Town Road” was rejected as a country song for the Billboard country charts. Billboard removed the song and stated that the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music.”
This kind of rejection in the country music industry isn’t new. During Grammy season in 2016, Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” was rejected by the Recording Academy’s Country music committee.
Twitter Flames the Industry
In response to “Old Town Road’s” rejection, the flooding support from Black Twitter and some Country artists promoted a conversation about the criteria for Country songs and how race plays into that.
The Billboard Country charts currently feature all white artists.
Translation: We can’t have a Black rapper crossing over and topping the charts.pic.twitter.com/jesozUSzlu
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) March 28, 2019
Black people supporting the hell out of Old Town Road just to spite Billboard. pic.twitter.com/3Wp7PXRGia
— Marshon Gattimore (@RJPJR) April 5, 2019
Riding Back to Whip the Charts
Since then, Lil Nas X partnered with Billy Ray Cyrus and released a remix to “Old Town Road” which toppled the Billboard charts to No. 1, prompting some supporters to credit Cyrus by helping the song reach such heights.
billboards: sorry but old town road isn't country enough
billy ray cyrus: pic.twitter.com/0MHWoGb7av
— nate 🙂 (@locall0ner) April 5, 2019
Others kept Lil Nas X at the forefront of the song’s success.
Billboards: old town road is not country enough lil nas X: pic.twitter.com/K1YC0PPlBe
— D.Ferg (@Where_Is_Ferg) April 5, 2019
And in response to Miley’s Tweet:
But now that Old Town Road is No. 1, will Billboard return the song to the Country charts?
Either way, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” has become the shortest song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 this century. And Lil Nas X just wants to enjoy that.
no matter what negative shit y’all tweet i’m going down in history lmaoo
— i am reading all that (@LilNasX) April 8, 2019