Billy Ray Cyrus is defending his decision to join Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”
After the rapper’s viral country-trap song was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country chart, Cyrus, 57, spoke out about whether or not the song should be classified as “country.” In a statement to Rolling Stone, Billboard said the track “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
“It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time,” Cyrus wrote on Twitter Friday. “I was thinking, what’s not country about it? What’s the rudimentary element of a country and western song? Then I thought, it’s honest, humble, and has an infectious hook, and a banjo. What the hell more do ya need?”
After the 19-year-old rapper recruited Cyrus to make a remix, the revamped version went viral on the Internet.
In a follow-up tweet, Cyrus recalled how he recorded the remix with his own twist. “A few days passed and I went to the studio to do vocals,” he wrote. “When I finished the pass, I whistled at the end of the song. Thats when the engineer stood up and said, ‘that s— is fire.’ We’re keeping that! Glad you guys are diggin’ the tune, love seeing all your meme’s [sic].”
Other country stars have also spoken out about the song.
On Friday, John Rich stopped by the Brian Kilmeade Show on Fox Nation, where he said “the fans” should decide where the song belongs, using legendary singer Johnny Cash as an example.
“Let the fans decide. I mean, country music — I go back to guys like Johnny Cash when he showed up in Nashville, they said that is not country music,” Rich said. “The guy made his records in Memphis where rock and roll was happening — he’s got his hair slicked back, he’s singing about sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
“Johnny Cash, most hardcore lyrics anybody had ever heard — he’s not country — now Johnny Cash, a pillar of country music,” he said.
“I don’t like people that try to piggyback on real country music,” Rich continued. “So, I think if you really want to be a country artist, then be one — come to Nashville, write your music, really come up with something that’s fitting somewhere around country music.”
The collaboration between Cyrus and Lil Nas X seemed destined to happen. Back in December, Lil Nas X shared a video of himself listening to “Old Town Road” and wrote, “Twitter please help me get billy ray cyrus on this.”
On Wednesday, Cyrus tweeted at the rapper, “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!”
Lil Nas X first shared the news that the song had been taken off the Billboard country chart in late March, when he posted a screenshot of an article with the caption, “Extremely disappointed.”
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