Lil Nas X has become an overnight sensation on TikTok thanks to a little nudge from Justin Bieber.
The singer’s hit “Old Town Road” went viral after Bieber shared a clip of himself listening to the song.
The song was widely circulated on TikTok and soon debuted on several of Billboard’s top charts, including Hot Country Songs.
The appearance on the Hot Country Songs list was short-lived, though. Billboard quietly removed the song from the list and informed Columbia Records that the song’s inclusion was a mistake.
Whether this is hip-hop, country, or somewhere in-between is subject to debate.
But it’s also part of an ever-morphing musical landscape, one that repeatedly blurs genre borders.
The original video was uploaded to YouTube on December 2nd, with the song accompanying footage from a recently released western game, Red Dead Redemption 2.
Billboard didn’t publicly announce the change, but they did speak to Rolling Stone about the reasoning behind the decision.
“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.”
Cowboy imagery like “Wranglers on my booty” do evoke country music, but the composition itself is very hip-hop focused. Manager Danny Kang believes Lil Nax purposefully manipulated algorithms on the internet to bring attention to his song.
“On SoundCloud, he listed it as a country record. On iTunes, he listed it as a country record. He was going to these spaces, gaining a little bit of traction on their country charts, and there’s a way to manipulate the algorithm to push your track to the top. That’s favorable versus trying to go to the rap format to compete with the most popular songs in the world.”
The song began gaining traction on SoundCloud in late December, but its growth was simply exponential after the Bieber share.