What does Billy Ray Cyrus have to do with all of this?
Here's where things get wild. During the initial chart controversy, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus sent a message to Lil Nas X on Twitter. "Been watching everything going on with OTR," he wrote. "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!"
Days later, Lil Nas X and Cyrus released a remix to "Old Town Road" featuring Cyrus, but most importantly, it was really good. Cyrus clearly gets what works about the song and leans into the lightly comedic conceit of the track with a verse about "Fendi sports bras" and driving around in his "Maserati sports car." The remix isn't necessarily better than the original, but it understands the essential appeal of "Old Town Road."
On May 17, after teasing it on Twitter for weeks, Lil Nas X released the official video for "Old Town Road," which featured the rapper as a time-traveling cowboy. Along with an appearance from Billy Ray Cyrus, the star-studded video also featured cameos from Chris Rock, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, Diplo, Haha Davis, and Young Kio. At the moment, it's been viewed over 240 million times on YouTube. Similarly, a video from late May of Lil Nas X performing the song for a screaming crowd of elementary school kids also went viral.
Since then, Lil Nas X has also performed the song on award shows and kept the momentum going by releasing new remixes, including a version featuring rapper Young Thug and viral yodeling singer Mason Ramsey. He loves to tease possible collaborations and remixes with other artists on Twitter, but he reportedly turned down the chance to perform the song with Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. As the song has continued to blow up, audiences have also gotten to know Lil Nas X better: He's spoken candidly about his sexuality, adopted some very cute Bernese mountain dog puppies, and paid his respect to Mariah Carey after breaking her chart record. He's an easy guy to root for.
What exactly has made "Old Town Road" so damn popular that it might never leave the top of the Billboard chart? At the risk of stating the obvious, I'll say "Old Town Road" is unapologetic, uncomplicated fun. There's a line about "bull ridin' and boobies" and another about having "Wrangler on my booty." Come on, that's pretty funny. At the same time, there's an emotional core to the song's chorus, a familiar sense of country-western longing that elevates it from being a parody or a joke. The road might be old, but Lil Nas X makes it feel new.