After 17 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road has finally toppled Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s One Sweet Day. Carey’s record has stood for a staggering 23 years, since 1996. Two years ago, Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee equalled the record, but despite smashing world records for streaming numbers, it fell off the #1 spot before hitting that 17th week.
In classic Lil Nas X style, the rapper celebrated with a video thanking his fans while sitting on the toilet;
“I’m on the toilet right now, but I want to say thank you to every single person who has made this moment possible for me. We just broke the record for the longest-running number one song of all-time,” he said, before turning up the volume and blaring “Old Town Road” from it.
— nope (@LilNasX) July 29, 2019
Lil Nas X originally recorded the vocals over a pre-made beat by Dutch producer Kio, and after a few months of memes by Lil Nas X himself, the song catapulted to online success thanks to TikTok, a social media platform that lets users create short music videos (or at least that’s how we explain it to our parents).
Memes have been a part of Old Town Road from day 1. Lil Nas X launched the track with an obscure mashup vid to the beat of the tune on Instagram;
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The song baffled some industry professionals, too. Rolling Stone reported that the track gained traction so fast that many stations played it before it was signed to a label, meaning that they were playing it ripped off YouTube. After getting signed to Columbia Records in the US, the song also made headlines for being quietly dropped from the Country Charts. Initially the song had been labelled as Country on Apple Music and Soundcloud, but Billboard claimed “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”.
But little did Billboard know, that with that move, they’d turned Old Town Road towards shattering that 16-week #1 Record. Billy Ray Cyrus tweeted about the track, saying he’d been following the news since it first hit the charts;
.@LilNasX 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!
— Billy Ray Cyrus (@billyraycyrus) April 3, 2019
And this was where Old Town Road began its’ remix-fuelled surge to the top.
it happened !!! https://t.co/b2PikhrwIK
— nope (@LilNasX) April 5, 2019
Just days after that tweet from Cyrus, Lil Nas X announced the first (and perhaps definitive) remix of Old Town Road, featuring an extra verse by Cyrus himself.
But Lil Nas X didn’t rest on his laurels with that. Following the Billy Ray remix up with a music video, and then went absolutely viral all over again when he paid a surprise visit to an elementary school to thank them for performing his track at their 5th Grade talent show;
YEE YEE! pic.twitter.com/Jt19Rzr1fM
— nope (@LilNasX) May 29, 2019
After Old Town Road broke the 17th week at #1, Cyrus released a statement saying; “Seventeen is my new favourite number,” also referring to his debut album Some Gave All, which spent 17 weeks at number 1 in 1992.
“My goal was always to make music that would touch people’s lives around the world.”
That still wasn’t it. American DJ Diplo then released his own version of Old Town Road, pumped up in his signature style;
Old Town Road stayed at the top of the charts for the next few weeks under its’ own steam, as Lil Nas X pulled focus aside to work on his EP 7, which features Old Town Road, and his next single, Panini.
And Panini was no stranger to the internet either; after tweeting celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Lil Nas X found himself in London learning how to make a Panini alongside Ramsay himself;
But this was when the potential of toppling Mariah Carey’s record went from a dream to a possibility. And Lil Nas X geared up for battle, dropping two more remixes to carry it across the line. The first was an extended remix with Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, which launched alongside a music video celebrating the Storm Area 51 meme. The video also featured an animated cameo from internet music reviewer Anthony Fantano, as well as so many meme references that we’re scared to count them all.
The song itself spawned a bunch of memes, with people joking about how the number of horses on the cover art for the track continued to grow. It is also possible that they are not memes and are actually time travellers from 2046, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Hello I came from 2046 to tell you that Old Town Road is still at top, it’s been #1 for 674 weeks and it’s x34 platinum already. This is the current cover: pic.twitter.com/LsSOHfWtv3
— 🅴 Nico (@witdess) July 11, 2019
This, however, was still not enough for Lil Nas X. In a last-ditch effort to carry the song across the finish line, Lil Nas X enlisted the help of one of the biggest bands in the world; K-Pop group BTS. The latest (and apparently final) remix of Old Town Road is dubbed Seoul Town Road, and features BTS’ RM, ditching the verses from all the previous guests. Given the incredibly active fanbase of BTS, it’s no surprise this final surge helped Old Town Road finally claim the title from Mariah Carey, and it’s entirely possible it could carry it on for another week.
Love Lil Nas X? You can catch all his tracks on his Artist Station on iHeartRadio