Keith Urban’s Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’ Cover Is a Major Endorsement
Keith Urban just covered "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X, giving the song a sound that's undeniably country. The superstar's take on the controversial hit is just the latest in what's becoming a complicated conversation.
The reigning ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year shared his cover on Saturday afternoon (April 13). It's just him and his ganjo, delivering a much more organic version of "Old Town Road" than the 20-year-old rapper recorded and released originally. Urban sings the chorus and a verse during a 83-second long clip — it's the kind of song that would fit easily on any of his last three studio albums.
Does this mean it's now a country song?
The rock horns emoji is the only caption Urban uses to present the video, but by playing "Old Town Road" he makes it clear he's a fan. It's an endorsement of the song, even if he stops short of outright saying it contains enough elements to be considered a country song. There will not be one definitive voice in this conversation, but Urban can certainly sway the debate.
As of Monday (April 15), Lil Nas X has a charting song on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. He sits at No. 53, ahead of songs by Zac Brown Band and Kip Moore and just behind a song by Dustin Lynch.
Billy Ray Cyrus was the first country singer to endorse "Old Town Road," going as far as to cut a remix. Since then Jake Owen has announced a collaboration with the rapper and Jimmie Allen has given the song a thumbs up. Brothers Osborne, on the other hand, spoke out against the song as a country song.
"Go listen to Kris Kristofferson and then go listen to that song," John Osborne told Billboard. "And if you tell me they have anything to do with each other I will quit."
Billboard included and then removed "Old Town Road" from its Hot Country Songs chart, sparking a touchy conversation that centered on race in country music. The publication stated the song didn't contain enough elements to be considered a country song and has stood by that decision. In the following weeks Lil Nas X and the song have received tremendous amounts of attention by national media outlets, including CBS This Morning.
Urban — who became the second oldest ACM Entertainer of the Year on April 7 — has pushed the genre forward sonically more than any artist of the last decade, with several pop and hip-hop collaborations across his last three albums and no hesitation to use loops and beats once thought to be only for pop or hip-hop artists. Fuse (2013), Ripcord (2016) and Graffiti U (2018) have each doubled down on a more progressive sound, and it's hard to argue each has been anything but successful in raising his star.
His opinion does not define country music, but when the Entertainer of the Year speaks, he deserves attention.
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