Dinner Table Conversation: What Makes A Song A Country Song?

September 28, 2019

What are some music genres that you know? Pop, classical, hip hop, rock? But what makes a song a hip hop song and not a pop song? It gets even trickier when songs straddle two genres. These songs may be considered “crossovers,” meaning a song that falls into two different genres.

Confusing, we know! Well, imagine if you created a song and thought it belonged in one category but others didn’t think so. That’s what happened to one of this year’s most popular songs, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. While the song won many nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards and ultimately won the “Song of the Year” award, it didn’t get there easily.

By DiFronzo – BiznessBoi, Lil Nas X & Boyband, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78262344

When Lil Nas X, the artist behind the song “Old Town Road” released it in December of 2018, he categorized it as country music despite the fact that it has elements of rap in it. It quickly soared in popularity and landed on the Billboard Charts, a listing of the most popular songs by category. The Billboard Charts initially included “Old Town Road” in its country music list. Even though it initially landed on the nineteenth spot, it was expected to get more and more popular and race to the top. That never happened, but not for lack of popularity. It never happened because Billboard pulled the song from its country charts, claiming that the song didn’t have enough elements of country music in it.

The decision did not sit well with fans of the song. Some people considered the decision racist (Lil Nas X is black and country music artists are predominantly white) while others pointed out that there is no one perfect version of country music so no one really gets to decide if a song is country enough.

For now, Billboard says it will pay close attention to a remix of the song to see if that version qualifies for their country song list.