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Lil Nas X's megahit Old Town Road beats Billboard record, makes music history

The single, which features Billy Ray Cyrus, just became the most enduring #1 in chart history

The single, which features Billy Ray Cyrus, just became the most enduring #1 in chart history

Rap/country artist Lil Nas X is expected to make chart history this week, when he becomes the first artist ever to have a single top the Billboard Hot 100 for 17 weeks. (YouTube)

When Lil Nas X released the track Old Town Road, he had a feeling it could be a hit — but little did he know it would become one of the biggest singles in music history.

Now the megahit has hit a new milestone: it has become the first-ever song to top the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for 17 weeks straight.

In a celebratory tweet, Lil Nas X explained how it all came together. "Generic sounding beats. Trying to find the right one for me, when suddenly I came across a country-trap sounding masterpiece. I immediately knew I would make something special out of it," he wrote.

"My sister told me I had little time left before I had to leave her house after being there for months promoting my music online and not helping her out much. I was so upset I used it as motivation for the song," he wrote.

"I jokingly/seriously saw myself as a loner cowboy needing to run away from it all! I went out on my sister's back porch and listened to the beat OVER and OVER and OVER!! Then it came to me!! In my best singing voice I sung, 'YEAHHH I'M GONNA TAKE MY HORSE TO THE OLD TOWN ROAD, I'M GONNA RIDEEEE TIL I CAN'T NO MORE.'

"Did I know it would become the longest running number one song of all time? NO!!" he wrote. "But I am so thankful that this blessing has been placed upon me. This song has changed my life."

The Billboard Hot 100 rankings are based on sales (both digital and physical), radio play and online streaming.

Last week, the song tied with the 1995 Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men hit One Sweet Day, and the massive 2017 Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit Despacito, which featured Canadian Justin Bieber.

Other singles to top the chart for the most consecutive weeks include Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You (1992), Boyz II Men's I'll Make Love to You (1994), Los del Rio's Macarena (1996), Mariah Carey's We Belong Together (2005), Elton John's Candle in the Wind 1997, the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling (2009), and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk (2015), all of which sat at number one for 14 weeks.

Earlier this year, Old Town Road also beat a one-week U.S. streaming record that was previously held by Drake's In My Feelings. The song has also topped charts in countries around the world.

Ironically, it was a Billboard-related controversy that catapulted the track to mainstream fame. In March of this year, Old Town Road reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, but the publication later disqualified the song because it was deemed to not fit the country genre.

Billboard was accused of racial and genre bias because Lil Nas X was an African-American rapper; soon the catchy tune shot from number 83 to number one on the Billboard singles chart.

"Two days after releasing the song, I was like, everybody retweet this and help me get Billy Ray Cyrus on it, because I wanted him on the song already," said Lil Nas X in a CBC q interview in April. "Then the Billboard situation came along and, you know, this just gave all the more reason for it to happen."

Since its release in April, the version featuring Billy Ray Cyrus has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Three other remixes — one featuring Cyrus and Diplo, one with rapper Young Thug and singer Mason Ramsey, and one featuring South Korean rapper RM — have also been released.

In 2018, Lil Nas X left college to pursue music full-time and was living with his sister when he penned Old Town Road, which has been described by the artist as country trap.

"Right before the song came out, I was at my brother's house, after leaving my sister's house, just, you know, staying up all night trying to push songs on the internet," he said in April.

"Just back-to-back headaches, sleeping on the floor. It wasn't good, you know? But I'm in a better place now."

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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