WASHINGTON • A western-themed rap tune, complete with reference to horses and cowboys, was not enough to keep it on Billboard's country chart, sparking a backlash that came to a head last Friday with the release of a remix of the song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.
The song, Old Town Road, by black artist Lil Nas X was removed last month from Billboard's country chart after it determined that despite its references to standard country music elements such as boots, tractors and Wrangler jeans, it did not "merit inclusion" on the American chart.
Since Billboard's decision, the song has garnered attention from all corners of the Internet, including being turned into a meme and spawning dance videos and tweets of support from artists such as pop singer Justin Bieber.
The controversy reached a peak last Friday when Cyrus, whose hit Achy Breaky Heart topped Billboard's country chart in 1992, and Lil Nas X released their remix.
Billboard said Cyrus contributed a verse on the remix, which was released at midnight "after considerable hullabaloo".
"I loved the song the first time I heard it," Cyrus said in a statement quoted in news reports. "Country music fans decide what they like. Not critics or anyone else."
Last week, Cyrus tagged Lil Nas X in a tweet that referred to his own removal from the chart, implying Lil Nas X should take it as a compliment that he was "doing something great".
He added that he was honoured to collaborate with Lil Nas X.
Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Hill, said he wrote Old Town Road last autumn, after staying with his sister while avoiding his parents as a college dropout. When his sister finally sent him on his way, he imagined his future.