Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)
This is just an estimate, but I’d wager that, to date, I’ve heard Lil Nas X’s smash hit, “Old Town Road,” probably 75 million times. Every time we get into the car, any car, my kids ask to hear “their song.” Their song is “Old Town Road.” In the morning and in the evening. On the way to school or on the way home from school. It doesn’t matter. If we’re on a road, there’s a better than 99 percent chance that we’re taking our horse down the Old Town Road. We do not own any horses.
One of my sons, in particular, is entirely enamored with the song. He’s clearly my child; I, too, have an uncanny ability to listen to a song on repeat for days on end without growing tired of it. For instance, if you were to look at the number of times I’ve listened to, say, Phyllis Hyman’s “Be Careful (How You Treat My Love)” on my iTunes playlist (when I was using iTunes), it would have topped out at an easy several thousand times. In fact, the vast majority of my favorite songs are those that I’d listen to on repeat all day long, racking up insanely high play totals. Whether it was Bobby Brown’s “One More Night” or Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You,” those plays were going to be up in the many thousands.
But “Old Town Road” has tested my own abilities in ways I wasn’t prepared for. I’m not sure ANYBODY is supposed to have heard this song as many times as I have. I’d bet money that Lil Nas X hasn’t heard his own song as many times as I have. It is entirely possible that on any given day, I may hear the phrase “bullridin’ and boobies,” at least 15 times in a row…ONE WAY.
To be sure, I actually really like(d) “Old Town Road.” For one, I literally couldn’t be happier for Lil Nas X and his success. The song is fun during a time when people need fun. The lyrics are fun to sing, as is the hook. It’s short, clocking in at around 2 and a half minutes, making sure it never wears out its welcome (unless it’s the only song you hear). Hearing Billy Ray Cyrus sing about Maseratis and Fendi sports bras never gets old. Or at least it used to never get old. It’s old now, Billy Ray. Do you hear me? It’s old now.
Honestly, I really never thought I’d get here. I love music with my whole heart and probably some of yours. There are very few songs that I hate, regardless of genre. I listen to anything and everything. Hell, one of my favorite groups is the Chainsmokers even though I couldn’t point out anybody in the group—hell, I don’t even know if it is a group for real, for real—if my life depended on it. But their brand of substantive super-pop is right up my alley. I love that shit. That’s the bag I put “Old Town Road” in. Though when he was dropped from Billboard’s country charts, I absolutely decided it was a country song, for the culture and all.
The fact that the song is now the longest-running No. 1 song in the country makes sense to me as well. I get it. I’m part of the reason. But sometime last week, when I knew I was about to get into the car with my children to go to wherever they wanted to spend my money, I dreaded the sentence that I knew was coming.
“Daddy, can we hear ‘(what sounds like mumble rap) Road?’”
“You sure you don’t want to listen to something else? How about some Led Zeppelin? Or Jhene Aiko? What about the Clark Sisters??”
“No, I want the road, daddy.”
I hit play and hoped that one time would suffice but it didn’t. It never does. There’s no way to listen to “Old Town Road” once without listening to until the car ride ends. Now, every time I restart the song, I get annoyed and wish I had a physical copy to throw out of the window just to show how serious I am about my disdain for the song. But then I’d break my sons’ hearts and who wants to do that? Plus, if hearing this song a million more times, pushing our number of listens close to 8 trillion, makes my kids happy, who am I to steal their joy? I think about it, though. I seriously think about stealing their joy, but I don’t. Because this is parenting: doing that thing that annoys the living shit out of you over and over again because it brings your kids joy while you wait patiently for them to get over it.
I want Lil Nas X to stay successful and build upon what he’s done. I’d ALSO like to ask him if he can make a new ridiculously addictive song for my kids to fall in love with, for the culture and his wallet, but also so I don’t have to listen to “Old Town Road” well into 2020 because this feels like my future and it ain’t right.
For now, I will mentally prepare myself to hear this song for the near future ad nauseam. But if you happen to be in the Washington, D.C., area and see somebody throw an iPhone out of the window of a large SUV, that’s probably me trying to save myself from listening to a song about a matte black hat with the boots to match.