The instrumental version of this song was released in 2018, the work of Dutch beat producer YoungKio. But it would go overground thanks to a marrying of genres that still causes headscratching to this day. Rapper Lil’ Nas X snapped up the beats – which sampled banjo from a Nine Inch Nails instrumental – and bought the rights to the song for just $30; he wrote the lyrics, inspired by the tough times he was going through, in just a day. Old Town Road initially met some resistance from the country crowd; Billboard disqualified it from its country charts because it felt the song wasn’t country enough. But Old Town Road was not to be stopped; a remix version featuring Achy Breaky Heart hitmaker Billy Ray Cyrus helped propel the song into the stratosphere. Old Town Road ended up marking 19 weeks at the top of the US charts, a record. And it broke ground for other reasons, too. Lil Nas X (real name Montero Lamar Hill) came out as gay while the record was still number one in the US, becoming the only artist in history to do so.
B-side: Lizzo, Juice
It could have been a classic beamed straight from the mirrorball reflected dancefloors of the early 1980s – but no, Lizzo’s Juice was a fresh hit from 2019, the anthem for a thousand body-positive Instagram posts. The song Truth Hurts had been a sleeper hit in 2018, but it was a sinker compared to Juice; a bold as brass self-love anthem about as subtle as a Transformers film. Juice’s mile-high chorus (“It ain’t my fault that I’m out here gettin’ loose/ Gotta blame it on the Goose/ Gotta blame it on my juice, baby”) was as infectious as any in living memory.
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