Lil Nas X is really gunning for his Billboard chart record! His behemoth debut single “Old Town Road” has been sitting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 straight weeks; three more, and “Old Town Road” will officially be the longest-running number one of all time. By some Billboard rule, all variants of a song — remixes, acoustic versions, etc — count towards the overall chart placement of whichever variant is getting the most streams, purchases and radio plays. Currently, “Old Town Road (Remix)” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is atop the charts because that’s the version of “Old Town Road” that’s been netting the most play, above the original version of “Old Town Road” as well as Diplo's remix. (Remember, for example, that time when “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé was number one for five weeks and then was replaced by “Perfect” sans-Beyoncé for its sixth week? That’s because during its first five weeks at number one, Beyoncé’s remix netted more play than the solo version, while during its sixth week, the solo version was more popular.)
Anyway, because of this rule, Lil Nas X could theoretically engineer a few more weeks atop the charts through releasing remixes of “Old Town Road” that net a significant amount of plays but not so many plays that the new remix usurps the currently reigning remix. (Are you following? The short explanation is that a remix can help Lil Nas X stay at #1 on the charts, but a remix that’s too popular will kinda end a chart streak because it will replace the song it was intended to juice up.)
And right on queue, Lil Nas X has released a remix of “Old Town Road (Remix)” featuring Young Thug — The man who first blazed Lil Nas X’s trail, really, if you think about the prescience of original yeehaw trap documentBeautiful Thugger Girls — and Mason Ramsey, aka yodel kid. The result is a bizarre, beautiful piece of engineered viral-bait: one viral star teaming up with a country-hitmaker-turned-meme teaming up with a critical darling teaming up with a former viral star. Listen to this new remix of “Old Town Road (Remix)” — which, sadly, is not officially called “Old Town Road (Remix Remix)” above.
While “Old Town Road (Remix Remix)” feels perfectly engineered to keep Lil Nas X at number one, our young gay king has some competition in the form of another stream-boosting remix from current chart runner-up Billie Eilish. Today, Eilish dropped a remix of her perpetually-#2 single “bad guy” featuring Justin Bieber — a man known to be a key component in a lot of previously number one singles — that could, given the right conditions, provide enough streams to “bad guy”’s total to usurp “Old Town Road.” Eilish and Lil Nas X and their respective teams clearly knew that each song needed an x-factor for chart supremacy; it’ll be interesting to see which star-studded remix wins come the release of the next Billboard chart. (I, for one, live for this kind of cooked industry drama; my dream scenario is that a third contender swoops in to claim the #1 spot above both Eilish and Lil Nas X, but the chances of that happening are zero-to-none.) Listen to Eilish and Bieber’s “bad guy” remix here.