John Rich is weighing in on the musical controversy surrounding “Old Town Road” and whether or not it deserves to live among country music’s biggest hits.
The country music star stopped by the Brian Kilmeade Show on Fox Nation on Friday and explained that while country music carries a certain feeling, ultimately it is up to the fans to decide if what they’re hearing warrants the genre's stamp of approval.
“Let the fans decide. I mean, country music – I go back to guys like Johnny Cash when he showed up in Nashville, they said that is not country music,” the Big & Rich crooner told Kilmeade. “The guy made his records in Memphis where rock and roll was happening – he’s got his hair slicked back, he’s singing about sex, drugs and rock and roll. Johnny Cash, most hardcore lyrics anybody had ever heard – he’s not country – now Johnny Cash, a pillar of country music.”
When probed on whether or not he felt the smash was country-worthy, Rich noted that his concern is centered on the seriousness of an artist's desire to be a country act, as opposed to the sound of a singular record.
“I don’t like people that try to piggyback on real country music,” said Rich. “So, I think if you really want to be a country artist, then be one – come to Nashville, write your music, really come up with something that’s fitting somewhere around country music.”
The Redneck Riviera Whisky owner continued: “Big & Rich is you know; – a lot of people said we weren’t country because we came out with 'Save A Horse, [Ride A Cowboy],' but I guaran-damn-tee you we’re country. Now they know it.”
Since being delisted from the country charts, Lil Nas X has pulled out all the stops to convince naysayers that his viral hit should be recognized by the industry.
Now, in a plea to the masses, Nas X has enlisted country music star Billy Ray Cyrus to lend his gritty sound to the rap/country crossover that juxtaposes Western and cowboy-themed imagery to a trap-style beat.
“I loved the song the first time I heard it. Country music fans decide what they like. Not critics or anyone else,” Cyrus told Rolling Stone in an interview published on Wednesday. “Waylon Jennings once told me every once in a while the industry outlaws someone because they’re different. Country music fans don’t need to be defined by critics. I’ve always said, don’t think inside the box, don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box. So, I’m honored to collaborate with Lil Nas X on ‘Old Town Road.’”
However, since debuting at No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart nearly a month ago, the publication elected to strike the record from the charts, claiming that the catchy tune “does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version."
“Old Town Road” remains on rap/hip hop charts and reached 32 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart. The music video on YouTube features clips from the videogame "Red Dead Redemption 2," and has received more than 15 million views, with 426,000 likes.
Shortly after the song was dropped, the rapper posted a headline of the news on his Instagram page, writing: "extremely disappointed," along with a "sadface" emoji.
The song has since spawned dance videos and received a shout-out on social media from Justin Bieber. Texas Tech's Final Four-bound basketball team even posted a video of the team dancing to the song in the locker room and country singer Jake Owen tweeted at the rapper, saying he wanted to jam with him.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.