There was a time when few artists were willing or able to cross the line between country and R&B music. And when they tried, the backlash was swift and harsh – as evidenced by the Twitter outrage surrounding Beyoncé’s performance with the Dixie Chicks at the 2016 CMA Awards.
But all that changed this year with Lil Nas X’s country-rap smash “Old Town Road.” And when Lil Nas X performed that song with mainstream country icon Billy Ray Cyrus on Sunday’s BET Awards, Cyrus was actually embraced by BET viewers — proving that the times, they are indeed a-changing.
First country song performed at bet awards— Jeremy Belle (@JcBelle3) June 24, 2019
Although Lil Nas X and Cyrus’s “Old Town Road” wasn’t nominated at the BET Awards this Sunday, the odd couple stole the show with their history-making country & western revue. Nas, rocking some yellow leather chaps and a fringed vest, and Cyrus, jokingly introduced by host Regina Hall as being a graduate of Howard University, approached the saloon-themed stage on horseback, then performed backed by a troupe of Daisy Duke’d line-dancers while the crowd at Los Angeles’s Microsoft Theater (including Cardi B and Rihanna) whooped it up.
The “Achy Breaky Heart” singer’s appearance pretty much broke Twitter, and the online response for the most part was surprisingly positive.
Never would have expected to see Billy Ray Cyrus on the BET awards but I fully support this appropriation + transformation of country music— Julianne (@juulianne97) June 24, 2019
That had to be the best career move for Billy Ray Cyrus jumping on that Old Town Road...what other country artist can say they just rocked the BET Awards!— SuavA (@SuavA) June 24, 2019
Dear #CountryMusic Fans: @BillyRayCyrus performed on the @BET Awards with @LilNasX & the crowd was hyped to see him! Why? Because we're inclusive people & the song is a hit! We expect the same love when Black artists show up at the #CMAAwards okay? #BETAwards #BlackMusicMonth— Jawn Murray (@JawnMurray) June 24, 2019
For those not aware of Nas’s interesting journey to the top of the country charts – and Cyrus’s journey to the BETs – here’s a primer: Back in March, “Old Town Road” simultaneously landed on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Country Song, and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Billboard initially (and controversially) removed it from the Hot Country chart for supposedly not containing enough “country music elements” to qualify, but members of the country music community soon rallied behind Nas — including Cyrus, who then appeared on the song’s remix and in its all-star music video. The remix eventually charted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and has stayed there for 11 weeks; it has also made the Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Rhythmic Songs, and Dance/Mix Show Airplay charts.
And it has, apparently, made an unlikely BET Network star out of Billy Ray Cyrus. The fun fact that “Old Town Road” features a sample of Nine Inch Nails’ “34 Ghosts IV" makes it a genuinely genre-smashing phenomenon — although Trent Reznor sadly sat out this year’s BETs.
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