The “Old Town Road” cut right through the Empire Polo Club as Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus made their first public appearance together singing the No. 1 smash at Stagecoach, providing a climax to Diplo’s festival-ending DJ set.
Although heavily rumored and leaked, Cyrus and Lil Nas X popping in as the midnight hour approached Sunday night still came as a surprise to much of the crowd, after appearances by Sam Hunt and Cam that had been tipped off by those performers in their Stagecoach sets the previous day.
“It’s been the No. 1 song for weeks — and it’s a country song!” enthused Diplo before bringing Lil Nas X and Cyrus out for his show-closer. The irony, of course, is that “Old Town Road” has been barred from most country charts, including Billboard’s, where it was removed after a week due to complaints that it didn’t satisfy the necessary genre requirements to compete there.
Naturally, the crowd at Stagecoach, which was not only packed into the Palomino tent but far beyond in every direction, begged to differ. But then, much of Diplo’s DJ set had consisted of straight-up hip-hop, and the tent — singing along at full force — had little to no problem with that, either.
Although the original version of the song was credited to Lil Nas X alone, Cyrus has now participated in two key remixes. The first came out shortly after the Billboard country chart ban, in a rapid-fire response to Lil Nas X’s public plea to participate, in what could be seen at least in part as a nose-thumbing to the country establishment. And then another dropped on Sunday: Diplo’s own remix of the remix, naturally, released directly to Soundcloud and YouTube.
Prior to the Diplo remix being released, the existing versions of “Old Town Road” had 63 million combined streams in America for the week and 225 million to date, Soundcloud reported.
Earlier in Diplo’s set, which followed Jason Aldean’s headlining set over on the Mane Stage, Sam Hunt — who the DJ gushed was “a legend” — came out to sing “Body Like a Back Road,” preceded by Cam performing the song she just released with Diplo, “So Long.”
Diplo recently spoke with Variety about his aspirations in the country space. “I’m trying to do some country records with Nashville artists — Cam, Zac Brown, Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett — just trying to do something totally off-the-cuff and different,” he said. Asked what the songs sound like, he said, “It’s actually a hard thing to get some of these guys to take a chance, because country’s such an insular community, but I’m trying to do something a little bit different with the songwriting just trying to experiment, y’know?” The Cam song is the first to be released from the project, to be called “Thomas Wesley,” after his birth name.