It’s official: Our walk down this “Old Town Road” is far from over.
As of Monday, August 12, the smash hit from breakthrough artist Lil Nas X (born Montero Lamar Hill) has maintained its dominance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a record 19 weeks while showing no real signs of slowing down. It was only two weeks ago that we were celebrating the song as it pulled itself out of a three-way tie at 16 weeks, leaving Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men‘s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber‘s powerhouse “Despacito” in the dust.
The genre-defying track, which the 20-year-old Hill released as an independent artist last December, has had an unprecedented life on the charts, sparking controversy and spawning remix after remix—We’re partial to the one that features Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, if only for the viral yodeler’s genius line, “If you ain’t got no giddy up, then giddy out my way,” if you ask us. (2019 is a wild time to be alive, you guys.)—while changing the rapper-singer’s life for good.
“On December 2️nd, I went into the studio and recorded OLD TOWN ROAD and put it out the exact same day!! Did I know it would become the longest running number 1 song of all time? NO!!! But I am so thankful that this blessing has been placed upon me,” he wrote when the song with the $30 beat officially worked its way into the history books. “This song has changed my life and the way I see the world around me in less than a year. Thank you to every single person who has been a part of this journey. As I said before, it’s just the beginning!”
He wasn’t kidding.
As he continues to rack up weeks spent at No. 1 on the Hot 100, which tracks radio airplay along with sales and streaming data across all genres to unilaterally declare the most popular song in the country, “Old Town Road” continues to break records. This week alone, the song has earned the most weeks spent at No. 1 on both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts, with 19 weeks a piece.
Courtesy of Strategic Public Relations
With an all-but inevitable 20th week at No. 1 just over the horizon, the question isn’t so much “How much longer can he reign?” but “What song could possibly unseat him?”
We here at the E! News Academy of Pop Music Arts and Sciences (class size: 1) have been furiously studying and feel prepared to present our best educated guesses at Hill’s successor. And while Billie Eilish and her hit “Bad Guy” have been nipping at his heels at No. 2 for nine weeks now, not even a remix with Bieber—whose presence on “Despacito” was the necessary ingredient to propel that track to its chart-topping perch for 16 weeks back in 2017—could push her over the edge, so we feel pretty safe in ruling it out. Does that make us the real bad guy here? We hope not.
After ruling Eilish out, we opened up our history books to see if there was anything about the two songs that ended “One Sweet Day” and “Despacito”‘s respective reigns that could inform our hypothesis. Was there anything that these two king-slaying songs had in common that could help paint a picture of the sort of track capable of doing such a thing? Well, yes and no.
When “One Sweet Day” was knocked off the throne back in March of 1996, it was by a vocalist with pipes on par with Carey: Céline Dion, with her track “Because You Loved Me.” The song, off her fourth English-language studio album Falling into You, was released a month prior to its taking of the pole position, which tells us that it doesn’t have to be a brand-new song to do it, but considering it would be hard to imagine either track topping the charts in today’s music landscape (adult contemporary balladry just aren’t in vogue like they use to be), that’s about the only takeaway worth noting here.
As for the track that snatched the crown from Fonsi and Co., well, that’s where things get a bit more interesting. When “Despacito” reached 16 weeks at the top, officially tying “One Sweet Day” and becoming the longest-running song sung primarily in Spanish to top the chart since “Macarena” in 1996, a little artist by the name of Taylor Swift was ready to drop her highly-anticipated new single. That week, “Look What You Made Me Do,” the edgy lead single off of Reputation, debuted at No. 77 on the Hot 100. A week later, it had shot all the way up to No. 1, thus ending the Latin crossover’s time at the top.
It just so happens that Swift is, once again, readying the release of a highly-anticipated album, with Lover due on August 23. So, one might think that any of the three tracks she’s already released from the new LP could be our new kingslayer. The only problem? Since their releases, “ME!,” “You Need to Calm Down” and “The Archer” have only trended down. As of press time, “YNTCD” is her highest-charting single at No. 18, down two spots from last week. So that rules those out. If Swift is truly to repeat history and end not one, but two historical No. 1 reigns, the pressure is on for the album’s title track, which will be released on Friday. But at this point, that’s a big if.
So that brings us to a couple of tracks who have potential, albeit in different ways. There’s Ariana Grande and Social House‘s slick new team-up “Boyfriend,” which just debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 8. Grande’s had two No. 1 hits recently, with “thank u, next” and “7 rings,” and “Boyfriend” could continue to rise up the ranks, but does it have the viral-component necessary to unseat “Old Town Road”? That remains to be seen. Remember, Hill’s hit blew up thanks to the social media app Tik Tok, where its extreme meme-ability was put to use ad nauseam. Its successor is going to need a bit of that juice if it plans to stand a chance.
And that brings us to “Hot Girl Summer,” the highly-anticipated track from Megan Thee Stallion that just dropped on Friday, Aug. 9. The song, which features Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign, was already a meme before it was even released and ought to inspire plenty of Tik Tok users. Not only that, but it’s currently sitting at No. 2 on iTunes All Genres Songs chart. However, it’s an incredibly explicit song that sits pretty squarely in the rap genre, making radio play on par with “Old Town Road” somewhat of an impossibility. The song isn’t included on this week’s Hot 100 as it’s only been out for a few days, so it remains a question mark.
There are other dark horse tracks out there, like Lil Tecca‘s “Ran$om,” Khalid‘s “Talk” and Lizzo‘s “Truth Hurts,” but none seem to check all the boxes that have propelled “Old Town Road” to such lasting chart dominance. Baring a surprise swing for the fences from Swift this week, the track powerful enough to take over the Hot 100 just might be one we haven’t even heard of yet.
When he said “I’m gonna ride ’til I can’t no more,” he meant it. Prepare to be traveling down this road well into fall, y’all.