Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish closing in on historic No. 1 status, enlisting others to help out |

Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish closing in on historic No. 1 status, enlisting others to help out

Lil Nas X poses in the press room at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 23, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Getty Images
Singer Billie Eilish performs onstage at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

As pop music’s summer season hits its stride, the race at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 single chart is generating heat.

If Columbia Records has any say in the matter, at the end of the month Lil Nas X’s left-field smash “Old Town Road” will surpass four months at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.

It’s a marker that only two other songs in history — Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” and “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee — have achieved: 16 weeks at No. 1.

As a signal boost, on Thursday night Lil Nas X issued a new remix, this one featuring charismatic rapper Young Thug and viral yodeling tyke Mason Ramsey. The aim: adding enough energy to drive “Old Town Road” toward a historic, chart-topping run of 17 weeks.

The problem? Billie Eilish’s summer stunner “Bad Guy” has been hovering near the top spot for nearly as long, and on Thursday afternoon the California hitmaker dropped her long-rumored Justin Bieber remix of her breakout song. The idea is that, just as country singer Billy Ray Cyrus’ remix helped “Old Town Road” achieve ubiquity in the spring, Bieber will push “Bad Guy” to overtake “Old Town Road.”

“They’re all aiming for the record books,” says Lenny Beer, editor in chief of the music-industry trade journal Hits. “It doesn’t matter if the Billboard charts are right or wrong. It’s history that matters.”

The dueling tracks highlight what some might call a remix loophole in the Billboard chart system, one that artists have exploited as a way to maintain buzz once a song gains traction on the singles chart.

Billboard will combine the performance data on all three versions of “Old Town Road” — original, original remix and new remix — to determine the song’s chart position.

Billboard calculates a song’s success through a complex equation that involves tiers adjusted according to format. On-demand streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, for example, are weighted more than ad-supported radio-style platforms such as Pandora. Billboard also factors in terrestrial radio play, YouTube views and more.

Across four months, “Old Town Road” has banked the numbers. During its reign at No. 1, the song blocked A-list releases from Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Post Malone and Shawn Mendes from hitting the top.

It remains to be seen whether the Eilish and Bieber tag-team on “Bad Guy” is charged enough to topple the new “Old Town Road” remix, though. Not only does the new take add in Atlanta hotshot Young Thug — a feature that had long been rumored — but Lil Nas X went a few steps further by tapping meme star Ramsey.

Made famous through a video of him yodeling in an aisle at Walmart, Ramsey and his twangy energy seems designed to get morning radio and TV hosts chatting about “Old Town Road” for a few more crucial weeks.

Musically, the new Bieber version of Eilish’s “Bad Guy” is nearly identical, give or take a few sonic tweaks. Vocally, though, Bieber jumps into the new version with a few evenly measured grunts and an add-on verse that turns Eilish’s lyrical op-ed on her titular dude into a back-and-forth between her and him.

“Honestly, no agenda at all. Just pure fun,” Eilish’s spokeswoman said in an email when asked about the Thursday release. She added that the remix was “timed nicely for her hometown shows in L.A,” the last of which occurred Thursday at the Greek.

Given the prestige that comes with earning a No. 1, it only makes sense that Eilish’s imprints, Interscope and Darkroom, make their play for the top slot now.

As for the timing of the remix of the remix of “Old Town Road?” “That’s total counter-programming,” remarked an industry insider.

After all, few remember who had the second most popular song of the summer.

Categories: AandE | Music
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.