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Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

Flash in the Pan| Views: 471

Lil Nas X was over the moon. That morning, the newly minted 20-year-old awoke to a call from his new manager – ‘Old Town Road’ had gone number one. Not on SoundCloud. Not on iTunes. Billboard. The Hot 100. The ultimate pissing contest of pop success since as far back as anyone could remember.

Lil Nas X already knew he had the number one song in America. At the handful of shows he’d played since ‘Old Town Road’ went viral, crowds went insane for it. Words he’d written only six months before were chanted back to him by the masses like a national anthem. 

“Can’t nobody tell me nothing…
You can’t tell me nothing…”

There were memes. There were covers. There was a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus. And thanks to the latter, he’d shot to the top of the charts. 

Lil Nas X didn’t need some old magazine to tell him he was popular – but it still felt great. Many of his musical idols had never attained such success, including his namesake, Nas. Six months ago, Lil Nas X would have traded a thumb to have half of the Queensbridge legend’s success. Now here he was, all ten fingers intact.

That morning, after a blunt, a chocolate chip pancake breakfast with his manager, and several phone interviews, Lil Nas X took an Uber from his L.A. hotel to a recording studio to continue work on his album. 

On Sunset, he passed endless billboards featuring musical artists he could now count among his peers. Lil Nas X thought about his future. Now that he had a number one hit, more were almost guaranteed to follow. He could be the next Juice WRLD. Post Malone. Maybe even Drake. He knew he had more in him than ‘Old Town Road.’ Lightning hadn’t struck; he had God-given talent.

Lil Nas X’s phone rang. It had been ringing all morning of course, with well-wishers and ass-kissers wanting to offer congratulations, or simply just wanting something. As Lil Nas X scanned the screen, however, he took pause – it was Billy Ray Cyrus. His novelty verse on ‘Old Town Road’ was wack, but arguably the rocket fuel that blasted the song into the stratosphere.

And also, his daughter was Miley Cyrus.

Lil Nas X picked up the phone.

“Hey, Billy,” he said.

“Lil Nas,” Billy Ray Cyrus shouted, probably halfway through a Jimmy Buffett drink at his Malibu beach house. “Just got the news. Congratulations, my homie!”

Lil Nas X grimaced. He hated when Billy Ray Cyrus called him his ‘homie’.

“Thanks, Billy. Couldn’t have done it without you.” Lil Nas X didn’t like saying this either, but he had to give credit where it was due. Even though Billy Ray Cyrus’s lyrics sucked, his star power and country cred meant something.

“No, no, no. This is your moment, kid,” Bill Ray Cyrus insisted. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Lil Nas X chuckled. “’While it lasts?’ Billy, this is forever. Old Town Road’s just the beginning. I’m on my way to cook up some more hits in the studio right now.”

Billy Ray Cyrus chuckled in response, but the sound was as hollow as a rotten log.

“That’s what I like about you, Lil Nas. You remind me of me.”

Lil Nas X heard Billy Ray Cyrus take a long slurp of his drink.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Nothing, kid. I’m a little drunk’s all. I’m not trying to rain on your parade…”


Billy Ray Cyrus sighed.

“All I’m saying is, sometimes you only get one. When I put out ‘Achy Breaky Heart,’ I thought I’d lassoed the world. You couldn’t find a DJ that wasn’t playing me. I was at square dances. Nightclubs. Bar fucking mitzvahs. I thought I was king of the rodeo. A few months later, I found out I was just a clown.”

“That’s not true, Billy. People love you —“

“Horseshit. If it weren’t for my daughter, people would’ve forgotten all about me and my music. I’m a one hit wonder. Biscuits with no damn gravy. And all I’m saying is… Sometimes you only get one. So enjoy yourself. It might not last forever.”

With that, Billy Ray Cyrus hung up. 

Lil Nas X stared at the phone screen a moment – the artwork from his single, the only song he’d ever released. A single black horse galloping across a white background, he imagined, in tempo with the music. He’d made it in Photoshop himself. It took about 30 minutes. About half the length of time it took to record the song.

Lil Nas X ignored another phone call and stared out the window, ruminating on the words of Billy Ray Cyrus and the transience of pop star life. Then the Uber passed a Spotify billboard with his own face on it. The chorus to ‘Old Town Road’ played automatically in his head.

“Can’t nobody tell me nothing…
You can’t tell me nothing…”

Will Buckingham is an American writer living in Berlin.

830 words


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