A Look Back at Lil Nas X's Record-Breaking Year on Top

It's been one year since Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" broke the record for most weeks ever spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

By Billy Nilles Jul 29, 2020 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Lil Nas X Talks Bright Pink Versace Suit at 2020 Grammys

It's been a year since Lil Nas X pulled off the impossible.

Throughout the summer of 2019, the music newcomer and his genre-bending debut single "Old Town Road" proved to be inescapable. The earworm of a track, with its unique country-trap sound, had made a quick star of its creator, first going viral thanks to TikTok before hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the middle of April, where it stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

By the end of July, it was clear the track had the sort of ineffable alchemy that most artists only dream of, destined to do what no other song had done in more than a decade: Unseat Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day" as the longest-running No. 1 single in history. Only one other had ever come close, with "Despacito," by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, tying the 16-week run in 2017. (Fun fact: That track was thwarted from making history by Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do.")

The Best Music of 2020—So Far

And on July 29, 2019, it happened. The track entered into its 17th week atop the chart, earning its well-deserved inclusion in music's history books.

While tweeting a photo of herself literally passing the torch to the rising star, Carey graciously congratulated Lil Nas X on his success. "Sending love & congrats to @LilNasX on breaking one of the longest running records in music history!" she wrote. "We've been blessed to hold this record with a song that means a great deal to @BoyzIIMen and myself and has touched so many. Keep living your best life! ❤."


Over on Instagram, Lil Nas X reflected on the historic moment, as well as the journey that brought him there. "Last year in October, as a struggling artist starting to lose faith in what I could be, I went looking for beats on YouTube. I remember clicking on so many generic-sounding beats trying to find the right one for me. When suddenly I came across a country-trap sounding masterpiece. I immediately knew I would make something special out of it," he wrote. "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. 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!"

Why Lil Nas X's Last Year Is Such a Big Deal

He meant it.

He'd already made history a month prior when, while the song was still riding strong at the top of the charts, he came out of the closet, making him the only artist to ever do that while having a No. 1 record. "Old Town Road" would go on to spend a total 19 weeks at No. 1 before being dethroned by Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy." Follow-up single "Panini," also featured on debut EP 7, would peak at No. 5.

And then came the accolades. 

First, there were eight MTV Video Music Award nominations. He won two, including Song of the Year, making him the first LGBTQ artist to do so. His win for Musical Event of the Year at the 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards made him the first only gay man to ever even be nominated, let alone the first LGBTQ artist to win.

And then, of course, came the Grammys.

Earning six nominations at this year's ceremony, including Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Album of the Year, he'd go on two win two: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video. Not only that, but he also delivered one of the night's most thrilling performances, featuring guests from each of the many "Old Town Road" remixes, including Billy Ray Cyrus, BTS and Nas.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

While there's no doubt that some of his plans for 2020 got derailed along with everyone else's thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Lil Nas X did update fans earlier this month on the status of his debut album. "ALBUM'S ALMOST FINISHED BUT WORKING ON A MIXTAPE TOO," he tweeted, before asking producers to submit beats for the project via email.

As fans await whatever he's got next to see if he's got any more record-breaking in him, let's take a look at some of the more wild records in music history. Maybe there's some inspiration in here for his next steps.

Most Sampled Act

The late, great James Brown is the most sampled musician of all-time, used over 7,000 times as of 2018. His song "Funky Drummer" has appeared on 1,440 songs, including George Michael's "Freedom! 90," Nicki Minaj's "Save Me" and Ed Sheeran's "Shirtsleeves."

First Download-Only Hit Single

In March 2003, Fleetwood Mac's "Peacekeeper" became the first single to enter the Billboard Hot 100 based on download sales alone. Available for purchase on the band's website, the song debuted at No. 93 and went on to peak at No. 80 two months later.

Longest Song to Enter the Hot 100

While Guns N' Roses has the longest song to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, the title track of TOOL's 2019 album Fear Inoculum became the longest to ever enter the chart, clocking in at 10 minutes and 21 seconds. Debuting at No. 93, it was also the first to enter the chart while exceeding 10 minutes.

Longest Live Broadcast of a Single Piece of Music

On September 27, 2015, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a live performance of Max Richter's "SLEEP" that lasted 8 hours, 1 minute and 23 seconds.

Most Consecutive Weeks to Release a Digital Single

After launching his #EverySingleFriday campaign, Nashville actor and musician Charles Esten set a record for 54 consecutive weeks spent releasing a new, original digital single.

Most Digital Singles Released by an Act in 24 Hours

On March 8, 2013, the Dutch duo Nick & Simon released their single "Julia"—followed by 154 different versions, each with a different female name as the title.

Most Recorded Song

While "Amazing Grace" and The Beatles' "Yesterday" have been recorded a thousand different ways, George Gershwin's jazz standard "Summertime," written for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, has a staggering 67,591 recorded versions in existence as of 2017.

Longest Album Title

In March 2008, the band Chumbawumba released an album with a title that clocked in at a staggering 156 words. Shortened to The Boy Bands Have Won, the full title is: The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or from Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother's Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don't Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to 'Guard' Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It's Over, Then It's Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won. Try and slap that on some merch.

Best-Selling Instrumental Single

A disco arrangement of film composer John Williams' "Star Wars Theme and Cantina Band," released by record producer Meco in 1977, remains the only instrumental single to ever reach Platinum status, having sold over two million units. The track was featured on the album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, which outsold the Star Wars soundtrack and also went Platinum.

Most Viewed YouTube Music Video in 24 Hours

With the release of their latest single "How You Like That," K-pop superstars Blackpink edged out BTS for the most viewed music video on the streaming platform, notching 86,300,000 views in its first full day on the site.

First Digital Track to Sell a Million Copies

In October 2005, Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" became the first song to have one million paid downloads in the USA.

Longest Music Video

In November 2013, Pharrell Williams released the "world's first 24-hour music video" for his inescapable hit single "Happy." The video features people dancing to the four-minute track, which plays on a loop a whopping 360 times.

Most Views on YouTube in 24 Hours by a Solo Performer

While Blackpink holds the distinction of the most views in the first 24 hours overall, Taylor Swift is the solo artist to have the most views of a music video in its first day when "ME!" dropped on April 2019 and racked up 65,200,000 views.

Most Words in a Hit Single

When Eminem released the song "Rap God" in 2013, he delivered an astounding 1,560 words in the 6:04 minute track, which averages to 4.28 words per second. In one 15-second segment of the song alone, he spits 97 words. It's no surprise that he also holds the distinction of the recording artist with the largest vocabulary, using 8,818 unique words in the lyrics of his 100 lengthiest tracks.

Longest Song to Crack the Top 10

Clocking in at 8:57 minutes long, the symphonic ballad "November Rain" off Guns N' Roses' 1981 album Use Your Illusion 1 became the longest song to ever enter the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it peaked at No. 3 in the summer of 1982.

Most Sampled Song

A seven-second drum solo in soul group The Winston's 1969 track "Amen, Brother" holds the distinction of the most sampled track in history. Performed by Gregory Coleman, what's known as the Amen break has been sampled over 2,800 times, becoming a staple of both drum and bass and jungle music. Sadly, Coleman never saw a cent of royalties and died homeless and destitute in 2006, reportedly never even knowing the impact he'd made on music.

Oldest Artist with a Debut Album

At 89 years young when his album Love Changes Everything was released in September 2019, Britain's Got Talent winner Colin Thackery became the oldest person to release a debut LP.

Largest Musical Act to Release an Album

Signed to Decca—part of Universal Music Group—in 2009, Rock Choir became the largest act to ever release an album when Rock Choir Vol. 1 dropped the following year. A pop, gospel and Motown choir, the group consists of an astounding 4,386 singers.

Most Births at a Concert

Yes, you read that right. The infamous Altamont Speedway concert headlined by The Rolling Stones on December 6, 1969 was the scene of four births, as reported by the American Red Cross. The six-hour free show, which included Santana, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on the line-up, also, tragically, was the location of four deaths.

Deepest Underwater Concert

In October 2006, UK-based singer-songwriter Katie Melua and her band performed a concert 994 ft. below sea level on the Norwegian Statoil's Troll A platform in the North Sea. They had to undergo extensive medical testing and survival training before arriving on the rig via helicopter. She performed two 30-minute concerts for 20 oil rig workers who had won tickets to see the performance.