While Billie Eilish's sweep is worth celebrating, it comes at the expense of slighting Lil Nas X's leaps towards equal representation in music.
In the 13 months since Lil Nas X independently released "Old Town Road," he went from a virtual unknown to one of the Grammys' most discussed artists.
His country-rap smash, which was later re-released to include a guest verse from Billy Ray Cyrus, went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 weeks last year. In addition to Lil Nas X's nomination for Album of the Year and Best New Artist, his and Cyrus' rendition of "Old Town Road" earned nods for Record of the Year, Best Pop/Duo Performance, and Best Music Video. Of those three, they won the latter two awards.
Record of the Year went to Billie Eilish's "bad guy," solidifying her sweep of all four major categories; she also won Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. She's the youngest artist in Grammy history to be nominated in all Big Four categories and only the second ever to win them all. While Eilish is undoubtedly a precocious, era-defining talent and absolutely deserving of such recognition, the Recording Academy's decision to award her so liberally comes at the expense of slighting "Old Town Road"'s cultural significance.
Lil Nas X's overnight success had naysayers accusing him of being an industry plant, a meticulously-optimized figure cultivated by high-level executives. But the truth is that the 20-year-old, born Montero Lamar Hill, was just exceptionally well-versed in what causes internet virality; he ran meme accounts, and after spending $30 on a beat, saw the perfect opportunity to stake his claim in the yeehaw agenda—the trend of utilizing Old Western/cowboy fashion and culture, especially as it's been reclaimed by black artists.
"Old Town Road" was basically designed to stir the pot, but it soon shone a light on the ugly side of chart data and its consistent othering of black artists. In April, a few weeks after debuting on the Billboard charts in both the country and hip-hop charts simultaneously, Billboard quietly removed the song from the country charts, sparking countless accusations of racism. In solidarity, country legend Billy Ray Cyrus hopped on the first official remix of "Old Town Road," leading the song to its peak success.
In June, when "Old Town Road" reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Lil Nas X ended Pride Month by coming out as gay, making him the first artist to do so with a No. 1 single. He also became the first openly gay black artist to win a CMA Award in November. And although the popularity of "Old Town Road" might be waning, the track isn't stopping anytime soon: At the Grammys, Lil Nas X and Cyrus performed the hit alongside yodeling wunderkind Mason Ramsey, Diplo, and K-pop's biggest exports, BTS (naturally, this version was dubbed "Seoul Town Road").
Aside from just smashing records, "Old Town Road" will go down in history as a major accomplishment for black LGBTQ+ artists and a middle finger to straight-white-dude worship of traditional country music. Couldn't the Recording Academy have given Lil Nas X more recognition by awarding him with Song of the Year? Best Rap Album winner Tyler, the Creator said it best when he explained that part of him felt like his win was a "backhanded compliment" as a black person.
Now, this isn't an argument against Eilish by any means—although she even expressed hesitance towards accepting so many awards—but the Grammys are historically racist, and giving "Old Town Road" more accolades would've been the right step towards correcting the injustice Lil Nas X has faced regarding the track. Despite its initial success as a solo song, Billboard credits all of "Old Town Road"'s chart success to the version that features Cyrus. "This song stopped racism!!!" reads the title of YouTuber No Life Shaq's review of the song, but the Grammys disprove that claim. A more correct description of "Old Town Road" is that, despite its leaps and bounds towards more equal representation in the entertainment industry, it's proven that even unimaginable viral success doesn't protect an artist from racism in the music world.
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Let's revisit some of the great summer mixtapes to help ease the pangs of summertime nostalgia
Bonfires with our friends, balmy summer days spent by the lake passing a spliff and sipping on a Corona, summertime love affairs—it all may feel like a past life now.
The rollout for summer 2020 is unlike anything before it. While Americans everywhere try to retain a sense of normalcy, it will be impossible to enjoy summer the way we want to. Bitter nostalgia for the summers of yore is rampant. Luckily, music has remained the one constant. To help unwind in these times of heightened anxiety, it helps to revisit some of the mixtapes that brought us childhood bliss, that pumped us up when school dismissed for summer, that blasted through our car speakers as we cruised with the windows down with our friends in tow. Here are a few of the greatest mixtapes of summers past, in the hopes it will bring back the fond memories that, right now, may feel distant.
"Did we mention sex?"
Since Hugh Hefner's death in 2017, Playboy's been re-branding itself to appeal to millennials by hiring fine art photographers for high concept photo shoots, naming a gay man and proud Taylor Swift fan as its executive editor, re-committing to printing nudity, and replacing its original motto, "Entertainment for men," with "Naked is normal."
The next issue of the 66-year-old publication will feature Kylie Jenner, the make-up mogul and "self-made billionaire" who was raised before America's eyes on Keeping Up with the Kardashians (you know, that 17-season reality TV show about the millionaires who make their livings as walking Instagram ads, because they're "self-made").
The 22-year-old posted a photo on Instagram of herself and boyfriend Travis Scott (the two share a one-year-old daughter, Stormi). Jenner poses nude in just a cowboy hat, embracing a shirtless Scott for Playboy's "Pleasure" issue. According to Playboy's website, the theme "is a celebration of the things that bring us joy: sex, art, food, music, spiritual connection, travel, cannabis and community. And did we mention sex?"
The magazine adds, "In this issue, we aren't only showcasing the artists and creators who bring us joy; we're also shining a light on visionaries and revolutionaries who are fighting to expand access to pleasure for all."
Even if we put aside our wonderment at what cultural, linguistic, and spiritual rot we're witnessing in the pages of Playboy these days, since when is a "men's lifestyle" and entertainment magazine ever not about "pleasure?" And when did Kylie Jenner become a "visionary?" And if she constitutes one, where is the adult film world's rising auteur, Bella Thorne, who recently directed a "beautiful and ethereal" film as part of P*rnhub's Visionaries Director's series? The questions are endless.
- Is that Lil Nas X's hat?
- How does Kylie manage to look both 17 and 53 at once?
- What does Travis Scott, like, do all day?
- Is this photo a philosophical take on how only nature can nurture true love?
- How much did that watch company pay to be included on Travis Scott's wrist?
- How do we know that's really Kylie?
- Then again, what percentage of Kylie is really Kylie, these days?
- What happens if I sort of dig this?
- Would Gloria Steinem hate me if I kind of dig this?
- Was Kylie Jenner popular in high school?
- How hot was it outside? It looks hot.
- Didn't a cowboy hat make it feel even hotter?
- Why wear a cowboy hat on an already hot day if your hot cakes are out?
- Is "Kylie Jenner" a palindrome?
- Oh. No. "Kylie Jenner" backwards is "renneJ eilyK." What's up with that?
- Why did Travis Scott get to wear clothes?
- Was that a sexist thing? I'd hate to think Kylie was involved with a sexist thing.
- What does their daughter want to be when she grows up?
- If their daughter grows up to be a Playboy bunny, will Travis Scott be fine with that?
- Who's going to send this cover to their daughter on her 18th birthday?
- If art is dead, did Instagram kill it?
- What happens if I think Playboy's "Pleasure" theme sounds pretty cool?
- Also, why does the theme sound like the description for a music festival?
- Is this subliminal advertising for Coachella?
- "Are you there, Coachella? It's me, Kylie": Is that the caption?
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