The song, “Old Town Road,” is most definitely country music, according to Ken Burns—and the filmmaker says we need to stop labeling music.
“People are trying to—they’re just driving themselves crazy trying to figure out how you label it, or un-label it, or segregate it into that bucket of this bucket,” he said. “None of that matters. I mean Louis Armstrong said, and he may be the most important person in music in the 20th century—I didn’t say jazz, he said, there’s only two kinds of music, one is good music, and bad music. And good music you tap your toe to.”
Burns believes that many people try to segregate music and they shouldn’t be—everyone is listening to different music genres and it is better because of it.
Burns spent eight years filming his new documentary “Country Music,” and eight-part, 16-hour film that recounts the history and growth of American country music.
“We sort of think country music is a narrow thing,” he said. “It’s hugely wide and diverse and omnivorous. We think we know what it’s all about and it’s actually very complicated.”
Billboard was criticized in April 2019 when it removed Lil Naz X’s hit song “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country Chart. The song has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for nine consecutive weeks—the longest musical reign so far in 2019.
“The point of view is that it’s the biggest song in America because nobody else recognizes the borders except the commerce people, the rest of us who wanna have easy categorization of stuff, and unfortunately the tribalists who wanna say it’s us and them,” Burns said.
“The songs are about fundamental universal human emotions. The joy of birth, sadness of death, falling in love, trying to be in love, losing love, being lonely, missing somebody, seeking redemption. This is stuff that every human being goes through on the planet.”