Three weeks ago, on the Billboard Hot 100 dated August 3, it became official: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, had become the longest-leading No. 1 single in Hot 100 history, with an unprecedented 17 weeks on top.
Two weeks later, the song — which first took over the top spot on the chart dated April 13 — had ruled for a stunning 19 weeks total. That far surpassed Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day,” which first set the 16-week mark in 1995-96, as well as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Justin Bieber-featuring “Despacito” (Remix), which tied the record in 2017. However, this week, the reign finally comes to an end, at least temporarily: Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” which had long been Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ prime challenger for the top spot, finally bridged the gap, becoming the young artist’s first Hot 100 No. 1.
Nonetheless, 19 weeks was an incrediby long time to be No. 1, and Lil Nas X’s stay on top was far from uneventful. Since he became No. 1, six separate songs have peaked at No. 2 a spot below him (as well as “Bad Guy,” which spent nine weeks in the runner-up spot before breaking through), and plenty of other big hits and event releases have come and gone elsewhere on the chart. Meanwhile, though his chart placement remained steady, Lil Nas X hardly rested on his laurels with “Old Town Road,” releasing new remixes and videos for the track, as well as a parent EP.
The young rapper’s 19-week triumph has been historic and eventful enough that it’s worth going back through those 19 weeks, and doing a week-by-week breakdown of what kind of new competition “Old Town Road” faced each week — and how Lil Nas X managed to reign triumphant throughout all of it.
Week 1 (Chart dated Apr. 13): For its first week at No. 1, “Old Town Road” jumps 15 to 1 in just its fifth week on the Hot 100. The song unseats Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” which had previously ruled for eight non-consecutive weeks, and also leapfrogs two Post Malone songs in the chart’s top five, the Swae Lee collab “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)” at No. 2 (previously a one-week No. 1), and his solo hit “Wow.” at No. 4. Most notably, Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” is the week’s top debut, landing at No. 7 following the release week for parent album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?; later, it’ll prove the biggest challenger to Lil Nas X’s continuing Hot 100 supremacy.
Week 2 (Apr. 20): In its second week on top, “Old Town Road” adds a new guest to its listing: country veteran Billy Ray Cyrus, who jumped on the song’s first official remix days before it officially became the No. 1 song in America. The addition of the Cyrus remix to the song’s overall metrics sends it into the stratosphere, with the two versions of the song combining to rack up an unprecedented 143 million streams in its first full week of tracking, easily beating Drake’s previous record of 116 million for “In My Feelings” at its peak the year before. It becomes the first Hot 100 No. 1 single for Cyrus, who previously peaked at No. 4 with the crossover country sensation “Achy Breaky Heart” in 1992. “Sunflower” remains at No. 2 for a second week.
Week 3 (Apr. 27): “Old Town Road” dips in momentum from its historic previous week — but just barely, as its 125.2 million streams in its second week since adding the Cyrus remix to its tracking would still have been enough to break Drake’s previous single-week record. The song also holds at No. 1 on Digital Song Sales for the second straight week, and bounds to the top 20 of Billboard‘s Radio Songs chart, where it debuted at No. 33 the week before. Below “Old Town Road,” Post Malone’s “Wow.” moves to a new peak of No. 2 on the chart, and BTS’ “Boy With Luv,” featuring Halsey, is the week’s biggest debut, bowing at No. 8.
Week 4 (May 4): Not much happens this week — “Old Town Road” drops in streams and sales but gains in radio play, and the biggest debut of the week is safely outside the top 10 (Lil Dicky’s star-studded “Earth” at No. 17). The biggest gainer in the top 10 is Khalid’s “Talk,” which jumps 20-8 on the Hot 100 in its 11th week; it later climbs as high as No. 3 on the chart.
Week 5 (May 11): The first true challenger to “Old Town Road” since it took over No. 1 emerges in the form of Taylor Swift’s Brendon Urie-featuring single “ME!,” her first new music since releasing sixth album Reputation in late 2017. The song has a huge first full week of tracking — after just gracing the chart the week before at No. 100, based on its first few days of radio airplay — including a No. 1 bow on Digital Song Sales, thanks to the biggest sales week (193,000) since Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” debut week in 2017. But the streaming numbers for “Old Town Road” (which are still over 100 million, assisted slightly by a new Diplo remix) as well as its now-established radio presence (moving 12-6 on Radio Songs) prove too much for Swift to overcome, and “Old Town Road” reigns for a fifth week, while “ME!” settles for the silver at No. 2.
Week 6 (May 18): Another week, another new contender — actually two this time, in Shawn Mendes’ “If I Can’t Have You” and Logic’s Eminem-featuring “Homicide.” The former is arguably Mendes’ most radio-ready pop single in years, and the latter is an event release featuring a duo of generation-crossing rap stars. However, neither debut proves resounding to truly threaten “Old Town Road,” which reigns on Streaming Songs again with 100 million streams, and also rebounds to No. 1 on Digital Song Sales, its fourth week atop the chart. “If I Can’t Have You” still ends up debuting at No. 2 — a career best for Mendes — while “Homicide” checks in at No. 5.
Week 7 (May 25): For the third straight week, a song lands at No. 2 in its first full week of tracking: This time, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s collab “I Don’t Care,” the lead single from the former’s then-upcoming No.6 Collaborations Project LP. Though Sheeran’s most recent lead single “Shape of You” debuted atop the Hot 100 — as did Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” — “I Don’t Care” still falls short of No. 1, with its streaming numbers (34.1 million) dwarfed by those of “Old Town Road,” which exceeds 100 million for the sixth straight week. Between Bieber, Sheeran and Swift, Lil Nas X has now held off three artists who’ve scored a combined 11 Hot 100 No. 1 hits in the previous half-decade.
Week 8 (June 1): Another new bump for “Old Town Road,” whose long-awaited official music video debuts on May 17. The star-studded clip — which features well-wishers Diplo, Chris Rock, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty and more, as well as Nas X and Cyrus as co-stars — draws a great deal of attention, and gives the song’s totals a large spike, resulting in its best overall streaming showing (130.7 million) since its first week with Cyrus in tow, and a return to No. 1 on Digital Song Sales. “I Don’t Care” holds at No. 2 on the Hot 100 for a second week.
Week 9 (June 8): With “Old Town Road” still ahead of the pack, an emerging challenger pulls into second place behind it: Billie Eilish, whose “Bad Guy” has bounced around the Hot 100’s top tier since its No. 7 debut nearly two months earlier, and which now climbs 3-2 for its highest peak to date. Nonetheless, the margins are not yet particularly close; even with a 12 percent drop in streams (to 115.3 million), “Old Town Road” still holds a 3 to 1 points lead over “Bad Guy.”
Week 10 (June 15): Three huge names in ’10s pop music return this week with new singles: Katy Perry (“Never Really Over”), Miley Cyrus (“Mother’s Daughter” and the rest of her She Is Coming EP) and Cardi B (“Press”). However, in a moment perhaps representative of changing tides in the musical mainstream, none of them even come close to threatening “Old Town Road”; Perry’s “Never Really Over” has the highest debut of the week at No. 15. Meanwhile, in its 10th week atop the Hot 100, “Old Town Road” climbs to No. 2 on Billboard‘s Radio Songs tally, while staying firmly atop both Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales — the closest it’s come to date to topping all three charts at once.
Week 11 (June 22): Another relatively easy week for “Old Town Road” at No. 1, as “Bad Guy” and Khalid’s “Talk” remain static at No. 2 and 3 and the top debut is Chris Brown’s Drake-featuring “No Guidance” at No. 9. However, there are finally some signs of slippage in the song’s performance: For the first time since the debut of its Billy Ray Cyrus remix 10 weeks earlier, “Old Town Road” finally dips below 100 million in streams — though just barely, at 99.9 million, which is still easily the week’s highest total.
Week 12 (June 29): Round two vs. Taylor Swift! This time, Swift returns with new single “You Need to Calm Down,” capturing headlines for the song’s message of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, and its cameo-packed music video — which even includes an embrace with former pop world foe Katy Perry. Still, though “Calm Down” replaces “Old Town Road” at No. 1 on Digital Song Sales, it can’t compete with its streaming or radio totals, and OTR still holds a 1.8 to 1 points lead over Swift’s single, which ultimately ties the Hot 100 peak of “ME!” with its No. 2 debut. As the sixth song to peak at No. 2 underneath “Old Town Road” — following “Wow.,” “ME!,” “If I Can’t Have You,” “I Don’t Care” and “Bad Guy” — “Calm Down” also helps “Road” set the record for most songs kept at No. 2 (to date) during its Hot 100 reign.
Meanwhile, rap megastar Drake — who spent a record 29 weeks atop the Hot 100 across three smash hits in 2018 — debuts two new songs, following the triumph of his hometown Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history. However, neither of the two songs mounts much of a challenge to “Road,” or even “Calm Down”; the Rick Ross-featuring “Money in the Grave” debuts at No. 7, while “Omerta” just scrapes the top 40 at No. 35.
Week 13 (July 6): Though “Old Town Road” continues to slowly slide in its overall metrics, he gets a bump in exposure with the release of his 7 EP, which features guests Cardi B and Travis Barker and includes both the original and first remix versions of “Road” as bookends. (Two tracks from it debut on the Hot 100 — “Panini,” No. 16, and the Cardi-featuring “Rodeo,” No. 22 — while “Old Town Road” holds at No. 1, officially becoming the longest-ruling hip-hop song in chart history.) Meanwhile, Shawn Mendes launches another song to No. 2, with the Camila Cabello collab “Señorita,” joining Taylor Swift as the second artist with multiple songs held one spot from the top by “Old Town Road.”
Week 14 (July 13): A relatively chill week for “Old Town Road” atop the Hot 100, as the song maintains fairly well in streams and sales — though it is dipping in radio play, falling out of the Radio Songs top five for the first time in nine weeks. Nothing else on the Hot 100 seems that poised to seize on any “Old Town Road” slippage anyway; “Bad Guy” and “Talk” are back to 2-3 and no debuts seem particularly scary, though a new spike from Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” sees it surge 12-6 on the chart. In the meantime, “Old Town Road” is now joining fairly exclusive Hot 100 company, as one of just 10 songs in the chart’s 60-plus-year history to reign for at least 14 weeks.
Week 15 (July 20): A potential threat emerges in the form of new single “Goodbyes,” by Post Malone featuring Young Thug — two artists with a combined four Hot 100 No. 1 hits in the past two years. However, the song tops out at No. 3 in its debut week on the Hot 100, while “Bad Guy” remains at No. 2. The latter has closed the gap on “Old Town Road” some, though, as what was a 1.9 to 1 points lead for the Lil Nas X smash the previous week is now just 1.5 to 1. With a much-anticipated “Bad Guy” remix released the previous Thursday, featuring pop star and Eilish idol Justin Bieber, the showdown seems to be set for the next week — with Nas and Cyrus going for Hot 100 immortality, and Eilish and Bieber (defending the record his “Despacito” remix tied two years earlier) the final boss standing in their way.
Week 16 (July 27): The Bieber remix arrives, but the ensuing duel probably doesn’t quite culminate in the photo finish some chartwatchers expect — Bieber’s appearance on the track draws mixed reviews, and without even a new music video to promote it, the remix fades from mainstream attention fairly quickly after its Thursday debut. (That Thursday debut also hurts its chances to have maximum impact, as all consumption from that day counts towards its July 13 week numbers, a blow to its July 20 totals.)
The Bieber version does help give “Bad Guy” nearly a 40% gain in streaming and a 64% percent gain in song sales, but it’s not quite enough — especially because Lil Nas X counters with his own new “Old Town Road” remix, featuring guest appearances from Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, and accompanied by both a new lyric video and a new animated video capitalizing on a recent Internet phenomenon dramatizing a raid on Area 51. The remix doesn’t give “Road” as big of a bump as Bieber’s version gives Eilish’s hit but it’s enough to secure a relatively safe 16th week at No. 1 for the song, with a 1.3 to 1 points lead over “Bad Guy” — tying it with “One Sweet Day” and “Despacito” for the longest reign in Hot 100 history.
Week 17 (Aug. 3): With no major debuts impacting the chart, and the bump “Bad Guy” initially received from its Justin Bieber-featuring remix all but receding, “Old Town Road” has a fairly easy path to setting the all-time record. However, just to hedge his bets a little, Lil Nas X releases one more official “Road” remix early the previous Thursday — this one titled “Old Town Road (Seoul Town Road Remix),” and featuring BTS member and K-pop superstar RM on the track — as well as a “Week 17 Version” edit of the original music video, giving a little extra juice to the track’s week-long totals. The overall race does tighten a little, as Nas’ lead over Eilish diminishes from 1.3 to 1 to 1.2 to 1, but “Old Town Road” still enters into a tier of one in Hot 100 and Billboard lore, as the longest-running No. 1 single in the chart’s history.
Week 18 (Aug. 10): Once again, no debuts hit the Hot 100’s top 10, and while “Old Town Road” continues to slip in metrics (with no high-profile new remixes or music videos), nothing else really jumps up to close the gap. The week-to-week top three remains the same as the week before — with “Bad Guy” and “Senorita” resting at Nos. 2 and 3 — while behind them, “Truth Hurts” climbs one spot to No. 4. The “Old Town Road” points lead over “Bad Guy” remains 1.2 to 1.
Week 19 (Aug. 17): Remember Ariana Grande, whose “7 Rings” was the song unseated by “Old Town Road” when it began its 19-week reign back in April? Well, as poetic as it would have been if she was the artist to end Lil Nas X’s run — with her new single, the Social House collab “Boyfriend” — it proves not meant to be, as the song debuts comfortably out of range at No. 8. Meanwhile, the chart’s entire top seven remains static from the week before, including Eilish at No. 2, still trailing by a nearly 1.2 to 1 margin.
However, “Old Town Road” is now slipping faster in overall metrics than “Bad Guy,” and with a new vertical video a website-only cassette single the next week (chart dated Aug. 24), “Bad Guy” will get the slim bump it needs to get over the top, finally unseating the longest-reigning No. 1 hit in Hot 100 history.