Blake Shelton has denied that he tried to throw “shade” at Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” on his new song with Trace Adkins, “Hell Right.” As Variety notes, on the song, Shelton sings about a girl who switched off “Old Town” and turned on a song by Hank Williams Jr., a classic southern rock singer-songwriter. Adkins chimes in at that point and says, “Thank God.”
But although you could interpret the lyric as a dig against the No. 1 song in the United States, a press rep for Shelton told Variety that was not the case.
“It’s absolutely not throwing any kind of shade at Lil Nas X at all,” he said. “Blake says this literally has nothing to do with anything at all except how much the song is played. It could have been ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ or any other (overplayed) song.”
However, Variety notes that that reference to Lil Nas X can be interpreted as racist since Hank Williams, Jr. was known for being a fan of the Confederacy. One of the people who made this observation was David Cantwell, a country music critic.
“On the new Blake Shelton single Saying ‘Hell Right’ to someone taking off ‘Old Town Road’ and putting on something else is, in this moment, a d*ck move,” Cantwell wrote on Twitter. “OK, whatever. But taking off Lil’ Nas in favor of Hank Jr will be predictably, understandably read as a racist d*ck move. WTF Blake?”
Shelton’s rep claimed that the singer spoke to Billy Ray Cyrus about the song. But Cyrus is only featured on the remix of the song and is therefore not the lead artist in that pairing. “Old Town Road” is Lil Nas X’s song and the spokesperson didn’t mention if he was contacted about the song as well.
Entertainment Tonight reports that Lil Nas X has referenced the “Hell Right” in a now-deleted tweet in which he shared a link to the story and added, “It don’t slap like old town road tho.”
“Old Town Road’s” ascent to the top of the Billboard 100 chart has had its fair share of controversy. The original country-trap song was removed from the country-specific chart as it started to become very popular. Billboard justified the removal by stating that the song did not contain enough country music elements to justify its spot there. The remix of the song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is now the longest-running song at the top of the prestigious Billboard 100, unseating Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber.