Dolly Parton Passed on Remixing ‘Old Town Road,’ But She Supports Lil Nas X’s Success
In July of 2019, Lil Nas X showed signs of dreaming up yet another reconfiguration to "Old Town Road," his already extensively remixed mega-hit. "Y'all think I can get Dolly Parton and Megan Thee Stallion on an 'Old Town Road' remix?" he tweeted, to which the country icon replied with horse and unicorn emojis as well as an image of galloping horses, one of them a blazing shade of pink.
Horse emojis notwithstanding, Parton tells Elle in a new interview that she's not planning an "Old Town Road" remix anytime soon. "I had an opportunity to be part of that [song], but it had done so well with other people. I thought, 'Well, I'll wait and do something later on,'" she explains. "No point in going down that same Old Town Road. We got other roads to travel."
Many have lambasted "Old Town Road" and its creator for being "not country." In March of 2019, Billboard removed the song's earliest incarnation (several remixes ago) from chart consideration, sparking debate over whether or not "Old Town Road" belonged in the genre and whether the organization's decision to remove it from country charts was racially motivated. However, Parton's decision not to be a part of the song doesn't mean she doesn't think it's a country song; on the contrary, the singer says she's excitedly watched every step of Lil Nas X's success.
"I was so happy for him," she continues. "The fact that that was such a country song, I mean, that's as corny as any country song could be. I don't mean corny in a bad way. I don't care how we present country music or keep it alive. I hope it stays alive forever. The fact that all these other people in other fields of music want to be part of that, are able to be part of that -- I'm all about acceptance."
It makes sense, in a way, that Lil Nas X could be a direct descendant of Parton's musical aesthetic. His onstage style -- bright colors, blinding rhinestones, cowboy ensembles resembling amped-up, psychedelic Nudie suits -- is part of a larger yee-haw fashion sense that pulls from the traditional, over-the-top looks Parton pioneered.
"I just wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be striking. I wanted to be colorful. I wanted to be seen," she tells Elle. "When I went to Nashville, I always overdid it. When they say, 'Less is more,' I say, 'That's BS. More is more.'"
She recalls being warned by her industry peers, like her mentor Chet Atkins, to tone down her look. "You're wearing too much makeup. You need to have a little more taste. People are never going to take you serious[ly] as a singer and songwriter. I know you're great at that, but people are just going to look at you like it's all about the body," Parton remembers Atkins telling her.
"I not only didn't tone it down, I figured if my work was truly good enough, people would eventually recognize that," she goes on to say. "It was about me knowing who I was, being happy with me, and feeling comfortable in the way I presented myself. If I was happy, I could make other people happy."
Today, lots of country stars lean on heavy visuals and yee-haw fashion to complete their aesthetic. Everyone from Kacey Musgraves to Orville Peck -- and yes, Lil Nas X -- draws style inspiration from Parton's pioneering "corniness." Modern country fashion reflects the rhinestone era of country music, but even more importantly, it borrows from Parton's decision to unabashedly, uncompromisingly be herself.
"I guess it's always fashionable to be yourself and be comfortable with who you are, and what you wear, and what you're in," Parton says.
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