The hottest song of 2019, “Old Town Road” by rapper Lil Nas X, in collaboration with country star Billy Ray Cyrus, is up for three Grammy Awards this Sunday—Record of the Year, Pop Duo/Group Performance, and Music Video.
So it’s no surprise that when the BU Treblemakers performed a condensed a cappella version of the hit last year, it garnered serious attention and praise. The YouTube video of their performance, with recent alum Luke J. Daly (CAS’19), clad in cowboy hat and red plaid shirt, handling the main vocals, has more than 14,000 views.
Nathan Simani (CAS’21), music director for the Treblemakers when the video was made, explains in an email to BU Today how it came about: “When the song came out during the spring 2019 semester, ‘Old Town Road’ quickly became a favorite among group members, especially Luke. The song became a staple of the group’s playlist at events, concerts, etc., so much so that when it came time for our final concert of the semester, the men of the Treblemakers knew it needed to be sung. Within the short time between our sound check and the actual concert, group members put together our fun arrangement so that we could surprise the audience. It was a huge hit. A few weeks later, on our group’s end-of-year retreat, we wanted to immortalize the performance with a fun video. We were out on a farm, which helped us feel like the horses were actually ‘in the back.’”
In his own email to BU Today, Daly says the song was a personal favorite of his, and when the group did a “spur-of-the-moment” version of “Old Town Road” that came out so well, they decided to make the video. “It will forever be a memento of my final semester at BU as well as a representation of what creativity can produce,” he says.
The video caught the attention of the website collegeaca.com, which writes about college a cappella groups: “While the performance is a condensed version of the hit track, it captures the rugged hip-hop and country goodness of the original song, with a heightened amount of energy. Luke Daly sells the country twang and persona flawlessly, and it’s not due to the cowboy hat. His smooth low-end glides over the song’s lyrics with confidence and style. And the group’s backing singers deliver a well-rounded and full sound that perfectly matches the vibe and feel of their lead.”
At 17 weeks, “Old Town Road” broke the all-time record for most weeks spent atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, beating Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito.”