If there is a universal language that the world shares, it is the language of Music.   You don’t need to understand the words in a song to enjoy it.  If it sounds good, that is all you need to make it one of your favorite songs.   

Another thing about music is that it gets stuck in our heads!  A catchy song can be like glue.  If used correctly, glue can be such a great tool to make life easier.  This is also true with music and how it can improve your English vocabulary and overall English skills.  It also helps you learn and understand why certain words or phrases are pronounced in a different way than what your teacher has taught you.

Let’s take a deeper look into Lil Nas X’s hit song “Old Town Road” and learn how to use music to:

  1. Learn and improve English skills 
  2. Improve confidence when among native English speakers
  3. Recognize when pronunciation is correct or incorrect 


Can’t nobody tell me nothin’”

Have you ever wondered if the song you are listening to isn’t really using the same grammar that you have been taught while learning English?  Don’t doubt yourself, because you’re probably right.

In music, it is very common to use slang – or non-formal – words and phrases.  Music is so popular in American culture that even when the lyrics use bad grammar or spelling, they become a normal part of a native English speaker’s everyday vocabulary.  And that is ok!  We just need to learn when it is appropriate to use these words and phrases and when we should avoid them.  

Appropriate situations to use popularly correct or commonly used words and phrases – even when we know it is bad grammar

  • With family
  • With your close friends
  • When you want to prank your English teacher ☺

Situations to avoid using slang words and phrases

Above, Lil Nas X is saying that “nobody can convince him that his dreams cannot be reached.”  However, he says it using a double-negative by combining “nobody” with “nothin’.”  It is important to recognize that this is not correct English.  It is also important to understand that it is popularly correct in SOME situations.


“Hat is matte black”

Rhyming is a very common aspect of music.  It makes a song sound nice and catchy – and stuck in our heads!  We love it, but we need to recognize when a word or phrase is pronounced incorrectly.  Improve your English pronunciation by listening closely to the words and phrases in music.

With the great flow in his music, Lil Nas X has become one of the most famous artists.  In this song, he cheats a little bit with the English rules to create a better rhythm.  We have already seen the bad grammar.  And now, he is changing the pronunciation of words.  What’s going on?  We had an explanation for the bad grammar, but no excuses this time!  

Sometimes in music, you must really pay attention to the pronunciations.  In this case, Lil Nas X appears to use the term “matte” to describe a non-shiny color.   

  • The word “matte”
    • Definition – non-shiny
    • Pronunciation – the same as the name “Matt”

However, if you listen closely, you will hear him say “matty” instead.  

This kind of mistake is probably on purpose.  Lil Nas X may know exactly how to pronounce a certain word, but sometimes it doesn’t sound as good as the wrong way.  If we are not careful when listening to our favorite songs, we can learn some words and phrases with the wrong pronunciations.  


Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the Old Town Road”

Do you sometimes feel nervous when speaking to a native English speaker because of your accent?  Or maybe because you are afraid they may laugh if you make a mistake? 

When you love a song and it is stuck in your head, try asking your teacher to help you learn the meaning of a new word or phrase that doesn’t make sense to you.  For Example:

  • What is Lil Nas X even talking about here? Why is he on a horse? Where is the Old Town Road?

His horserepresents that he does not have much

The Old Town Road represents the path to success with hard work and perseverance

Now that we figured that out… is there a message or meaning in this sentence?  And how can it help me learn and improve my English skills?

  • Lil Nas X is telling us that even if he does not have many things – like a car – he will still use what is available to him – his horse
  • Without having many resources, the path to success is going to be a difficult and bumpy road – the Old Town Road

Lil Nas X’s goal is to be famous in Hollywood.  It will not be easy.  He does not have many things to help him overcome the bumpy road ahead.  He will not be discouraged.  He will use what he has and work hard to reach success – no matter what!  He will take his horse to the Old Town Road.


  • You are new to the USA or plan on coming here and your goal is to improve your reading, writing, and speaking skills, but you struggle with:
    • Grammar 
    • Vocabulary
    • Pronunciation
    • New phrases
    • Sayings that are specific to the USA (American culture)
    • Confidence around native English speakers


In the end, Lil Nas X arrived at fame with his #1 hit song by traveling his Old Town Road through hard work and perseverance.  For all of you ESL cowboys, get on your horse and don’t give up.  Hard work and perseverance.  

*** We all have our own unique horse and Old Town Road, what’s yours? ***

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