Lil Nas X’s meteoric rise to fame coincides with his internet-savvy mindset and his ability to stir up controversy and promotion with ease. Ever since the release of his 2018 rap-country hit “Old Town Road”, he has managed to remain in the public eye consistently while strengthening his talents as a musician and a brand.
His 2021 single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” featured him twerking on Satan’s lap, which caused an uproar within the Christian community and dramatically increased his reputation. His latest album, “MONTERO,” is a clever addition to his discography that combines pop, rock and rap elements.
“DEAD RIGHT NOW” is a trap song first and foremost, with blistering hi-hats and a clever hallelujah sample that loops throughout the track. Lyrically, it explains his decision to drop out of college and pursue music full-time, which is a brutally honest leap of faith.
Many artists like to glorify and idealize this section of their career, but Lil Nas X focuses on the uncertainty and hardships he experienced during this time in his life. “2018, I was at my sister house the whole summer/Songs wasn’t doing numbers, whole life was going under,” he raps. Seeing where Lil Nas X is now, it’s difficult to imagine his life before “Old Town Road” came out, but these lyrics are a reminder of where he came from.
“TALES OF DOMINICA” boasts beautiful production from Take A Daytrip, who is Lil Nas X’s in-house producer. Arpeggiated guitars permeate the intro of the song and provide important background atmosphere.
Lyrically, he touches on dysfunctional family relationships and the hopelessness that comes with age and accepting your current situation. “Finally grown, ain’t nothing like I hoped it would be/Out on my own, I’m floating in an oceanless sea,” he sings.
These layers of honesty continue on “SUN GOES DOWN” which continues the themes of acceptance and understanding of one’s self. “These gay thoughts would always haunt me/I prayed God would take it from me,” he sings.
By tying religion and regret into his verses, he highlights the identity crisis many LGBTQ+ people face with coming to terms with themselves. Rather than tokenizing himself and his audience, he empathizes and understands their struggles because he is a byproduct of a toxic environment.
While “MONTERO” is certainly a turning point in Lil Nas X’s career, he's also making strides for queer representation in television and media. His performance of “INDUSTRY BABY” with rapper Jack Harlow combined flashy pink jumpsuits and an impressively choreographed shower dance number.
His Twitter is a goldmine for hilarious comebacks at his detractors, and he has established himself as a cultural force of nature rather than a one-hit-wonder. As a mainstream artist, it's rare for someone of his status to feel both authentic and real. Lil Nas X’s best promoter is himself, and artists of his caliber should take lessons on branding from him.
The album’s central themes tackle loneliness, isolation and sexuality in a way that blends different musical genres. “MONTERO” is Lil Nas X’s most introspective and personal album to date, and his status as a queer icon is cemented in the current musical landscape. His rise to fame at this point feels like a fairy tale, but his authenticity as an artist and a person radiates through his online presence and musical output.
Regardless of what Lil Nas X decides to do next, his music will continue to break records and resonate with his audience. The genre-bending on "MONTERO" is a display of his three-dimensionality and artistic inspirations, and this album will undoubtedly inspire a generation of LGBTQ+ kids to embrace themselves and their identity on a mainstream and authentic scale.