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‘MONTERO’: bop or flop?

Lil Nas X started his career resembling a one hit wonder. Now he might be the next big star.

Originally published November 9, 2021 by Isa Wick, Staff Reporter

The official cover art for “MONTERO” (Columbia Records)

The album “MONTERO” by Lil Nas X proves that his breakout hit “Old Town Road” was not a fluke but rather a portent of his coming career. It excels not only musically but both emotionally and as queer representation. 

Lil Nas X broke onto the music scene with a record-breaking 17 weeks topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After “Old Town Road” and its endless remixes finally fell out of pop culture, Lil Nas X faded to the background, with a few popular follow ups with no chance of matching their predecessor in influence. That is, until the release of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The iconic video of Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance announced the release of his first album.  

Without explaining all the little intricacies within them, every song just works. While “Old Town Road” was almost a novelty, all songs on this album are catchy, complex, and just plain good to listen to. They are something that’ll be listened to regularly years in the future not because they’re popular but because they are quality works of art. 

That said, I’m still going to do a little analysis. Lil Nas X is not a subtle creator by any means, and that works well for him. The lyrics are not meant to be poetic, instead delivering raw emotion that seems to come straight from the soul. Every line is powerful and he means it. 

The instrumentals also deliver emotionally. For instance, “LIFE AFTER SALEM” heavily features discordant guitar strums and long, wavering notes. It feels off balance and confused, like something important is lost. But what? It works perfectly for the theme of the song, which is about a lover who is changing and becoming more of a strain than a comfort. 

In contrast, there is “DOLLA SIGN SLIME.” From the title, you may be able to guess that this is a more typical trap song about being rich and spending money. But throughout the entire song, a horn sounds out a jaunty melody. It conjures the image of fairy tale wealth, kings dressed in posh robes being announced by musicians. 

It is impossible to talk about Lil Nas X without mentioning his sexuality. Lil Nas X is gay and makes sure that you know it. As previously mentioned, the music video for the title track “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” follows Lil Nas X as he is persecuted for his sexuality and embraces it all the way to hell. 

However, within the lyrics themselves there is not much exploration of his sexual identity, that being mainly relegated to the videos for each of the four singles. That may disappoint some who have come to expect the loud, unashamed, and often controversial image he usually presents.

But just because his music and his other content are different doesn’t mean either has a weaker message. The shocking content in his videos gain incredible amounts of attention, both praise and criticism, meanwhile the lyrics don’t receive that same focus.

Lil Nas X uses his music to discuss topics that are less attention grabbing, like relationships, past trauma, and his dynamic with the public. None of those are any less worthy of exploration, and he knows it.

In fact, “INDUSTRY BABY,” one of the singles off the album, is a much different song than the video suggests. The video tackles masculinity, racism, the prison system, and homosexuality. Meanwhile, the lyrics are focused on Lil Nas X’s music career continuing to thrive despite the outrage against him.

That isn’t to say that his music hides his sexuality. There is often a mention of being queer or wanting a boyfriend. They’re all very casual references, almost like a reminder that the Lil Nas X is gay. It feels excellent having these songs that don’t erase the artist’s identity but don’t feel the need to explain it either.

Those were just two examples, but be assured that everything else on the album is just as incredible. Overall, I would give “MONTERO” by Lil Nas X five out of five stars. I urge anyone who listens to music at all to at least give it a chance. It won’t be for everybody, but it’s such an impressive piece of art that it must be experienced.

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‘MONTERO’: bop or flop?