By Riley Dauber
Elm Staff Writer
Artist Lil Nas X released his debut album, “MONTERO,” on Sept. 17. The album is an introduction to who he is as an artist, his response to the success of “Old Town Road,” and his journey as a Black, gay artist.
“On his debut album, ‘MONTERO,’ the country’s most popular gay pop-rap star is quick to let you into this roiling headspace,” Pitchfork writer Eric Torres said.
After the success of “Old Town Road,” which was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 consecutive weeks, many critics wondered if Lil Nas X could overcome the one-hit wonder status. Meanwhile, fans wondered whether he would continue catering to his younger fans.
“Old Town Road” was popular with younger listeners, thanks to social media platforms like TikTok and the catchy tune.
“MONTERO” defies both of those speculations.
Lil Nas X directly addresses the critics who thought he would be a one-hit wonder on songs like “INDUSTRY BABY” and “ONE OF ME.” Although the rest of the album’s quality, and its critical success, are proof on their own.
Additionally, Lil Nas X defied his label of “kids’ artist” when he released the music video for the lead single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The video depicted Lil Nas X embracing his sexuality, spinning down a stripper pole straight to Hell and giving Satan a lap dance. The sexual content made it clear that a younger audience was not his goal while sparking controversy from conservative viewers and parents.
“I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job,” he said on Twitter.
“MONTERO” is a breath of fresh air for the artist, allowing Lil Nas X to address his fame, the criticism he has faced, and his love life as a gay man.
The start of the album features hit after hit. “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” is an addictive track with stellar vocals and unique production. It is the perfect song to dance to or blast in the car, but still handles topics of fame and sexuality.
Little Nas X is unabashedly gay on the album. He details what he wants out of love on both “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and “THAT WHAT I WANT.” The latter is a catchy, upbeat tune about his wishes for a happy, healthy relationship.
The song “INDUSTRY BABY” is arguably one of the best on the album. The horns and overall production are excellent, and the earworm tune is sure to get stuck in your head.
Lil Nas X shows his critics that he is going to succeed, and he is not just a one-hit wonder.
Featured artist Jack Harlow’s verse is a weak point of the song, but some of the lines still hit the mark.
“SCOOP” is also a standout on the album, with memorable verses and a great feature by Doja Cat, although her verse could be longer. Her rap fits perfectly next to Lil Nas X’s.
Overall, many of the songs on the album are excellent. “LOST IN THE CITADEL,” although not as upbeat as others, has beautiful lyrics and songwriting. “ONE OF ME” has a back-and-forth style that shows how Lil Nas X felt pressured by the public to be a certain type of artist.
“AM I DREAMING” is a great album closer, and includes a verse from Miley Cyrus. Similar to Doja Cat, she and Lil Nas X sound great together on the song as he reflects on his newfound fame and success.
The album’s tracks and themes are amazing components, but the second half of the album is a bit forgettable.
Either the songs are too slow or the album starts to drag — they are not terrible songs in any way; they just do not stand a chance next to the flashier or more emotional songs on the album.
This does not stand true, however, for “SUN GOES DOWN,” Lil Nas X’s love letter to his younger self.
“To be 100 percent honest, I didn’t want to do that song at first. I guess it was because I’ve never done something so personal…But when I released the song, I got messages from people telling me that it saved their life,” Lil Nas X said in an interview for People.
The song, with a more acoustic sound, is a heartbreaking representation of what young, LGBTQIA+ kids deal with growing up. It is personal, it is relatable, and it is heartbreaking.
Now that Lil Nas X is discussing his sexuality in his music, it’s great to see a Black, gay man succeeding in the music industry, especially in the pop and rap genres. He’s discussing his sexuality and identity in such an open way, showing listeners that it is okay to be yourself.
Lil Nas X proves with “MONTERO” that he is not the “Old Town Road” guy, nor is he a one-hit wonder.
With its mix of upbeat jams and emotional ballads, the album’s themes of fame, controversy, and sexuality are important reasons to give the album a listen.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons