This year has brought us so much music, most notably the highly anticipated debut album by Lil Nas X. The 22-year-old Atlanta native’s album “Montero,” named after himself—Montero Lamar Hill—is full of musical self-growth from his June 2019 EP ”7.”
“Montero” is a pop-rap album about the intersection of being queer and famous. Lil Nas X tackles his family problems, insecurities, and hiding his sexuality through his lyrics. “Tales of Dominica” is a truthful ballad about his home-life problems, but it also provides a look into his ambition with “Hope my little bit of hope don’t fade away.”
Pop-rock banger, “That’s What I Want,” is about finding that person, in Lil Nas X’s case “a boy who can cuddle with me all night.” Being honest about his struggles and relationships with relatable lyrics further strengthens his connection to his fans.
The features include long-time music legends Elton John and Miley Cyrus, as well as some of rap’s current dominators: Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion and Jack Harlow. The production is equally astonishing, including Kanye West producing “Industry Baby.” It’s not everyday that an artist’s debut-album has such big names attached to it, proving Lil Nas X’s flight of success in just two years.
The first half of the album is full of upbeat, dance-worthy bops, as opposed to the second half composed of heartbreaking, poetic lyrics tackling topics like death and self-doubt. “Scoop” ft. Doja Cat is a radio-worthy pop-rap song about getting your body fit and being in the spotlight, while “Void” acts as a letter to himself, giving insight to the low points with, “I’d rather die than to live with these feelings, stuck in this world where there’s so much to prove.”
The versatility of genres on this album is absolutely noteworthy. The energetic rap “Dolla Sign Slime” ft. Megan Thee Stallion, filled with flashy horns, completely contrasts “Life After Salem,” the grungy, pop-punk, guitar ballad anthem (that definitely deserved a Willow feature).
My personal favorite off the album is rock-pop bop, “Lost in the Citadel,” which tackles a toxic relationship nearing its end. If I ever produce a coming-of-age movie, this head-banging worthy track is definitely getting featured on the soundtrack.
The R&B track, “Sun Goes Down,” is the perfect letter to his younger self and an anthem for queer kids struggling to find themselves a place in this world, as evident in the lyrics, “I know that you want to cry, but there’s much more to life than dying.” Lil Nas X is giving queer fans lyrics they can truly feel and relate to. I spoke with advertising major, Jayden Davis, who is from Norcross, GA about his feelings towards the album; “‘Montero’ makes me feel empowered. It is beyond cool to see a Black, gay man like myself unapologetically display himself in the music industry. He’s a big inspiration to me — he’s bold and doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of him.”
In “Dead Right Now”, Lil Nas X writes about the pressure of having to shrink himself into a masculinity that doesn’t fit his definition. He openly talks about his mom’s drug addiction and the struggle to pursue a music career with disapproving parents, who ended up coming back around once he made it big. The choir gives it a trap-gospel feel that feels incredibly moving to the ears.
“One of Me” ft. Elton John further pushes his struggle with self-doubt, such as being called a “gimmick” for being his meme-loving self. He also calls out the people who believed he would be a one-hit-wonder with “If it ain’t ‘Old Town Road’ Lil Nassy, I ain’t playin.”
“Montero” is an equally bold and vulnerable piece of work. This album is an emotional rollercoaster full of angst and honesty. Simply put, this project is engaging front to back. I’m so happy to see Lil Nas X place his sexuality front and center in his career and be himself without remorse.
Lil Nas X has made it clear that he isn’t your average pop star; he isn’t afraid to blend genres and be himself without remorse between his lyrics and ability to connect to his fans. I find myself invested in Lil Nas X as a person; it almost feels like he could be a friend of mine rather than an out-of-reach celebrity due to his down-to-earth energy.
“Montero” proves once again that Lil nas X will not be put into a box of any sort in regards to his music or sexuality. He has been an inspiration for both the Black and gay communities, proving his take-it-or-leave-it mentality by putting authenticity at the forefront of his career.
He closes the album beautifully with “Am I Dreaming” ft. Miley Cyrus, a compelling piece featuring powerful lyrics such as “Never forget me and everything I’ve done,” the possibility of his cyclical success swirling in the back of his mind and inspiring him to convey to his fans that he is here to stay. I certainly hope so.
by Jess L’Hommedieu