The long-awaited release of Lil Nas X’s debut album has finally arrived. Called MONTERO after his birth name, Montero Lamar Hill, this album has a total of fifteen songs and features artists such as Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, and Elton John.
Leading up to the release of MONTERO, Lil Nas X posted photos of himself with a fake pregnant belly on various social media platforms, leading to the release of a comical video of Lil Nas X “giving birth” to the album. Another unique part of Lil Nas X’s works are his music videos; he released a different video for each song. Though some are simply the same scene repeating, others push boundaries through excellent choreography, plots, and costumes.
Lil Nas X has set himself apart from other artists in many ways. He has stretched the boundaries of how artists are supposed to act through his music videos, songs, and internet personality, which has resulted in a lot of controversy. In 2019, following the release of “7 EP,” Lil Nas X became the first artist to come out as gay while having a hit single at Number 1 on the Billboard chart. In response to backlash on social media, the singer stated that “[He’s] not angry or anything because [he] understands how they just want that reaction.”
This controversy increased after he released the single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” The backlash was mostly provoked by the music video, which features Lil Nas X pole dancing in Hell and giving Satan a lap dance. This sparked a lot of angry comments claiming that the singer was “Satan worshipping.” He also received a negative response for his collaboration with MSCHF (pronounced “mischief”), an art collective, in which he released six hundred pairs of shoes with a drop of human blood in each sole.
When listening to MONTERO, the listener follows a different narrative in every song. In addition to the tracks themselves, their respective music videos completely contrasted in their story lines, though they all followed Lil Nas X’s signature motif of CGI animated supernatural elements.
“Industry Baby,’’ featuring Jack Harlow, is arguably one of the stand out tracks on the album. Lil Nas X badmouths his haters in his lyrics and shamelessly relishes his fame and success. He sings, “You was never really rootin’ for me anyway/When I’m back up at the top I wanna hear you say/ He don’t run from nothin’, dog.” The track’s music video depicts Lil Nas X as a prisoner with a hot pink inmate uniform, dominating the prison’s social scene with his inmate backup dancers. The rapper is unabashedly cocky as he schemes and succeeds at his prison escape plan.
The versatility of the album is apparent when comparing “Industry Baby” to “Sun Goes Down,” in which Lil Nas X examines his past struggles as a both a gay and Black artist in an industry made to amplify white, heteronormative voices. The music video shows a god-like version of the rapper singing to his awkward teenage self at a school dance.
Lil Nas X doesn’t follow a central theme in MONTERO as Taylor Swift does in Reputation or Beyoncé does in Lemonade. He jumps from singing about heartbreak in “That’s What I Want,” to boasting about his expensive lifestyle in “Dolla Sign Slime.”
A noticeable feature of the album is that some of the tracks’ melodies and beats feel somewhat repetitive. The songs that stood out the most were the ones that displayed how much he’s grown as an artist; he wrote meaningful lyrics, told personal stories, and produced dynamic music videos. These are the qualities that make MONTERO such a distinctive debut album.
In reality, what really sets the album apart is Lil Nas X himself. The singer has made it clear that he will continue to do the unexpected and surprise the music industry with his personal and artistic choices. If nothing else, Lil Nas X has succeeded in distinguishing himself through his creativity and innovative ideas.