Album review: Lil Nas X’s “Montero” breaks the barriers of what pop-rap can be
After breaking countless records and breaking down many social barriers, internet icon turned pop-rap star Lil Nas X released their long-awaited debut LP, Montero.
Following the colossal success of one of the best-selling singles of all time, “Old Town Road” and his acclaimed debut EP, 7, which spawned hits such as “Panini” and “Rodeo,” the rapper and singer-songwriter explores his rise to fame as a gay black man – a little-documented experience in modern music. This 41 minute pop-rap opus will no doubt leave you dancing and crying as you listen to Lil Nas X recount the relationships and struggles he encountered on his meteoric flight to the top of the charts.
Colored with lively guitar licks and Kanye-influenced horn samples, Montero showcases Lil Nas X’s tendency to explore versatile instrumental timbres that make her sound unique. Right from the opening track, the Atlanta native makes a statement, and that statement is that queer artists shouldn’t have to hide from the lustful lyricism that their straight contemporaries so leniently use.
At times he is bold and boastful, at others tender and vulnerable. The diverse range of emotions on this album takes the listener on the emotional roller coaster that is the experience of a gay black man with the socio-cultural stature of Lil Nas X.
But for every unforgettable chorus and heart-wrenching lyrics on this album, there are one or two moments where the artist’s overt inexperience as a songwriter shines through, as on the tracks “SCOOP” and “VOID”. There are a few endless songs that lack the fiery panache that is so prevalent in some of the album’s highs.
Music aside, this record is a thesis on the queer experience in America today, and Lil Nas X should be very proud of what he does for the gay and black communities who feel under-represented in the world. pop culture for so many years. While this project is not a cure for such a huge social problem, it is a step in the right direction.
As the rapper himself said in his Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe, many queer artists are “pushed into this bowl of gay artists” and their achievements are erased from public discourse. This album is a huge achievement in showing those with the wrong opinions about homosexuality what it’s like to grow up for those in the LGBTQ + community.
Ultimately, does Lil Nas X have the singing abilities of Harry Styles or the rap abilities of Tyler, The Creator? No, but armed with a talented production team and an innate understanding of how to write indelible pop songs that instantly stick to your eardrums, Montero is a gargantuan pop culture moment that will remain a landmark for black and queer communities for decades to come.
With that, here are some of the most notable leads:
“MONTERO (Call me by your name)”
Released as a single directly going viral on the Internet, the opening of the album is a call to the secret partner of Lil Nas X to make their relationship known to the public. On first listen, this song stubbornly lives on in the listener’s head for days.
This song highlights Lil Nas X’s distinctive ability to create hooks that will inevitably turn into hits while demonstrating her lack of hesitation when it comes to being blunt about her sexuality. Multi-instrumentalist Omer Fedi’s flamenco-tinged guitar licking gives this one-song telenovela the Latin flavor it calls for and, in doing so, kicks off Montero with a perfect opening track for the album.
“THAT’S WHAT I WANT”
This happy body shaker is Lil Nas X at his best when it comes to composing the awe-inspiring and colorful chorus melodies that have guided him to his successes. The rhythmic guitar paired with playful percussion and high-flying vocals creates a full sound that forces you to dance the same way as any power pop classic.
This superbly produced hymn immerses you in the desperate search for love that Lil Nas X so wonderfully displays in the two minute and 23 second masterpiece that is “THIS IS WHAT I WANT”.
“DOLLA SIGN SLIME (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)”
By far the most boastful track on the project, “DOLLA SIGN SLIME,” producer Take a Daytrip included a triumphant brass sample which, at this point, became a motif on the album. Alongside hard-hitting trap drums, it provides the perfect space for Lil Nas X to deliver some of his best raps, deploying a more stylistically trap-influenced flow to brag about his newly earned riches.
On top of that, no one could have been more fitting for this track than Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion, who uses her retro Southern flow to deliver a scathing verse for what is easily the best feature on the record.
- “THE SUN SETS”
In what instrumentally sounds like a Khalid-influenced summer R&B anthem, is actually some of Lil Nas X’s more mature lyricisms, dealing with her young self’s struggles with her race, sexuality, and suicide attacks: “These homosexual thoughts would always haunt me / I prayed God would take it away from me / It’s hard for you when you fight / And nobody knows when you shut up.”
It’s obvious that Lil Nas X put a lot of money into writing this song to invoke the horrible feelings he had to endure in dealing with his identity. “SUN GOES DOWN” is one of the album’s many good points, and it shows that Lil Nas X has a lot more to offer than “Old Town Road”. He’s here to stay.
Rating 3.5 / 5