Lil Nas X has built an image as a provocateur. He debuted as Black rapper in 2018 with the country single “Old Town Road” which stirred conversations on what counts as country. He came out after the track became a hit and has come a long way since then, a steamy kiss with a backup dancer on the BET Awards stage included. Today, Sept. 17, Lil Nas X dropped his first much-anticipated studio album “Montero.” With it he cements his place as pop royalty, pairing attention-grabbing visuals with genre-bending, emotionally vulnerable bops.
Along with the 15-track album, Lil Nas X also dropped a spicy music video and gorgeous visualizers that weave between afrofuturism and surrealism. Almost everything is a certified treat, save for the announcement video where he literally gives birth to “Montero.” We’re still on the fence about whether it comes off as poking fun at trans pregnancies or a clever execution of gender f*ckery. We’ll let you decide for yourself. Apart from that, he also released a couple of hilarious ads to promote his new album.
But let’s talk about the “That’s What I Want” music video and that surprise Billy Porter cameo. The song itself is reminiscent of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”. Apart from the clapping and a few notes, the song sounds fun but talks about unrequited love. In the beginning of the video, Lil Nas X is a football player who has steamy locker/shower sex with a teammate. Then, we get a sizzling tent scene inspired by “Brokeback Mountain.”
But Lil Nas X gets heartbroken when he learns that his man has a wife and kids. We get to a dramatic church scene where he’s in a wedding gown. He walks down the aisle and meets priest Porter who hands him an electric guitar. He plays it, mascara “dripping” because of tears and diamond grill in view, as he sings the final lines to the chorus, “So I want, someone to love / That’s what I fuckin’ want.” It’s pop to a T and showcases how he’s disinclined to let himself be boxed in.
“Montero” also boasts of several surprise collabs with the likes of Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Miley Cyrus, and Elton John. But his solo songs are also real show stealers. “Lost In The Citadel” has New Wave influences while “Life After Salem” is undeniably grunge rock. “Void” is a gripping R&B-ish track with emotional vocals. “Tell me what you know / Now before I go,” Lil Nas X begs.
Among the collabs, the melodic “One of Me” with Elton John playing the piano for the intro and outro and the acoustic guitar-driven “Am I Dreaming” with Miley Cyrus are especially memorable. The latter closes the album with the rousing line “Never forget me, and everything I’ve done.” An interesting choice for a debut studio album. Whoever broke his heart must be regretting it now.
“Montero” is not only a production but a lyrical feat as well. Lil Nas X is credited as one of the writers for each of the tracks and its thrilling to hear these queer narratives from him. Easily, this is one of the best, if not the best, pop albums of the year.