By Melissa Domingo
Lil Nas X released his highly anticipated debut album “MONTERO” on Sept. 17, 2021. The album had 15 tracks and the majority of these songs were collaborations with Take a Daytrip, a singer/songwriter producing duo. The songs range from being borderline ballads, pop-rock anthems, and grungy rap songs.
The rap-pop star is most popularly known for his genre-hopping and this quality of his shines through in this album. The album opens with “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, a song about wanting to remove pretenses with a significant other by going on a first-name basis. The song and the music video that accompanied it garnered controversy amongst conservatives and religious groups. The song itself was catchy, with its melodic chorus that distracted from the heavy verses.
With “DEAD RIGHT NOW”, Lil Nas X opens up about his feelings regarding his newfound fame and the jump in fake interactions he’s had to deal with as a consequence. He even goes on to call out specific people who only care about him due to his novelty in the industry and rise to fame. The callbacks and the gospel-sounding chorus only elevate the song further. Nas switches to another genre again with “INDUSTRY BABY”, instead of being vulnerable, he goes back to cheeky innuendos accompanied by blaring horns reminiscent of pep rallies. The accompanying music video also garnered uproar for its less than appropriate dance sequence during the chorus.
In “THATS WHAT I WANT”, Nas yearns for a relationship through a pop-rock anthem, the guitar and synth-heavy track also discusses his concerns about his ability to find love as a queer Black man experiencing exponential growth regarding his fame. The music video follows Nas as someone who falls in love, hard and fast, and comes to the realization that his romantic feelings were fleeting to the other person.
Doja Cat makes an appearance in the next track, “SCOOP”, Nas is back to the playful tracks filled with innuendos backed by a synth and heavy bass. The feature is cocky and is reminiscent of what Nas is best known for. Nas does another 180 with “ONE OF ME”, a song about the critics who believed he would only be a one-hit-wonder. The next track, “LOST IN THE CITADEL”, is about a one-sided relationship that failed. The electric pop-rock song is something of a break-up anthem about moving on.
“DOLLA SIGN SLIME” is another song that includes a feature, this time it’s with Megan Thee Stallion. The song is loud and grungy; it’s another track that relies on loud horns and a heavy bass line. In “TALES OF DOMINICA”, Nas details tumultuous relationships, his dysfunctional family, and the hopelessness people feel in the darkest of times. With “SUN GOES DOWN”, details Nas’ insecurities regarding his sexuality and his background accompanied by a soft electric guitar. The music video that accompanies the song focuses on Nas as he goes through his life while his older self tries to guide him.
“VOID” opens with another electric guitar, a common instrument in the album. It’s a letter from Nas now, to his past self as he experiences his rise to fame. “DON’T WANT IT” is a heavy rap song that relies on synths.
“LIFE AFTER SALEM” opens with a loud rock instrumental with him yelling out to an unknown lover, asking over and over again what do they want from him? The last track “AM I DREAMING” is a collaboration between Nas and Miley Cyrus. The song reflects on the harsh realities of being a young LGBTQ artist thrust into the music industry.
Overall, “MONTERO” was an album that revealed Lil Nas X’s feelings as what he’s perceived: a high-profile artist who became an overnight internet sensation. But it also shows off a new side we’ve never seen, a more vulnerable and open Montero Lamar Hill, that’s been kept hidden to preserve the “meme-king” status that he’s been given. The 15 track album had enough of the cheeky Lil Nas X that everyone has learned to love, but it lets listeners be privy to the thoughts that may be running through his mind.
Personally, I loved the album, it was equal parts heartwrenching and fun, though I would’ve preferred if the album had a gradual transition into the sadder songs or the “boppier” songs rather than it being seeded into each other. I’m also glad that a queer Black artist is breaking into mainstream media successfully.
FEATURED IMAGE (at the top of this post): “MONTERO” album cover (PHOTO CREDIT: Lil Nas X).