With the release of his debut album “Montero,” Lil Nas X proves that he is an unstoppable force in the music industry—and he knows it well.
Before the single “Montero” dropped, many accused Lil Nas X of being a “one-hit wonder” with “Old Town Road”— which happened to be the longest-running number-one song in Billboard Hot 100 chart history, achieving an astounding 15x platinum.
Following the historic success of “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X dropped a pretty mediocre EP, the “7 EP,” which largely rode off of the success of his genre-defying mega-hit. However, the commercial success of “Panini” and “Rodeo,” along with Lil Nas X’s masterful marketing skills and social media presence showed that there was still plenty in store for Montero, Lil Nas X’s real name.
Then, after patiently biding his time during the pandemic, Lil Nas X came back stronger than ever with the culture-shifting “Montero” and the anthemic “Industry Baby.” I find it incredibly dope that Lil Nas X is making music so catchy, genre-bending and fun to listen to that even people within the country music industry, which largely lends itself to a conservative audience, cannot help but admit that his music slaps. It’s that exact type of cognitive dissonance that forces people to re-evaluate their regressive beliefs.
On “Montero,” Lil Nas X demonstrates that he has grown greatly as an artist since the release of the “7 EP” in 2019. Rather than a loose collection of decent tracks, “Montero” is a cohesive album that thoroughly showcases Lil Nas X’s potential to become this decade’s king of pop. At only 22 years old and already one of the most influential figures in pop culture, the sky is truly the limit for Lil Nas X.
Following the opening track “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” which has nearly a billion plays on Spotify, Lil Nas X recounts his rise to stardom with poignant honesty on “Dead Right Now.” Over a hard-hitting beat laced with spectacular horns and a glorious gospel choir, Lil Nas X raps that before his meteoric rise to fame, he struggled with thoughts of suicide trying to make it as an artist—“If I didn’t blow, I would've died tryna be here / If it didn't go, suicide, wouldn't be here.”
Up next is “Industry Baby” and do I even need to say more? I swear Jack Harlow could become president if he tried. I may or may not be taking notes on how to achieve that signature Harlow level of confidence.
“That’s What I Want” is an upbeat pop track with an addictive chorus. There’s very little substance to the song, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be anything deep. It’s just a fun pop song about wanting to find love, nothing more, nothing less.
Following a brief spoken interlude with “The Art Of Realization,” Lil Nas X drops another banger with “Scoop.” Personally, I find it to be too repetitive for my taste, but I can’t deny its catchiness and quirky, plucky beat. Doja Cat matches the energy to deliver a decent verse, but it’s too short to be memorable, lasting only about 25 seconds.
“One Of Me” featuring Elton John is a highly disappointing track as it doesn’t feature Elton John, only his piano playing. It feels disingenuous, honestly. It’s also extremely repetitive to the point that I want to skip it.
The next track, “Lost In The Citadel,” is a pop-rock track about unreciprocated love. It’s fun, but it lacks any depth, making it neither memorable nor emotionally impactful.
Next up is, “Dolla Sign Slime.” (*Ahem* DOLLAA SIGNNN SLIMEEEEEEEEEE!!!)
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God, I love this track. Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion team up to deliver a braggadocious banger. The beat is a simple horn pattern over a trap instrumental, but it works so well. It’s a highlight of the album for me.
“Tales Of Dominica” is another favorite of mine off the album. Lil Nas X’s singing shines on this track about being at your lowest. The violins are an extremely nice touch on an already great track.
The mood shift continues with “Sun Goes Down,” a single that flew under the radar compared to the other two singles, “Montero” and “Industry Baby.” Unlike many of the previous tracks on the album that largely lack emotional substance, this track is touchingly vulnerable and honest. In the sole verse of the track, Lil Nas X describes struggling with his identity as a gay black man, remarking that he prayed to God to take away the gay thoughts that haunted him.
“Void,” the longest track on the album, is an emotional ballad written as a letter, describing the pitfalls of fame in regards to love and happiness. It’s a beautiful song that clearly has a lot of meaning to Lil Nas X personally. It, along with “Sun Goes Down” and “Tales of Dominica,” show that Lil Nas X can’t be boxed into only upbeat pop.
Transitioning away from the sadder portion of the album, “Don’t Want It” hesitantly tests out the waters of metal with its wild electric guitar. Personally, I would love to see Lil Nas X venture out further into rock and punk. I want to see him take more risks musically in the future.
“Life After Salem” makes me feel like I’m falling in slow motion away from an explosion. It’s got that slow head-banging rock energy, accentuated by the electric guitar. In my opinion, it’s the most overlooked track on the album.
Wrapping up the 15-track album, Lil Nax X grabs a spectacular Miley Cyrus feature to create the fantastic closer that is “Am I Dreaming.” The violins and acoustic guitar create a beautiful soundscape over which Lil Nas X and Miley belt out their hearts.
With “Montero,” Lil Nas X demonstrates both how far he’s come and how far he can still go. I look forward to seeing how Lil Nas X will experiment with his musical style in the future, but in the meantime, I will have “Dolla Sign Slime” on repeat.