“MONTERO” makes meteor-sized impact

Lil Nas X’s debut album, “MONTERO,” dropped at the current peak of his career, and the discourse it has created is ever-present in music discussions today.

Lil Nas X is one of the most widespread, provocative and markedly successful artists to come from the current era of TikTok stardom and highly circulated yet short-lived viral hits. Alongside his contemporaries Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo and MeganTheeStallion, Lil Nas X has engineered a type of self-sustaining success propagated by his unique social media presence, and increasingly outlandish marketing techniques.

Of course this begged the question if his stardom was just a flash in the pan, which is easy to think because “Old Town Road” was a sort of a lightning-in-a-bottle situation. It had this whole marketing push thanks in part to Billboard’s own controversy of removing the song from the country charts, and the subsequent collaboration with “Achy Breaky Heart” songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus catapulting the song back to the top for seventeen weeks.

The singles from this album cycle are definitely solid high points to hear. Starting with the flamenco-esque guitars and pulsing basslines of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” the album opens with its most popular song and its thesis statement. This was the song that launched Lil Nas X’s status as a trailblazing gay artist, and also the ensuing conservative backlash because the “old town road kid” was doing provocative stuff now.

Songs like “DEAD RIGHT NOW,” “INDUSTRY BABY (ft. Jack Harlow)” and “SCOOP (ft. Doja Cat)” shows Lil Nas X’s skill at flowing over conventional rap beats, and the amount of credit he deserves as a new school vocalist. Especially the anthemic horns of “INDUSTRY BABY,” and the forefront piano of “DEAD RIGHT NOW” really drive home the effectiveness of these songs.
The features on this album are also so well placed. “ONE OF ME (feat. Elton John)” perfectly blends the generational differences of queer men in music into a very emotional and compact song. I’d also give a special mention to “SUN GOES DOWN,” which draws the curtain back on Lil Nas X’s image and allows a quieter vulnerability to shine through in songwriting. 

It’s easy for an artist to throw together an album full of hard-hitting anthems, but Lil Nas X has a great balance between the sincere and the image he portrays. The run of “TALES OF DOMINICA” to “LIFE AFTER SALEM” allows the album to flow really smoothly between catchy bops, and yet the tracks still stay really distinctive.

If there’s one weak point of the album, it’s that it feels a little hollow at times when it comes to songwriting. As much as I could gush over the production of the album, the actual lines can leave a lot to be desired. This feels more present in the middle part of the album, where a lot of the one-liners tend to fall a little flat compared to the earlier tracks. I think Lil Nas X is still finding himself songwriting wise, and for a lot of debut albums it still strikes as an early foray into establishing a sustainable brand.

Overall, the importance of this album cannot be understated. This is really a highly publicized and circulated album by a gay Black man in America, and it’s common to forget how little space queer Black men are afforded in the greater hip-hop sphere. This album truly blew away my expectations, and despite not being my perfect demographic, really resonated with my own views on popular music.

Sourced from Spotify
Lil Nas X’s debut album “MONTERO” was released on September 17. The artist first grabbed the world’s attention with his number one Billboard hit “Old Town Road” in 2019. Lil Nas X has since proven himself to be more than a one hit wonder, and “MONTERO” portrays an honest and vulnerable self-reflection on his rise to fame.