Lil Nas X dropped his highly anticipated self-entitled debut album MONTERO, on 17 September. He marked it as the end of the current Lil Nas era, with a transition back into a more hip hop sound on the horizon which I’m excited for.
Lil Nas is already a household name. It’s been such a drastic ascend for him, with his debut single ‘Old Town Road’ dropping only 2 years ago. It broke every kind of record and became the longest charting Number 1 in US music history. Everybody immediately labelled him as a one hit wonder, which he had written all over him. But since then, Lil Nas has stepped into the artist he is today, which can be described as an effortless hitmaker with an amazing ear for melody and a clear understanding of how to effectively market and promote himself. I was eager to hear this project because I’m personally a big fan of Lil Nas X. But apart from an eight song EP back in 2019, everything up to this point has been singles so I was intrigued as to what he’d bring on an official studio album.
In every song he’s ever made, he finds the melody so effortlessly, which makes for such an enjoyable listen. He’s not the best singer ever, but he uses his voice to his advantage. He has a good cadence and flow which sound great over trap beats or hip hop beats in general. The production of his music is always great and he sounds great on all of his music.
This album was pretty much exactly what I expected, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it this much. Every song is catchy and there’s a lot of different vibes throughout. He again showed his extreme diversity as an artist, with songs like ‘INDUSTRY BABY’ were a good showcase for his ear for hip hop and how well he fits within that trap bubble. There were aspects of gospel on ‘DEAD RIGHT NOW’ which were surprising. He surprised me on this song with the way he was able to tell a personal story and really demand your attention for detail during the entire song. ‘DON’T WANT IT’ is another highlight for me. It’s hype and has that melodic rap energy on there. The album had songs like ‘MONTERO’ (Call Me By Your Name)’ and ‘THAT’S WHAT I WANT’ which are pretty standard but really good pop songs that have done really well since their releases.
What I wasn’t expecting was the number of themes on this album that would be dark and extremely personal. ‘SUN GOES DOWN’ is a song where he’s transparent about his mental health struggles in the past and struggling with admitting to himself that he was gay at a younger age. ‘DEAD RIGHT NOW’ follows suit, as Lil Nas gets very in detail with his come up and details a conversation with his dad back in 2019, upon his decision to drop out of college to pursue music, which would lead to the release of ‘Old Town Road’. ‘LOST IN THE CITADEL’ is a love song that has a dark theme to it and feels like it’s coming from a place of hurt, as does ‘TALES OF DOMINICA’. The last two songs are also both emotional and shows his willingness to be vulnerable.
Lil Nas X is unquestionably one of the most polarizing figures within the music industry, alongside probably only Kanye West. I see a lot of similarities between him and Kanye in the way he does what he wants, regardless of what people may say. He addresses every single criticism about him in the music, from being a one hit wonder (which he has proved repeatedly that he isn’t), being a gimmick artist with ‘Old Town Road’, the sneaker controversy and his sexuality. He pushes every boundary available to be pushed and is unapologetically himself, which is something that I respect and have a lot of admiration for. A lot of the talk around Lil Nas X in the media seems to be hardly about the actual music, which creates a lot of misconceptions about him as an artist. Despite this, Lil Nas is clearly very aware about what people are saying about him and doesn’t shy away from anything. While polarising and controversial, he’s entertaining. He’s a clear troll who enjoys upsetting certain people however, the message behind his actions comes from a good place. Music is about bringing people together and that’s the objective for Lil Nas. The main goal is to make people uncomfortable who need to be made uncomfortable, until they ARE comfortable. MONTERO deserves a huge amount of credit for his success thus far and how much improvement he’s shown as well as his continuous determination to step outside the box as an artist.
MONTERO was a great debut album and sold about 140,000 copies in its first week. Getting Elton John on your first album is some feat and we will probably continue to see crazy collabs from him in the future. Lil Nas will only continue to ascend and as a pop artist the sky is really the limit. I think he’ll end up being an icon when it’s all said and done, based on the huge impact he’s had on music and the hip hop culture in such a short period of time.
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