Lil Nas X’s rise as a generational game-changer has not been unfounded. Twenty-two-year-old Montero Lamar Hill has smashed records with his viral sensation Old Town Road – which became the longest-running No 1 single in US history – and has since been on an unstoppable upward climb. Cultivating a dedicated fanbase, the singer has been open and honest about his struggle with his sexuality and has since become a pioneering voice of Black LGBTQ+ visibility.
The self-titled debut, Montero, is a homage to the singer-songwriter’s growth as a small-town artist who has unapologetically broken into the mainstream and delivers a creatively nuanced genre-blending album. Lil Nas X is undoubtedly a revolutionary queer artist who has superseded expectations and become a growing icon for future LGBTQ+ generations. You can read our track-by-track review of Montero below.
Montero (Call Me by Your Name)
An unabashed single, the introduction of Montero (Call Me by Your Name) was blown out to new maximalist heights; a viral hell-themed music video, a bitcoin giveaway, and philanthropic partnership with the Bail X Fund, Lil Nas X was making a statement of growth. The self-titled track suffices your intrigue and offers snappy lyrics, laid back beats, and slick production from the artist. It’s a strong opener to a record that continues to build.
Dead Right Now
A soulful transition, the second song to Montero switches the pace as Lil Nas opts for a more emotionally capacious track. Brutally upfront, the 22-year-old confronts the tribulations of his past; “If I didn’t blow, I would’ve died tryna be here / If it didn’t go, suicide, wouldn’t be here“. Easy to miss, the quick-hit line shows the singer’s cognizance of his growth while alluding to his previous mental health challenges; see the artist’s ruminations over suicide on Sun Goes Down. Dejected lyricism aside, the follow up offers another promising debut lead-in.
Industry Baby (feat. Jack Harlow)
If we’re tagging an artist as an industry plant, Lil Nas is anything but, yet the singer sheds weight in this early track and lays his claim to the industry. The Jack Harlow-featuring Industry Baby deals expansive trap-suited opinions on fame, success, and breaking the industry. Self-assured and certain, the singer shuts down any naysayers in a joyous verse: “Tell a rap n***a I don’t see ya / I’m a pop n***a like Bieber / I don’t fuck bitches, I’m queer“. Put simply, it’s a brass-backed anthem cementing his stardom.
That’s What I Want
Laden with acoustic guitar and a quaint count in, That’s What I Want plays with easy-going pop hooks, proving Lil Nas is a suiter for catchy, breakout songs. A soaring track packed with unapologetic queer heartache that builds the record’s momentum – and we’re here for it.
The Art of Realization
A self-revealing skit, The Art of Realization is a transparent voice note where listeners hear Lil Nas X ponder on whether he is happy and question: “Is it for me? Am I happy?”.
Scoop (feat. Doja Cat)
Scoop is a fruitful, witty collaboration and you’d expect nothing less from Nas and Doja Cat. There’s a rhythmic, beat-laden roundabout chorus chanting “scoop”, while Doja later spits bars that’ll make you smirk as her lines land on a synthy backtrack.
One of Me (feat. Elton John)
A first-time collaboration between a new-wave superstar and an LGBTQ+ icon was, of course, going to give way to a flowing balladesque hit. Nas showcases his versatility as he confidently meanders to a mellower mood, breaking way to toned down rhythm backing bigger, statement lyrics: “If it ain’t “Old Town Road,” Lil Nassy, I ain’t playin‘.”
Lost in the Citadel
Pushing a gentle percussive opener, Lost in the Citadel ushers waves of electric guitar, jamming up any pre-expectations listeners had to the track. An upbeat, diluted rock atmosphere, Lil Nas saddles emotional vulnerability against a gritter, alternative sonic ambience — it’s a fun, electric shake up reminds listener’s the young artist can do more than funnel trap beats and R&B-inspo sounds.
Dolla Sign Slime (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
An album highlight, Dolla Sign Slime stacks up as a standout moment. Boasting the defiable Megan Three Stallion, the WAP rapper’s pace remains unmatched. Alongside Lil Nas, the track feels unevenly weighted with Megan front-loading lyrics that truly land: “All you lame hoes turn hatin’ to a hobby / Damn, watchin’ me gotta turn you on (Turn you on) /I should have my own category in porn“.
Tales of Dominica
A bleakness shifts in as Tales of Dominica settles on a maudlin tone. The singer reflects on his home life: “I’ve been living on an island made from fate / Can’t go running back to home, I can’t facе her face.” The 22-year-old moved out from his mother’s home in Atlanta when he was a nine-year-old. The gentler track spins the record in a new, more personally emotive direction; a welcomed take away from the star’s viral image of instant humour.
Sun Goes Down
Lil Nas addresses his battle with mental health and suicide in the upfront song. Lyrics such as “Don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life / Send me a gun and I’ll see the sun” reoccurring sweep through the song, in a sombre reminder of the young artist’s struggle. Lil Nas uses the song to open up about his difficulty finding self-acceptance in a respectfully eloquent open track: “These gay thoughts would always haunt me / I prayed God would take it from me / It’s hard for you when you’re fightin’.”
Moving on, Lil Nas pens this track to his past self the “friend from the road” as he reflects on a gone love. Speculation has led fans to believe the track is about the artist’s on-the-road stylist Hodo Musa, however, this theory is yet to be confirmed. In all, while the song digs deep, it’s one of the weaker moments that struggles to measure up to the creative virtues of the outstanding record.
Don’t Want It
Shaking the slower pace, Don’t Want It continues pushing past Lil Nas’s buoyant light-hearted image to give his audience a closer look at his rise and relationship to fame. A young star, the singer is owning up to past mistakes and taking accountability for past actions and problematic behaviours. “I’ve done things in my past I’m sorry / Old people in my life should know that I am not the old me” he solemnly sings. The line refers to Lil Nas’ history running a Nicki Minaj stan account where the artist released Islamophobic, racist, transphobic, and predatory comments. Moving forwards, the singer is seeking a future healed from his past behaviours: “I’m fuckin’ living proof that if you want it, you can have anything right before your eyes.”
Life After Salem
As the album winds down, Life After Salem wraps up the end of the record with a grand rock instrumental. Lil Nas sews his vocals in the paced track and shifts between falsetto and lower notes to draw a layered conclusion to his pop rap debut phenomenon.
Am I Dreaming (feat. Miley Cyrus)
Like most albums, Montero closes out on a ballad, but this one doesn’t quite hit the mark. Miley’s gruff vocals and Nas’ more casual sound sit awkwardly side by side. Together, coated in acoustic guitar and faint waves of soft orchestral moments, the song continues to promise what could be, but, unfortunately, doesn’t quite deliver. It does, however, offer a moment of closure and doesn’t detract from the album as a whole.
GAY TIMES gives Lil Nas X’s debut album Montero a rating of 5/5