Lil Nas X’s debut album bravely tackles sexuality and toxic masculinity

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Carina Liu

Lil Nas X’s debut “Montero” didnt disappoint with bold statements and uplifting music

Sneha Cheenath and Mitali Mittal

wLil Nas X’s wildly anticipated debut album, “Montero,” was released on Sept. 17, 2021 after a long rollout filled with brave statements, extravagant visuals and unending controversy. 

Joy is the central force behind Lil Nas X’s discography. The opening track, “Montero,” thus frames the album perfectly. It’s tongue in cheek, radical and full of joy. The song of the summer, it captures his image as an artist and sets up an album full of life. The music video’s evocative imagery — Lil Nas X pole dancing into hell to “dance” with the devil — spurred much controversy, especially among conservative voices. But, the bold celebration of same-sex lust also brought comfort to the young LGBTQ+ population. 

Listeners at Dougherty Valley High School felt this personal impact. One student explained that “the way he orchestrates the music, the way he speaks from experience [of being homosexual]: it makes it really empowering to listen to.” 

The album also influenced students that weren’t part of the LGBTQ community. Junior Krish Jain recalls how Lil Nas X’s music has changed how he perceives his own masculinity. 

“I felt that for a long time I felt like I had to hide my emotion and hide my feelings. But now, not as much, and part of that is due to people like Lil Nas X.” 

The album continues with this upbeat tone as “Dead Right Now” transitions into hit single, “Industry Baby.” This collaboration with rapper Jack Harlow was met with a lot of criticism from conservative individuals who were turned off by the explicit content in the song. But beyond the racy video and lyrics, the song has a well-crafted message surrounding Lil Nas X’s experience with bouncing back after facing hate because of his identity. 

Critics also argued that centering a straight, white male in a song about embracing sexuality and minority status was contradictory. On the other hand, contrast between a traditional male rapper and Lil Nas X’s flamboyance served his message about self-acceptance and finding a place in the hip-hop community quite well. 

His songs have the ability to fit into any mood which make them perfect to listen to while being moved by the emotion emanating from his music. ”

As the album continues, it reaches greater emotional depths. “That’s What I Want,” the fourth single of this era, is still upbeat and pure pop, but also discusses a deeper level of yearning and loneliness. As the formerly mentioned DVHS student described, “It feels like a deep crescendo.”

But with this increasingly reflective rhythm, the album starts to drag on. In particular, “One of Me,” featuring Elton John, wasn’t as moving as listeners thought it would be. The accomplishment in collaborating with such an iconic LGBTQ artist spurred vast anticipation, but the song felt very dull and wasn’t as exciting and emotional as his others. 

Additionally, the lyrics and production of “One of me” is very repetitive and monotonous, and don’t have the same vibrancy as songs like “That’s What I Want” and “Dead Right Now”. 

Many listeners were also looking forward to the piece “Am I Dreaming”, a collaboration between Nas and Miley Cyrus. The result of this partnership was beautifully whimsical music about legacy and perseverance through challenging moments. 

Nas’ speciality is being able to produce a wide range of music which is one reason he appeals to a wide variety of listeners. His songs have the ability to fit into any mood which make them perfect to listen to while being moved by the emotion emanating from his music. 

“The songs in the album are kind of chill songs, and at the same time, some are hyper and exciting, while some are relaxing.” says Jain. 

However, the long awaited songs featuring popular artists such as Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat turned out to be less stimulating than they were advertised to be. It was almost disappointing that the collaborated songs held much potential for a glorious music piece, however some of the songs hit ‘low notes’. 

“I don’t like the features too much. I don’t listen to those songs as much and they aren’t in my main playlist, ” Jain remarks. 

On the other hand, many of the features included in the album that emphasized Nas’ quaint music style (for example Elton John) had a contrasting character to Lil Nas X, but also had something in common with him, which made their collaboration special. Although “One of Me” wasn’t what listeners had anticipated, its eccentricity with the lyrics and the music made it a worthy experiment. 

Such is the case with all of Nas’s songs: many of them have unique aspects that make them stand out from other creators and further make Nas a popular emerging artist in today’s mainstream music scene.