Lil Nas X is nothing if not a testament to the power of being true to yourself. His breakthrough single, “Old Town Road,” forced the industry to revisit old conversations about the limitations of genre, race, and who is kept out (or locked in) by the definitions we use to talk about music.
The Georgia-born singer-rapper responded in kind with a remix and remixes to that remix that rocketed him up the charts and simultaneously highlighted the fickleness of the entire endeavor—did Billy Ray Cyrus suddenly prove his country bona fides any more than the addition of Young Thug proved his trap ones or Diplo his electronic? But that’s the magic of Lil Nas X and of his debut album MONTERO: He knows that pop music is whatever the artist creating it wants it to be, an exercise of vulnerable imagination packaged as unyielding, larger-than-life confidence.
All throughout—on songs like “SUN GOES DOWN” or “DONT WANT IT”—the weight of his burdens exists in contrast to the levity of his sound, a particular kind of Black and queer disposition that insists on a joy that is far more profound than any pain. And make no mistake, there is plenty of joy here. On “SCOOP,” he finds an effervescent kindred spirit in Doja Cat, while “DOLLA SIGN SLIME,” which features Megan Thee Stallion, is a trapped-out victory lap. Elsewhere, the dark riffs on the outstanding “LIFE AFTER SALEM” bring him to new creative lands altogether.
The album brims with surprises that continuously reveal him anew, offering a peek into the mind of an artist who is unafraid of himself or his impulses, even with the knowledge that he’s still a work in progress. “Don’t look at me as this perfect hero who’s not going to make mistakes and should be the voice for everybody,” he says. “You’re the voice for you.” And to that effect, MONTERO is a staggering triumph that suggests not just who Lil Nas X is but the infinite possibilities of who he may be in the future, whether that falls within the scope of our imaginations or not.
1. Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me by Your Name)
2. Lil Nas X – Dead Right Now
3. Lil Nas X – Industry Baby [feat. Jack Harlow]
4. Lil Nas X – That’s What I Want
5. Lil Nas X – The Art of Realization
6. Lil Nas X – Scoop [feat. Doja Cat]
7. Lil Nas X – One of Me [feat. Elton John]
8. Lil Nas X – Lost in the Citadel
9. Lil Nas X – Dolla Sign Slime [feat. Megan Thee Stallion]
10. Lil Nas X – Tales of Dominica
11. Lil Nas X – Sun Goes Down
12. Lil Nas X – Void
13. Lil Nas X – Don’t Want It
14. Lil Nas X – Life After Salem
15. Lil Nas X – Am I Dreaming [feat. Miley Cyrus]