Lil Nas X And Montero, A Coming Of Age

Lil Nas X of "Old Town Road" Fame has finally released his debut album. Here are the best songs on his new project.
Montero Cover Art by Lil Nas X
Image Source: Vogue

Lil Nas X and the Birth of Montero

Lil Nas X is well-known the world around as the man behind the viral smash hit, "Old Town Road". He currently holds the all-time record for the longest-charting Billboard Single. So when he dropped his debut album, Montero, everyone was excited to see what this master songwriter had brought to the table.

Lil Nas X dropped his debut album Montero on September 17, 2021. The album has received critical acclaim and contains many highlights including "Dead Right Now", "Scoop", "That's What I Want" and the previous singles "Montero (Call My By Your Name)" and "Industry Baby".

Montero Lamar Hill, better known as Lil Nas X, has used his creativity to come up with some of the best and most provocative marketing tactics in recent times. When he dropped his first single via a Super Bowl commercial for Logitech, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", he included a music video and shoe release that coincided with each other.

Going off of his well-known controversial place in rap and hip-hop culture, Nas X shot a music video that featured him giving the devil a lap dance before ultimately killing him while the video ends.

The shoe release, "Satan Shoes", made by the third-party distributor, MSCHF, and based on the Nike Air Max '97, was such a catastrophic controversy that pastors worldwide discussed the "demonic influences" in Lil Nas X and his music. Fast forward to September 2021, and Lil Nas X is still embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Nike over copyright issues.

Lil Nas X Posing with signature Satan Shoes
Image Source: CNN

All of these publicity stunts made for an exciting album rollout. To be fair, each song Montero Hill released during this time stood on its own merit. Longtime producers and collaborators Take A Daytrip, produced the entire album for him with little help. The lead single from the album, discussed above, gave Lil Nas X his second number-one single.

After all the public scrutiny and chaos that ensued when Lil Nas X came out as gay, which is a traditional no-no in the rap community, he used this word of mouth path to streamline the release of his music.

He is constantly being talked about by the media, the conservative right-wingers, and various religious groups around the world. All of this hype leads us right into his debut album, simply titled Montero.

Lil Nas X dressed up for video of Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
Image Source: The Harvard Crimson

The Best Songs on Montero

Although Lil Nas X's latest album, Montero, has received rave reviews, it is important to note that not every song hits its mark. Highlights like the singles released for the album, including "Industry Baby" with Jack Harlow are very good examples of strong songwriting.

With that being said, there are a few songs that don't quite cut it, given the standard that Lil Nas X has tried to live up to. He took a long time to create this album, and his labor of love has mostly paid off. Below we will discuss some of our favorite highlights from Lil Nas X's debut album, Montero.

"Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"

The lead single from his debut album is an eclectic mashup of hip-hop drums and Spanish guitar. It takes its alternate name from the famous 2017 movie, Calls Me By Your Name, a famous love story between Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.

This love anthem, which speaks about Lil Nas X's desire for his partner to reciprocate his feelings was coupled well with a controversial music video. Because the song is well-written, catchy, and smart, it did well on its own. Add the "Satan Shoes" and the music video, and you have a marketing juggernaut that just can't be stopped. 

"Dead Right Now" 

Here is another great cut from the album. This is an independence anthem that Lil Nas X uses to speak about his past and his rise from rags to riches. Take A Daytrip uses heavy Rodeo-era Travis Scott vibes to cast a dark landscape for this booming track.

The bass here is exceptionally hard and the highlight of the whole album is the bridge on this one. A choir comes in about halfway through the song, singing about Lil Nas X and his astronomic success: "Hallelujah, how'd you do it? You've been on my mind, you've been running through it." This couplet is one of the best on the album and is an instant catch.

"Industry Baby [Feat. Jack Harlow]"

Track 3 from the album features loud horns and a mighty tempo. With production from none other than Kanye West himself, the song is a total earworm that lodges itself in the psyche of the listener.

The music video features some excellent choreography and more provocative scenes. Jack Harlow, who isn't always the greatest lyricist, actually comes through on this track with some clever wordplay. He compliments the song well, and both men come out on top.

"That's What I Want" 

This song is a pop-punk love anthem reminiscent of some of the emo music that came out in the early 2000s. Lil Nas X is an obvious fan of this genre and comes through with an endearing music video about what it is like to be gay in high school. The music video is steamy and a bold declaration of Lil Nas X's desire for love and his uniquely queer lifestyle.

"Scoop [Feat. Doja Cat]" 

Few female artists have been as prolific in the last two years as Doja Cat. Her recent album, Planet Her, has done extremely well and cemented her as a solid name in the music industry.

The beat here is full of thumping bass and features some drum snares that almost sound like two trash can lids being smacked together. It is an infectious beat with catchy lines.

Doja comes in with her usual playful and sexy flow. Lil Nas X changes his flow for the second half of the song and Take A Daytrip increases the distortion on his verse to give it some extra bravado.

"Dolla Sign Slime [Feat. Megan Thee Stallion]" 

In the same vein as Doja Cat is Megan Thee Stallion, whose debut album Good News was well received by critics last year. This is an infectious rap song with confident verses by both Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion. The chorus rolls off the tongue and stays in the head. Lil Nas X seems to compliment these female rappers very well, their energies mix to give the song an unforgettable flow. 

"Am I Dreaming? [Feat. Miley Cyrus]"

Miley is no stranger to rap, as her work with Mike Will Made-It and Juicy J on 2013's "23" is well-known to rap fans around the world. In addition, Lil Nas X is no stranger to the Cyrus family, as his 2019 single "Old Town Road" featured vocals from Miley's father, Billy Ray Cyrus.

This song closes out the album on a somber and beautiful note. It is a well-written and quiet ballad about life and relationships. Miley does not try to overshadow Lil Nas X, she blends in nicely with the theme of the track and contributes vocals that are all her own. However, her verse also mirrors Lil Nas X and his writing. Few features have been this cooperative in recent memory.

The back cover of Montero
Image Source: Lil Nas X, Welcome to Montero

Closing the Book on Montero

Lil Nas X took almost two years to release his debut album. This seems to have played into his favor quite well, as the whole album is pretty well streamlined, and each song kind of stands on its own.

With that being said, all the songs sound like they belong in a collection together, containing similar themes, such as queer love, independence, and the search for belonging. These are all ideas that are central to the identity of Lil Nas X, at least as we know him in the public eye.

There are quite a few hits here, and even some of the deeper cuts are very listenable. If you have been interested in Lil Nas X in the past, and wish to get past some of the controversies, check this album out. It is amazing to find out that you really like an artist, and the best way is to simply listen to the music.

Joseph Poulos is a freelance writer from Michigan.

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