Rapper Lil Nas X is making headlines again with his newest single “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” His second track to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 is receiving a much different batch of feedback than “Old Town Road,” thanks to its music video and a legal run-in with Nike. For Lil Nas X, and “Montero,” though, the press the song is receiving is not only good — it’s important.
“Montero” is a track full of biblical references and the subversion of the heteronormative tracks that are often seen in the rap world. Lil Nas X provides “Montero” as a rap anthem for queer people, both closeted and out, in a way that’s rarely seen in music that tops the charts. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly “Montero” is, and why it’s so necessary.
Unpacking the Lyrics
“Montero” is catchy. With a strong, flamenco-inspired beat and a chorus that’s easy to sing along to, it’s a strong track to follow the Billboard success of “Old Town Road.” Lyrically, Lil Nas X shines. “Montero” is a song with more substance than “Old Town Road,” and the new track marks Nas X as an artist with contemporary chops that speak to important social issues.
In his interview with Genius, Lil Nas X describes “Montero” as “the most real… and even vulnerable at times” he’s ever been. Nas X also noted how many “key points” the song has within the industry, and the importance the song holds for him and “for a lot of other people.” “Montero” derives from Lil Nas X’s legal name Montero Lamar Hill and is about real feelings held by Lil Nas X after meeting a guy.
The first line of lyrics, “I caught it bad yesterday/You hit me with a call to your place” is inspired by literal events, that in turn compelled Lil Nas X to write the rest of the song. Through authentic songwriting about what it means to be queer and famous in the 21st century, “Montero” is unapologetic and lustful. It’s a clear anthem for queer people wanting a fling or something more with someone who may “live in the dark,” according to Nas X, paralleling the struggle of liking someone who’s “in the closet.”
The song also takes on biblical references, which “Montero” dives into deeper in the music video. “If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can” is a subversion on the biblical tale of Adam and Eve. Lil Nas X plays to the idea of sin but with a gay relationship where Eve is not involved, using the very concept of religion that is used to condemn homosexuality, to spark a relationship.
Unpacking the Music Video
Lil Nas X plays with the boundaries of religious imagery in his music video, which is part of what got him into hot water with right-wing critics online. The music video, however, is what deepens the influence and importance of “Montero.” The detailed production design serves to immerse listeners into the world of Montero, more than just the song does.
The music video begins with narration delivered by Lil Nas X: “In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see. We lock them away, we tell them no, we banish them. But here, we don’t. Welcome to Montero.” He creates a world out of the song’s title, and from there, visually demonstrates the message of the song. Utilizing biblical and mythological characters and stories, Lil Nas X plays to themes of good versus evil and disregards typical concepts of masculinity and femininity to blur the lines of sin when it comes to queer relationships.
The video has three main settings, the Garden of Eden, the Colesseum, and Hell. Throughout the video, each character on screen is played by Lil Nas X himself, starting with Adam and the snake while in the garden, wig-and-denim-wearing executionists, spectators, and a chained version of himself in the Colesseum, and a stiletto thigh-high-clad version of himself as he pole dances to Hell and infamously meets Satan.
Through playing every character, Lil Nas X suggests a deeper message to the audience about how he may be running from judgment subjected by himself. Via the opening narration, Montero is a place where people are allowed to be themselves no matter what, and yet, the video displays Lil Nas X being punished for being himself, by himself. “Montero,” then, takes on another meaning as a liberating song, something that gives listeners permission to be themselves and pursue who they want, without personal punishment.
“Call Me By Your Name” — Spotify Update:— Lil Nas X Charts (@lilnasxdatas) April 7, 2021
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Paving the Way Forward
So, what can we take away from “Montero,” besides its artful and controversial music video? “Montero” is the gateway to normalizing queer flings and romance in the music and rap industry. In recent times, LGBTQ+ music has been normalized on indie and underground scales, but Lil Nas X is helping take the genre to new, no. 1 heights.
“Montero” is a sign of the times. Queer artists deserve a place in the spotlight the same way straight artists have had for years, and that comes in the form of songs that detail LGBTQ+ flings to long-time romances. Lil Nas X is pushing the boundaries of what the music industry is used to, and his track is going to make it that much easier for future artists to break into genres that don’t typically feature LGBTQ+ artists.
Image via YouTube