Lil Nas X
Montero


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (183 Reviews)
October 1st, 2021 | 107 replies


Release Date: 09/17/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Liberation.

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a teenager was the fear of coming out as bisexual while being raised in the church. I grew up in a small mountain town, and the population mostly consisted of Mormons and Catholics who were very proud of their tight-knit communities; however, around my senior year of high school, I started becoming quite disillusioned with religion and my faith was pretty much gone by the time I got to college. And a lot of my questioning came from the issue of sexuality, since I’d always been brought up to believe that same-sex relationships were somehow wrong and immoral. So why did I still have those thoughts and feelings? Was it all just a fluke? Was there something wrong with me?

On one hand, I’m glad that all of this internal conflict I had is in the rearview mirror today. However, the entire rollout leading to Lil Nas X’s debut album Montero had me wondering how things would have been if I’d gone about it all differently. For months on end, we got to witness X in his most troll-happy state; fundamentalist groups would get offended and pissed off at his - *gasp* - homosexual and devilish antics! This included such gems as the incredibly homoerotic and raunchy video for the lead single “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)”, the “Satan Shoes” which were designed with pentagrams and inverted crosses, and doing a fake pregnancy photoshoot inspired by Megan Thee Stallion so he could pretend to “give birth” to the new album.

Putting aside the fact that it’s hilarious how many people still get appalled by this kind of stuff, it’s hard not to imagine X absolutely soaking up all the hate and reveling in it. It gave him a tremendous boost of free publicity, and the fact that he could turn religious backlash into donations toward LGBTQ charities makes for wonderful poetic irony. Yet for someone like me, who suppressed my sexuality for years, it became more than just fun trolling. It made me remember just how fortunate LGBTQ youth are to be brought up in a more progressive society, in which celebrities with a platform as big as X’s can just throw their true identities out in the open without fear.

But how does all of this translate to the music itself? Quite well, as it turns out. The songs on Montero primarily reside within a familiar pop-rap formula, while striking a unique balance between glossy anthems and moody introspective pieces. Some of the bass-boosted trap stylings of X’s early work appear from time to time, such as on the synth-laden crawl of “Dead Right Now” or the general rap flow and beat of “Industry Baby”; however, in keeping with X’s marketing tactics, the best moments on Montero come from throwing caution to the wind and surprising the listener. Take “That’s What I Want” for instance, a breezy and upbeat folk-pop ballad that’s as fun musically as it is melancholic lyrically; meanwhile, “One of Me” (featuring Elton goddamn John!) is a beautifully spacy R&B ballad that brings out a soothing quiet storm vibe while sounding modern and fresh.

But one thing really makes Montero shine is… well, COLOR. Many critics have already held up their red cards trying to compare the record to Drake stylistically, yet nothing here is as droll or devoid of life as the 86-minute behemoth that the latter shat out last month. The music on Montero is a perfect reflection of what’s on its vibrant cover art, whether we’re talking about the bright brassy keyboards that set the tone for “Industry Baby” or the wonderful vocal layering that adorns the background of the lyrically bittersweet ballad “Sun Goes Down”. As you can probably tell by now, there’s a surprising amount of variety on Montero despite the fact that it never really reaches too far outside of its central pop-oriented sound. In fact, it almost sounds like 2021’s answer to Paramore’s After Laughter when it comes to the disparity between the glossily produced music and the moody lyrics that juxtapose it.

It’s quite fascinating that the “Old Town Road” guy would eventually move on to writing such thoughtful and even emotionally complex lyrics, but they’re quite prominent on Montero.
While not a formal concept album, I think it’s safe to say that X’s thoughts on identity, social stigmas, and sexual liberation form the central conceit of the record; as much talk as there is about pride, just as much time is spent with X looking inward and doing some intense soul-searching. This leads to an undercurrent of melancholy, as displayed in moments such as X questioning his happiness and direction in life on the interlude “The Art of Realization” as well as the sense of self-doubt that pervades the lyrics of “Lost in the Citadel”. There’s a wide array of emotions on display here, as you’d probably expect from someone who’s taken in every side of the acceptance spectrum after coming out.

Still, there’s some room to grow. For all of Montero’s variety, it does lead to a lack of focus here and there. Sure, the album length is pretty short - just 41 minutes - but it seems as though the tracks were put together without much regard to flow or structure. So when listening to the record in chunks, it’s perfectly fine; however, taken as an entire experience, Montero does come off as a bit disjointed. It would also be nice to hear X strengthen the songwriting of the more experimental moments on the album, especially in regards to the promising acoustic and R&B-oriented cuts. The record is solid proof that he knows what he’s doing with these songs and has the ability to dip his toes into multiple genres; perhaps a bit more focus is what he really needs here.

It’s hard to discuss Montero without talking about what it “represents”; normally I wouldn’t try to bring up the zeitgeist or bog a reader down in social context, but in the case of a record like this, it’s almost required. For all the talk of certain groups still being socially regressive, it’s truly amazing what steps have been taken to get to a point in which Montero could be released and accepted on such a massive scale. We’ll always have bible-thumping fundamentalist lunatics out there, and we’ll always have the occasional overly concerned parent bitching about family values in the comments section of an “offensive” video. But not only is Montero a damn good album in its own right, but it truly is an important one. It’s important to those who once felt trapped internally and never had the courage to stand up for who they really are, and it’s especially important to anyone who feels like the walls are closing in and they have nowhere to run. Thank you Lil Nas X.



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user ratings (123)
3.1
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
October 1st 2021


11612 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My longest and most loaded review yet. This was an especially difficult one to make because of much of a personal touch I put on it, but I hope you all enjoy it. I'll admit that my 4/5 rating is largely for those personal reasons, but I do legitimately like the album a lot on its musical merits as well!



Also, I wanted to thank Johnny and Brandon (TheSpirit) for giving me some pointers in regards to the first few paragraphs

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2021


26024 Comments


I know how much effort you have put on this one and let me tell you, it shows.

Great write up my man, probably not my cup of tea music-wise, but it was a good read.

Digging: Kaelan Mikla - Undir Kldum Norurljsum

Tundra
October 1st 2021


6488 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's alright

Digging: Owane & Jack Gardiner - Chapter One: Shredemption

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
October 1st 2021


11612 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Dewi: Thank you! It took about 2-3 weeks to get this out, so I'm glad to finally have that closure



@Tundra: Respectable take :]

Tundra
October 1st 2021


6488 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Lil Nas is promoting diversity in rap/pop so I definitely can respect him for that

Pikazilla
October 1st 2021


19128 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

do you work for netflix

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
October 1st 2021


11612 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I work for myself ;]

WatchItExplode
October 1st 2021


9344 Comments


Breezy read. This fella is a marketing genius and it delights me that he gets folks so worked up.

Digging: She Said Destroy - Succession

JefferyBigglestein2
October 1st 2021


420 Comments


I can respect lil nas x for what he represents, i just don't think the actual quality of his music is enjoyable or memorable. he's a better marketer than he is a musician.

JefferyBigglestein2
October 1st 2021


420 Comments


good review though. even if the actual musical quality is a 2.5 at best.

normaloctagon
October 1st 2021


6541 Comments


gr8 rev posd ahrd

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2021


1574 Comments


Love your work xx. Cool to hear about his marketing plays, I didn't see any of that as it unfolded. Not my thing musically, but so it goes

sharkmsc
October 1st 2021


347 Comments


Yeah the record in good part isn't my thing either, and I can be a real hipster-boomer about complex music, prog, pop music, etc. But I've come to appreciate uniqueness and the quality and sincerity of music in the space it occupies.

Thanks for sharing, Brendan. On a surface level I understood the boldness of this release and the history of homophobia these last 15 years since I was a teen, but you gave me more to think about and be happy for.

sharkmsc
October 1st 2021


347 Comments


Also, it really is funny to watch these evangelicals get trolled, and in an obvious way too. It'd be nice if they could learn some compassion and awareness while getting in on the joke, but they'd rather just get offended. Shame

madrigal30
October 1st 2021


1352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i thought this album was genuinely amazing, but i really only listen to pop for cheap thrills and production value. that kind of stuff this album has in spades. it's also really nice, as a queer trans girl, to see a gay pop artist succeeding like this, so maybe that's coloring my take. great review div

ArsMoriendi
October 1st 2021


35365 Comments


Only know 3 of the singles, and it's obviously not my style, and I don't care for the music at all, BUT:

-I'm happy there's finally a mainstream artist that can be unapologetically gay without it just being super subtle, ambiguous, or a schtick (tbh fuck gay subtlety at this point, straight people don't have to be subtle) ...Even like Bowie or Lou Reed weren't this on the nose with their pop hits (as groundbreaking as "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Rebel Rebel" were for Hot 100 pop)
-His music videos are awesome
-His lyrics/song titles are just the right amount of troll (Naming a song Industry Baby? hah that'll show the critics lol)

So yeah, even if I don't like his actual music, Lil Nas X rules

Digging: Blonde Redhead - 23

Get Low
October 1st 2021


11132 Comments


Being gay is against the bible.

Jasdevi087
October 1st 2021


6776 Comments


anyone who makes conservative christians seethe with rage gets a pass to make their music as shitty as they want in my book

treos777
October 1st 2021


480 Comments


Album felt unfinished to me but I enjoyed it while I was listening and very glad it exists. Be gay and loud.

Purpl3Spartan
October 1st 2021


1472 Comments


As a Christian myself, I found this to be an incredibly engaging read. Can tell you put a lot into this and shaped to be an awesome review. Great work my dude!

I’ll probably stay away from this tho. rap’s not my thing haha

Digging: Bilmuri - 400LB BACK SQUAT



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