This one trick pony broke barriers for what listeners thought was just a “one hit wonder.” Country artist turned global pop/rap star—publicly known as Lil Nas X—has finally opened the floodgates and released his long-awaited and highly anticipated debut album, MONTERO. Nas achieved this status of success back in 2019 when “Old Town Road” became the anthem of the summer. This hit featuring Billy Ray Cyrus immediately threw Nas on the music map after it went viral on TikTok, then went 14x platinum, and became the highest certified song in Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) History.
Shortly after this triumph, Nas was sent straight into controversy after he announced on Twitter that he was gay. On MONTERO, Nas embraces his sexuality, bends gender norms and stereotypes, and proves those few who thought his time in the spotlight was over—that he is here to stay.
MONTERO sorry, MONTERO, sorry, MONTERO?
This album begins with the first single Nas released and the self-titled track, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” This is named after, of course, himself, but the title is also partially influenced by the romantic/drama film, Call Me by Your Name, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. In an interview with Genius, Nas said, “It was one of the first gay films that I had watched. I thought the theme was so dope, like calling somebody by your own name is love, keeping the love between you two.” Nas discusses the man he had a romantic relationship with over a summer. He details the beginning feelings, specifically the passionate sensation, that comes with a new and fresh relationship. This track is a pill sized taste of MONTERO for the listener.
When Nas brings an artist like Jack Harlow into the studio, you know the outcome is going to equal perfection, and "INDUSTRY BABY" is an exquisite example of that pairing. On this track, both Nas and Harlow address their recent fame and perspectives now that they are in the limelight. Harlow is one of the best rappers in the music industry today and his verse on this song solidified that. He delivered on his verse given his flow, lyricism, and tone were one of the highest of qualities. I swear, Nas and his team must have laced “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” with something, because it is otherworldly. I have listened to it at least 50+ times since the album’s release. Nas sings of the difficulties of finding a romantic partner as a gay Black man. The track begins with an acoustic guitar strumming accompanied by hand claps and upbeat synth notes—with the track topped off by incredible vocals from Nas. It’s the ace in this deck of cards.
Though there were songs that shined, a few were lackluster. “SCOOP” is surely a catchy tune, but it fell flat. With Doja Cat on this track you’d think it’s guaranteed to be a hit right? Wrong. The beat carried the whole song with Nas just repeating the word “scoop” over and over again. Additionally, Doja Cat’s verse was barely 25 seconds and it wasn’t anything special; it was mediocre at best. This verse does not showcase the talent that she normally delivers, and the lyricism sounded rushed and lazy. At the very least this song was memorable. In comparison, “Life After Salem” was not memorable at all. I appreciated him trying a slowed-down rock ballad, but it was not executed as well as it could have been.
Wearing his heart on his sleeve
MONTERO has an equal amount of emotional songs and heart-pounding ones. “SUN GOES DOWN” and “ONE OF ME” are two of the emotional ones. In “SUN GOES DOWN” Nas vulnerably sings about the heartbreaking and unfortunate reality of past suicidal thoughts he’s had. In the chorus he sings, “I wanna run away/Don't wanna lie, I don't want a life/Send me a gun and I'll see the sun.” Nas coats these heavy lyrics in a light and airy melody that sounds happy. This transparent and honest outlook is soon met with a powerful message of hope. The verse ends with the moment he came out and finally discovered the outlet he desperately desired.
“ONE OF ME” describes how people thought that after Nas’ initial success with “Old Town Road” he would fall off and never make another hit again—Nas proves to them this was not the case. The crocodile rockin’ Elton John is featured on this and he plays the piano in the background of Nas singing. The piano on this track adds a refined and elegant touch.
Bringing more of a punk/rock feel to the album, “LOST IN THE CITADEL” is an addition I am welcoming with open arms. It is fast-paced and the lyricism is strong and extremely relatable in this. Nas chronicles someone who did not love him as much as he did, leaving him hurt. In the chorus he sings, “I need time to get up and get off the floor/I need time to realize that I can't be yours/I need time to give up just like before/ I love it how you know I'd only come right back for more.” I can’t stress how incredibly smooth this song transitions into its following track, “DOLLA SIGN SLIME.” This was the finest transition on the album. The tuba used at the end of “LOST IN THE CITADEL” leads into the beginning of “DOLLA SIGN SLIME” and then throughout the song, which made each infinitely stronger.
Nas ended his album the same way he began his career—with a Cyrus. The last song on MONTERO is “AM I DREAMING” featuring the queen of pop herself, Miley Cyrus. Cyrus’ voice is magic in a bottle in this song. Her raspy tone intertwined with his smooth one makes for an absolutely euphoric and dream-like listening experience.
“THAT’S WHAT I WANT”
“TALES OF DOMINICA”
“LOST IN THE CITADEL”
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Featured Image: Genius