Lil Nas X is the message: Why Montero is a commercial Masterpiece

Catchy songs that go along with a visual story through music videos, Montero is about Lil Nas’ journey through fame, where he encounters struggles with sexuality, insecurities, and media criticism.

Angelina Velasquez, Contributing Writer

While scrolling through Instagram, Lil Nas X saturated my feed with baby bump pictures. “Great way to create expectation, classic marketing,” I thought while realizing his baby Montero was close to being released.

I was doing homework when the album dropped, so my concentration was only on the rhythm. However, I then heard the whole album along with the music videosand realized Lil Nas X has just created a masterpiece.

In life, we hide the parts of ourselves that 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

The album starts with the popular “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”. In this, Nas starts the video in what seems to be heaven, along with a welcome message to the viewers. He states that Montero is a world where you can embrace yourself totally, and starts exploring his sexuality. Moreover, an Adam and Eve thematic is shown,  Nas gets arrested for committing a sin, but finally, when thrown into hell, he dances to the devil, meaning he enjoys being a sinner – I know it sounds a little bit sexual, but wasn’t the video super HOT?

Going back to the song, it narrates that a guy slid into Nas’ DMs and offered him a hangout. In an interview, Nas stated this boy is from the industry circle, and when arriving at his house, alcohol and drugs were all over the place. Still, Nas looks forward to hanging out with him, and moreover, have sex. Apart from the song having a strong religious meaning, it also portrays hook-up culture. “Romantic talking? You don’t have to try. You’re cute enough to f*ck with me tonight” Nas sings about someone sliding into their DMs, which can be seen as flirting in social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat or  even Tinder. He is currently exploring his sexuality, so why not? However, he finds the guy lost in vices, and also in his identity. “Tell me you love me in private” & “If Eve ain’t in your garden you know that you can” reflect that secret boy wants to hook up with Nas without telling anyone, he is also discovering his sexuality and committing the “sin” of being homosexual according to Christianity. Nas wants this relationship to advance one more step, he wants to be Called-by-his-name, and stop being just casual sex!

However, in “Lost in the Citadel”, Nas realizes the person he was seeing is not contributing to the relationship. This could be Montero (CMBYN)’s continuity since the secret boy only wanted to hook up and Nas tried to turn friends with benefits into lovers. “Thought the universe sent you” shows a vulnerable and daydreaming Nas, but “I was hopin’ we could stay close, but we no longer sing the same notes” shows how he finally left in a one-sided relationship, and he’s okay with being good friends with them. Finally, in “Life After Salem”, his feelings are completely gone and tells the secret boy to go away from his life forever.

You never used to call, keep it that way now

After talking about hookup culture, Nas makes a 360 round to talk about mental health, and people that are “Dead Right Now” for him. On his way to become Lil Nas X, Montero encountered various fake friends who reached out to him just because he was becoming more famous. “I ain’t never need any feature” is a response to critics saying that Old Town Road blew up on the internet because of Billie Ray Cyrus, but in reality, Nas worked in his music since collegeand decided to drop out to make it a big thing. However, his relationship with his parents got complicated. Because Nas has passed through hard stuff, people who betray him or are fake don’t matter that much. In “Tales of Dominica”, he opens up about the family issues mentioned before and states that he “Can’t go running back to home, I can’t face hеr face” due to her mom being a drug addict. Young Nas had to confront his problems on his own, and now that he has been feeling lonely, there is no “home” he can go and look for support. That is probably why he is also looking for a partner. Mommy issues? I guess so… but it’s not your fault, King. 

“I’m just such an obsession, tea about me in your IG suggestions”

Now that Nas has made clear he is standing at the top, he flexes and celebrates his success on “Industry Baby”. The music video portrays Nas in a court, giving reference to the Nike court case about the “Satan shoes” with human blood the brand MSCHF dropped in a limited quantity. Still, he hasn’t lost since he began in the rap game, and along with Megan Thee Stallion, they brag about being the same “Dollar Sign Slime” and dominating the rap game. Finally, Queen Stallion gives us the finest verse ever where she talks about haters and their opponents in the rap scene being jealous of not reaching their status: “Thick, no add-on prosthetics, everything about me came from genetics”.

I need a baby while I’m in my prime

Contrasting to Montero, “That’s What I Want” shows a high-school-romance thematic. After listening to Nas talking about the fame and happiness he got because of his success, he still feels lonely. “Cause it doesn’t feel right when it’s late at night and it’s just me in my dreams” and “Need an adversary to my down and weary” state that Nas is looking for someone to be his support while being at the top of fame. In the music video, he has sex with a football player, then both have a brokeback-mountain adventure, and suddenly, Nas finds out the guy had a family! This makes him return to alcohol -which is a common vice in the industry– and then sing the final chorus while dressed as a sad bride. Is Montero getting out of his hook-up phase to find his soulmate? Apparently yes.

Moreover, in “Void”, Nas makes a letter to his Old Town Road-self. After reaching fame quickly, he had good hopes about being part of the music industry. However, he confesses his loneliness has increased and being a huge celebrity is really hard to handle. Apart from fame, he highlights that most of his sadness is because he hasn’t found a significant other. I think most of us get you, Nas. That love depression always hits hard.

Confusing times

A 24-second monologue called “The Art Of Realization” starts. The video? Nas reflecting on his life while recording tracks and swimming in his pool. His life has no direction. Fame? Love? He is unsure of which path to follow – or follow both. Finally, he says “I’m sure” with confidence, but in “Scoop” he and Doja Cat sing about being at the top of the music game and wanting to only have sex with someone. Nas and Doja had been working on their bodies and making music. Now, they have reached the top, and while in their success everyone wants to be friends with them or even date! Still, they reject all the fake friends and ex-lovers, to keep grinding in music, to keep “scooping”. However, Nas singing that he only needs someone “for the night” and wanting to be the daily instead of their baby could also refer that he is going back to the hookup phase. As I said, confusing times.

I don’t see you lasting long and that’s just me being honest

A soft piano introduces “One of Me”, a collab between Elton John and Montero. The lyrics represent Lil Nas’ head full of negative thoughts and insults, portraying the public criticism an artist constantly receives. It is true that “Old Town Road” became a hit worldwide, and some part of the population (including me) thought this guy called Lil Nas X was just a random rapper who did a collab with Billie Ray Cyrus. However, he then released epic songs along with strong and meaningful video clips. But of course, not everyone is satisfied, “Now, can you prove yourself? Everybody waitin’” reflects Nas haters prefer him to stick to his first music hit. Finally, in “Don’t Want It” he reassures his confidence and gets out of his overthinking state of mind by singing about how he worked hard and is living proof that you can reach your dreams.

Whether they do it to reach Billboard’s 100 or just to make music, I completely support artists in exploring different music styles or genres from time to time, because in the end, it’s completely their decision, their music, and what they look to transmit with it.

There is much more to life than dying over your past mistakes and people who threw dirt on your name

In “Sun Goes Down”, Nas introspects about his sexuality and travels back in time to his high school days. The music video starts with him meditating while singing “I wanna run away, send me a gun” meaning that he is having suicidal thoughts. Then, he sees himself in diverse situations in the past like working at Taco Bell, or feeling he had a safe space “Stanning Nicki” in social media rather than in high school. At the prom, he feels lonely and goes to cry sat the bathroom, meaning that he was still in the closet, but wanted to stretch his wings. Finally, he reflects on how taking the “big step” of coming out helped him to acquire courage and now he has impacted many strangers around the world (aka Fans) who support him and make him feel loved.

The album ends with one of the best collaborations in a conceptual way. “Am I Dreaming” features Miley Cyrus, an artist who also has received lots of criticism during her music career. Both Nas and Miley  have been deemed inappropriate role models or sinners -by religious people. However, they both have revolutionized the industry and rebuild themselves through their music. Lil Nas passed from Old Town Road to an LGBTQ+ icon and Miley from Hannah Montana to a rockstar. Plus, they have built strong fanbases and impacted people around the world, while breaking the internet. “Never forget me, and everything I’ve done”, both of you will remain as icons, thanks for everything!

Final thoughts

Montero is an extremely commercial album. Apart from enjoying most of the tracks, Lil Nas offers us a visual experience through the music videos, which complements and enriches some of the songs. Through them, we can have a better understanding of the tracks and actually relate Nas’ situations to the ones in our lives.

About the concept: the features make the tracks have more logic and create a connection between the listener and performers. We have Doja talking about her success but working on herself, Megan flexing that her body is natural, and Miley reflecting on her past actions that lead her to be an icon. Time also duration also matters, as most of the songs are easy to absorb due to being less than three minutes long, however, this makes the listener ask for more, and keeps them playing the album. Extremely marketing strategy!

The album can look somehow in disorder, but this represents the ups and downs a person struggling with anxiety and depression have on the daily. First, he is 100% into hooking up, then he talks about the industry, flexes his success but feels super lonely, he’s lost and looks for help, and finally leaves the weight behind to realize how far he has gone. Also, the album has no specific genre, as there are songs with rap and even a sad rock guitar.

Finally, I would like to connect the idea of “The Medium is the Message” and state that Lil Nas acts as the medium. He stated that his music “will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist” and that “people will be angry, they will say i’m pushing an agenda. but the truth is, I am. the agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” 

Without Lil Nas X, there is no Montero.

Ranking: 8 out of 10

PS: thanks to Prof. Malsky for making us read McLuhan’s theory, I finally understood it!!