Photo: Charlotte Rutherford
It's been a long journey for Lil Nas X since the release of "Old Town Road" back in 2019, but since the initial viral moment, he has taken careful steps to establish himself as more than just a moment or trend. His debut album Montero is a testament to this, delivering fans 15 polished and dynamic hip-hop and pop tracks that carefully showcase the wide range of talents that our hero holds. Whether passionately crooning alongside Elton John on "One of Me" or trading bars with Jack Harlow on the Kanye-produced single "Industry Baby" Lil Nas X is a refreshing and forward-thinking star who has the power to shape culture as we know it.
Though much of the discourse surrounding Lil Nas X and his music focuses on what he is, it may be more worthwhile to focus on what Lil Nas X and Montero are not. Far removed from the family-friendly, over-sanitized personalities we've come to expect from pop's megastars, Lil Nas X has no problem putting his detractors on blast or pushing the boundaries of the genre. His humor and perspective reflect his multifaceted audience, constantly baiting smear-pieces only to respond to them with the perfect comeback or ironic meme. The sounds that dominate Montero pull from many areas, but Lil Nas X is involved at every step ensuring that the listener recognizes every moment as his own.
Montero is more than just a collection of rotation-ready bangers though, because for every laid-back and cleverly written pop anthem like "Montero" or "That's What I Want," there are glimpses of genuine candor and vulnerability. Though his Twitter presence may lead you to believe that he's incapable of vulnerability, Lil Nas X is unafraid to dive into his personal history of trauma and identity-fueled alienation. Montero is roughly divided into two parts that reflect these emotional opposites, with the first half being bright and explosive and the latter being more pensive and reflective.
On the record's album-opener "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)", Lil Nas X's performance is borderline explosive while he's encapsulated by a cinematic and Latin-inspired pop aesthetic. A few tracks later, he's belting out bittersweet romantic ruminations on the alt-rock-inspired "Lost in the Citadel," flexing an enviable versatility that many of his peers likely could not emulate. The guests on this record are few and far between, but this works in Montero's favor. The album is a reflection of Lil Nas X himself, so thankfully the features are tastefully chosen, and careful not to overstay their welcome. Miley Cyrus joins Lil Nas X for the closing track "Am I Dreaming," which sees the two reflecting on their meteoric rise to fame and the struggles that come alongside it.
Pulling inspiration from modern hip-hop and pop with a vision that aims to not just predict the next trend but create it, Lil Nas X has long since established himself as a star that's sticking around.
Listen to Montero below: