Album Review: Lil Nas X – MONTERO

By: Grace Koennecke

Columbia Records; 2021

Rating: 8/10

Key tracks: “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, “INDUSTRY BABY ft. Jack Harlow”,  “THATS WHAT I WANT”, “LOST IN THE CITADEL”

Lil Nas X reinvents his sound and lyricism on his first solo album debut, and his charisma and fearlessness, as always, are on full display. He’s not afraid to articulate the struggles he has faced because of his sexuality or the way he has overcome them to embrace his true, authentic self. Much like the success of his first single, “Old Town Road”, this new side of Lil Nas X mixes rap-like verses with tantalizing and upbeat choruses that allow for a smooth and consistent transition from song to song throughout the album.

What makes this album so revolutionary is its unapologetic nature. Every song exudes sensuality and longing, and these concepts are illuminated through Lil Nas’ use of storytelling. Lil Nas X’s own story is one of coming to terms with being a gay, black man in a country that is historically prejudiced toward both communities. He’s understanding his identity while trying to grasp the idea of fame. MONTERO is about being yourself and owning your individuality, even if it’s difficult at times. 

Read more: “Lil Nas X Reveals Himself on ‘Montero'” by The New York Times

MONTERO starts off with the iconic title track “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, which is the perfect way to open an album. Its hint of whimsical guitar at the beginning leads you into a new world, one where romance of any kind is at the forefront. The singer alludes to being in a secret relationship, one that he wants to last but knows may not. This track makes you want to keep listening and hear more about Lil Nas X’s past romantic endeavors.

MONTERO starts off with the iconic title track “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, which is the perfect way to open an album. Its hint of whimsical guitar at the beginning leads you into a new world, one where romance of any kind is at the forefront. The singer alludes to being in a secret relationship, one that he wants to last but knows may not. This track makes you want to keep listening and hear more about Lil Nas X’s past romantic endeavors.

After a few tracks in, the vibrant triumphant sound of “INDUSTRY BABY (feat Jack Harlow)” kicks in. The duo’s confidence is eminent throughout the three minutes and thirty seconds it possesses, with both artists contributing verses about working hard to make your way to the top and flexing their personas. It’s definitely a soundtrack for the haters out there, especially those who have tried to undermine the success of both artists. Sonic confidence is bottled up in the track, easily boosting the listener’s self-esteem. The chorus itself stands alone as a reminder that Lil Nas X is an artist to take seriously.

Toward the middle of the album, we start to see a little hint of Lil Nas X’s vulnerable side, one where he admits that he longs for true love. “THATS WHAT I WANT” is all about wishing to find the “right one” and his fears never finding them. It is also the singer acknowledging that being famous causes people to take advantage of you and that this can take a toll on your trust in others. Even though it’s an upbeat song you can bop your head to, it is one of the most revealing, personal songs on the tracklist.

Afterward comes “SCOOP ft. Doja Cat” which flips the switch and reminds you to never feel sorry for yourself. It’s a statement piece as it acts as an anthem for self-love and confidence with references to the duo working on themselves through self-care and reflection. This song also represents the theme of hard work and dedication to one’s musical craft, making the overall tone one that inspires.

LOST IN THE CITADEL” is one of the final tracks on MONTERO. This song is the singer at his most reflective and centers around the idea of lost love and insecurity. With an early-2000s pop-punk sound, it feels like Lil Nas X is screaming directly at you. The use of isolated vocals and subtle climaxes that lead into the chorus each time makes you sympathize even more with the singer on his journey of accepting change: “I remember when I met you / Thought the universe sent you / Thought you were someone I could vent to.” This song makes up for the lack of musicality and maturity throughout some parts of MONTERO and ensures that the singer is open about his story.

While this album is a showstopper, MONTERO doesn’t manage to completely rid itself of the unnecessary tracks, those that don’t highlight the range and creativity of Lil Nas X. Some songs focus too much on gaining instant replayability, or fail to relate to the audiences, while others excellently emphasize the need for authenticity and self-reflection. Overall, the themes of this album are noteworthy and present throughout most tracks and show the evident growth of Lil Nas X as an artist. 

Listen here:

 https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/6pOiDiuDQqrmo5DbG0ZubR

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