By SreeKeerthi ManurSreekantaMurthyGari
Who has not heard the lyrics to the hit single “Old Town Road” in the three years since it
was released? As a college dropout living in his parents’ basement, Montero Lamar Hill
launched his rapping and singing career with the release of “Old Town Road” and its seemingly
endless remixes, becoming known worldwide as Lil Nas X soon after. The song inspired a slew
of memes and TikTok trends, most notably the “yeehaw juice” costume-changing trend. Trying
to prove that he was not a one-hit wonder, Lil Nas X dropped an EP the year after which was
received with mixed reviews. Now Lil Nas X is back with his self-titled debut album, Montero.
I will admit I was one of the people who was not impressed by 7, the 2019 EP, but was
slightly more optimistic for Montero due to the catchy singles “Montero (Call Me By Your
Name)” and “Industry Baby”, released a few months before the album. As I started listening to
Montero, I realized that this was quite possibly the best album I have heard this year.
The album opens up with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, which is a nice
introduction to the general vibe of the rest of the album. Lil Nas X showcases the wide range of
his vocals, from his signature deep bass to energetic high notes. It’s sensual and explicit, with a
dash of humor, just like the singer himself. It’s followed by “Dead Right Now”, a somewhat
slower paced song with a unique flow. Lil Nas X talks about his childhood and his rise to fame,
accompanied by gospel singers in the background, who contribute a certain richness to the song.
“Dead Right Now” is sandwiched between the two biggest pre-release singles, as it is
followed by “Industry Baby”. The chorus is incredibly addicting, and the song as a whole
projects confidence, from the grandiose horns in the background to the inclusion of Jack Harlow.
“That’s What I Want” is a hidden gem with a chorus that feels airy and carefree, a needed
respite after the loud and in-your-face singles, as good as they were. Lil Nas X focuses on his
high vocals here, and the stripped guitar in the background brings to mind memories of beach
vacations. It’s also much more unapologetically queer than the previous songs. Another
memorable solo song on the album is “Tales of Dominica”. It strays from the trap-style beats of
the rest of the album, and has a triplet rhythm that also sets it apart.
“Sun Goes Down” is one of the pre-released singles, placed strategically near the end of
the album. It’s the most chill song on the album, with somewhat of a lo-fi vibe to it. “Void” stays
true to its title, as it is the song least similar to the album’s representative singles “Industry Baby”
and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, with the drums only kicking in at 1:35, and focusing
on Lil Nas X’s head voice rather than his normal range at many parts. It is also the longest song
on the album, at 4 minutes and 8 seconds.
“Don’t Want It” is an energetic bop on its own, but when listening to it in the order of the
album, it seems a bit repetitive. It is also the shortest song on the album, at 2 minutes and 10
seconds, not counting the vocal bit “The Art of Realization”. The last of the solos is “Life After
Salem”, which is a pleasant surprise. The instruments used are more in line with the current
trends in rock rather than pop, and Lil Nas X’s voice is well suited for a song with a darker
sound, similar to his early hit “Rodeo”.
In my opinion, some of the features on this album were a miss rather than a hit. The ones
that worked well were Harlow on “Industry Baby”, and Elton John on “One of Me” (although
Elton John masterfully dueted Lil Nas X on the piano rather than with his own verse). Miley
Cyrus also matches with Lil Nas X beautifully on “Am I Dreaming”. “Scoop” features Doja Cat,
one of the hottest rappers right now, especially after her own album release earlier this year.
However, Doja Cat’s verse on “Scoop” is definitely too short (about 23 seconds long), and does
not showcase her rapping or singing abilities to the fullest. She has no vocals anywhere else on
the song either. “Dolla Sign Slime” features Meghan Thee Stallion, another usual powerhouse
who does not match up to Lil Nas X’s energy. While she is given more time than Doja Cat,
Meghan Thee Stallion’s flow on “Dolla Sign Slime” just feels rushed and raw. The song on its
own in general also feels unnecessary. The Meghan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat collaborations
make me long for the way Billy Ray Cyrus fit so perfectly on “Old Town Road”, or the way
Cardi B rode the beat on “Rodeo”.
Overall, while the album has a few songs that are unnecessary or boring, the better songs
more than make up for them. Lil Nas X shows a clear improvement between his EP and
Montero, coming back with a much more complex and addictive album. The most memorable
songs on the album include the singles, but also more laid-back pieces like “That’s What I Want”
and “Dead Right Now”. The Meghan Thee Stallion feature “Dolla Sign Slime” is definitely my
Montero as an album showcases the duality of Lil Nas X’s confidence in his sexuality and
talent, but also his vulnerability with finding love and dealing with fame. And, it bears saying,
the queer representation is amazing.
Song ranking (from best to worst):
- That’s What I Want
- Industry Baby
- Dead Right Now
- Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
- Sun Goes Down
- Tales of Dominica
- Don’t Want It
- One of Me
- Life After Salem
- Am I Dreaming
- Lost in the Citadel
- Dolla Sign Slime