It would have been easy for Lil Nas X to disappear from pop culture, only remembered as the “Old Town Road” one-hit wonder, but the achievements never stopped: Grammy nominations, Grammy wins, high profile collaborations, and multiple platinum projects. He recently added another accomplishment to the list with Montero, his debut album. The project is notable for a number of reasons such as Lil Nas X’s remarkable pop/rap star status as a gay Black man. Another thing of note? Lil Nas X’s unwavering vulnerability.
The night Lil Nas X released his long anticipated single, “Call Me By Your Name (Montero),” it was clear that he was embarking on a new path in his artistry and celebrity. His sexuality would not be hidden or hinted, it would be undeniable in and inseparable from his music. This was not always the plan though. In the moments before the premiere “Call Me By Your Name,” Lil Nas X shared a note he wrote to his younger self. He had made past promises to never come out and to one day die with the secret of his sexuality. The touching note allowed the public a glimpse into the significance of this new chapter in his career.
Vulnerability is woven into the fabric of Montero. The tracks are far from the meme-able “Old Town Road.” They are open, poignant, and reflective. The second track, “Dead Right Now,” discusses the musician’s rise to fame: the struggles, the doubts, and his complicated relationship with his mother. “Sun Goes Down,” the second promotional single, examines the deep depression he felt while young(er) and closeted. The chorus repeats (Trigger Warning: mention of suicide), “I wanna run away / Don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life / Send me a gun and I’ll see the sun.” Each song, even the braggadocious ones, break boundaries as Lil Nas X is always creating from his perspective as a young gay Black man. Lyrics like “Need a boy who can cuddle with me all night” and references to films such as Call Me By Your Name (2017) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) make this clear.
Outside of his music, Lil Nas X is known for his irreverence. The marketing campaign for Montero relied heavily on his ability to “troll” both supporters and haters. From the Satan shoes of “Call Me By Your Name” to the Durex product placement in “That’s What I Want” (the latter of which came after homophobic claims he was promoting unsafe sex by kissing another man on stage at the BET awards), Lil Nas X stays trolling. His vulnerability can be shrouded in the midst of this jokester behavior, but it is certainly there. If you pay attention, this vulnerability is palpable throughout Montero and, in that, Lil Nas X provides a significant example of masculinity.