“MONTERO” is Lil Nas X’s first full-length release after his skyrocket to fame with 2019’s record-breaking single, “Old Town Road.” The album is a nod to the artist’s given name, Montero Hill, and the lead single that recaptured the attention of pop audiences in early 2021: “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”
The title track opens up the project with its lively guitar line and a pre-chorus drawing inspiration from the Bible: “I’m not fazed only here to sin / If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can.”
Lil Nas X creates imagery of two men building a new kind of romance, one full of sin equivalent to that of the biblical Adam and Eve. The lyrical content draws strong resemblance to the vastly controversial music video for the track, whose religious and homosexual imagery earned Lil Nas X condemnations from conservative politicians and parents in March.
With nearly one billion Spotify streams, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” isn’t the only song that proves Lil Nas X’s media magnetism and affinity for catchiness.
“INDUSTRY BABY,” banked him yet another media frenzy, this time in response to more declarations of his sexuality. “I don’t f— bitches, I’m queer, hah,” he raps. The braggadocious single isn’t just a highlight of the summer but the entire album.
A horn-filled, Kanye-produced instrumental and victorious lyrics make the listener feel like they’ve also topped the charts. A hard-hitting verse from Jack Harlow is the icing on the cake of this achingly catchy track: “My track record so clean, they couldn’t wait to just bash me / I must be gettin’ too flashy, y’all shouldn’t have let the world gas me.”
The album continues with “DEAD RIGHT NOW,” a more laid-back track than what Lil Nas X listeners may be used to. He pulls this new feel off in this track — however, the artist seems to struggle to impress in subsequent songs.
“THAT’S WHAT I WANT” is a disappointing, poppy mess. While it breaks barriers with its confessions of same-sex attraction rarely represented in pop-rap, the horribly unoriginal instrumental and a vocally-weak chorus just don’t satisfy.
This becomes a pattern of disappointment, as even “SCOOP,” a track featuring Doja Cat, fails to leave a lasting mark — somewhat shocking given Doja Cat’s hit-making reputation. While Doja Cat and Lil Nas X’s performance was serviceable, the true failure was forgettable production.
After a few calmer tracks, including “SUN GOES DOWN” — a reflective single from May of this year that heavily features the artist’s skilled vocals — “MONTERO” transitions into the darker “DONT WANT IT” and “LIFE AFTER SALEM.” The two come off as a miss, losing impact with corny audio interludes of Lil Nas X receiving his Grammy in 2020 and instrumentals too far out of the pop artist’s aesthetic range.
Despite a handful of disappointments, the project picks up with “LOST IN THE CITADEL,” a song featuring great vocals and equally welcome lyrical imagery. The album reaches another peak with “DOLLA SIGN SLIME” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. It’s another earworm track sure to blow up on TikTok with its braggy bars from both Megan and Lil Nas X.
“AM I DREAMING” is an excellent bittersweet finale to the project reflecting on the harsh criticism Lil Nas X and the featured Miley Cyrus have experienced while exploring their sexuality in the spotlight. It’s an understated yet vocally impressive conclusion to an album full of peaks and valleys.
The lead singles of “MONTERO,” with their bombastic energy and attention-grabbing visuals, show Lil Nas X at his best. Despite hit-or-miss subdued tracks, Lil Nas X will continue to do numbers if he keeps making hits like “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and “INDUSTRY BABY.” He’s way past one-hit-wonder status. With the way he captures pop music’s attention, he is the industry, baby.
“MONTERO” is available to stream on all streaming platforms.