Photo By: Noah Nickel via Apple Music
Lil Nas X hit the music scene with “Old Town Road” in December 2018. The song topped the charts and launched the artist into the spotlight. Many listeners assumed he would be a one-hit-wonder. That is, until the release of his second hit “Panini” in 2019.
Now, another two years later, Lil Nas X has released his debut album MONTERO. It includes singles like “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and “INDUSTRY BABY (feat. Jack Harlow)” which were released early and immediately rose to popularity. The rest of the album meets the high expectations those songs set and proves that Lil Nas X is far from the one-hit-wonder some people expected he would be in 2018. Lil Nas X isn’t just a musician, he’s a performer whose visually striking music videos have helped get more people talking about and listening to his songs.
The songs on MONTERO have been selected and placed in a very specific order. Lil Nas X is known for pairing upbeat music with more serious vocals, like with “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” the album opener. It’s then followed by other similarly fast-paced songs, but throughout the album we see the tracklist transition to slower, sadder songs, with more serious lyrics. This order creates a sense of narrative and coherence that makes the album a satisfying listen when played all at once.
The individual songs have a contemporary pop sound that would blend in well on a playlist with pop music, rap, hip-hop, or even more subdued sadder genres of music. This sound is a little bit unexpected to listeners who are mainly familiar with “Old Town Road,” which famously was a pop-country fusion. MONTERO leaves the country influences behind however and Lil Nas X explores a more sincere and touching part of his artistic voice.
Many of the songs on this album have a similar sound and a tendency to blend together when listening, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t individually outstanding. The horns used on “INDUSTRY BABY” create an exciting introduction to a really fun pop/rap song. “TALES OF DOMINICA” has enchanting lyrics and a good beat that make it entrancing to listen to.
“LIFE AFTER SALEM” is a powerful song that beautifully communicates heartbreak with heavy guitar that is less often found in the more pop-influenced scene. It communicates a feeling of hopelessness in a heartbreaking way, picking up clear rock influences in the vocals and guitar sections. This transitions well into the final song of the album, “AM I DREAMING (feat. Miley Cyrus)” which starts with acoustic guitar and soft vocals. It highlights that the sadness and big emotions on this album aren’t to simply be wallowed in with no purpose. There’s a sense that the sun will rise again, as is communicated in lyrics like, “I’ve still got a smile, as I’m sinking, I relive the story.” Paired with Cyrus’ vocals, Lil Nas X’s emotional sensibility is clear.
MONTERO is definitely worth a listen for anyone curious about it, regardless of what genre your music taste usually falls into. If you want to know what Lil Nas X is up to in 2021, you’ll likely enjoy it quite a bit.