The Controversy Behind Lil Nas X’s “Montero”

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Belsem Aljobory, Staff Writer

Montero Lamar Hill, more commonly known by his stage name Lil Nas X, or as the rapper/singer behind the famous song “Old Town Road,” has found himself trapped in controversy these past few months.

At the young age of 21, Lil Nas X has been featured on Time’s 25 Most Influential People and Forbes’s 30 under 30 list. He is known for his down-to-earth and self-deprecating humor, internet presence, and having paved the way for flamboyant menswear on red carpets. He can be seen blending Southern outfits—cowboy boots and hats—with bright neon colors and tassels. 

Another ground-breaking aspect of Lil Nas X is his sexuality. On June 30, 2019, Nas unapologetically came out as gay; one of the first rappers to proudly do so. He then went on to be the first openly gay man to be nominated for a Country Music Association Award and the only LGBTQ+ nominee to win.   

As fans excitedly waited for the single that Nas teased on his Twitter and TikTok, they speculated the meaning behind the song. The snippet included the line, “Call me when you want, call me when you need, call me, call me in the morning, I’ll be on my way” with a Billboard-worthy tune accompanying it.

However, when the music video dropped, his audience, both old and young, were speechless. Some were thrilled by the creativity of costumes and intricate messages woven into the video, others horrified by the demonic aspects or crude behavior of Lil Nas X himself and his role in the video. 

The song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” named after Nas’s given name to show a real and honest side of him and his sexuality, was released on March 26, 2021, on Youtube.

The video, for those who have not seen it, features him being stoned by a crowd for his homosexuality—a reference to the backlash he received from the ‘conservative and homophobic’ minority of the public—and pole dancing from heaven to hell, as well as suggestively dancing with Satan before killing him and taking his crown of ruling the underworld/hell. It’s a lot to take in, but Lil Nas X did not stop there. 

After the release of his video on that fateful March morning, Nas collaborated with a New York-based agency called MSCHF, which is known for viral stunts involving shoes like the “Jesus Shoe,”  claimed to have a drop of holy water in each shoe.

Only 666 (an ode to the number of the devil) shoes called the Satan Shoe were created at $1,018 a pair. The shoes were sold out in less than a minute. A lawsuit from Nike to MSCHF is underway on the grounds of infringement after much backlash from the public and politicians about Lil Nas X and his character. 

On the website that sold the shoes, satan.shoes, MSCHF stands behind their shoe and creative piece, saying that Satan is as integral to history as Jesus, as he has been apparent in art, music, and text.

But how is Montero himself doing? Although readers and fans might never know what is going on with his emotions behind the scenes, fans can rest assured that it seems as though he is not taking the heat and hate too seriously.

He jokes about apologizing for the sneaker and then plays a clip of his video to spite his flurry of online haters, tweets about how unbothered he is by it, and films TikToks to his song. 

Lil Nas X is receiving criticism from critics, parents, and conservatives because of his unapologetic behavior for the creative pathway he and his team decided to take for the music video. He highlights how he’s been treated since then, but his sexuality is who he is, but not all he is.

He’s a talented, young, and inspiring artist to a younger audience that might be battling with their issues when it comes to coming to terms with who they truly are. 

Conservatives take a different approach blaming Lil Nas X for “corrupting” their children when many children seek out his music for inspiration.

Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem tweeted in response to the exclusivity of the shoe, “We are in a fight for the soul of our nation. We need to fight hard. And we need to fight smart. We have to win.” One must ask themselves, what is she promoting to fight against? Homosexuality? Embracing it?

The soul of this nation was to embrace the diversity and differences of the people living under this nation. Unity is what we need, not those dividing us based on our preferences. Like Lil Nas X or not, what he has done is groundbreaking. 

“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and the artist behind it will forever be a polarizing subject. However, it is important to note his intention and approach to his unique ability to be true to himself and to allow for his creativity to be demonstrated on a platform without falling back when receiving harsh criticism.

In an article from BBC by Mark Savage titled “Lil Nas X Shares Defiant Message as He Tops US Chart,” he notes Lil Nas X’s success in the first few days by writing, “In the UK, Montero was streamed 6.8 million times last week—2.5 million of which were plays of the video. It is the second single to debut at number one this year.

In the US, Montero drew 46.9 million streams and sold 21,000 downloads”. This comes as a surprise to many, but not loyal fans, as he was labeled a ‘one-hit wonder’ after his record-shattering success of Old Town Road in 2019. One thing is unarguable, Lil Nas X is here to stay.