Through the infinite doubt presented when an artist releases a hit single to launch their career, the artist must prove to critics and fans that they can hold on their own beyond their initial song into the mainstream. Lil Nas X does exactly this with his debut album, “MONTERO.”
Montero Hill, also known as Lil Nas X, broke through into the mainstream with his fusion of rap and country on his 2019 track “Old Town Road.” The hit single topped the charts for weeks and became the longest-running number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, maintaining that position for 19 weeks.
A handful of remixes (including the most popular with Billy Ray Cyrus), propelled the single as a staple of popular music in 2019.
Self-aware and more popular than ever, the Georgia native’s approach to “MONTERO” does not feel forced,rather it allows Lil Nas X to expand on the style that he has already established for himself.
The project contains many contributions from the production duo Take A Day Trip. Take A Day Trip is composed of Denzel Baptiste and David Biral, both of whom have worked with Lil Nas X in the past. The standout production of the project comes from the single “INDUSTRY BABY,” produced by Take A Day Trip and Kanye West.
Throughout the album, listeners are treated to a more introspective look into Lil Nas X’s usual approach to his pop sound. Songs such as “TALES OF DOMINICA” highlight how far Nas X has come since his humble beginnings and how much more he may achieve through his music.
“THE ART OF REALIZATION,” although an interlude, serves as the most outspoken inner dialogue the artist presents as it contains a similar message as the majority of the more introspective tracks. He explains that he has been “driving with no actual direction” and did not know if he was really doing music for the right reasons.
The project poses many questions that artists frequently ponder through music: am I happy? Are the accolades I am achieving fulfilling? Will the rush of fame end up becoming a burden?
Lil Nas X’s self awareness shines through on tracks like “VOID,” where Nas X expresses his doubt about the future and facing those who show him hate.
Catchy guitar riffs and brass sections throughout the album cement the style that Lil Nas X has been working towards: pop fusion.
Features from artists such as Megan Thee Stallion and Elton John served starkly different purposes within the project. Elton John plays the keys on the track “ONE OF ME” while Megan Thee Stallion serves as one of the the only other artists that raps on the album on the track “DOLLAR SIGN SLIME” besides Jack Harlow and Lil Nas X and the features work very well where they were placed on the album.
Describing Lil Nas X as a “rapper” does not adequately encapsulate all of his musical skills, he is able to create songs with elements of pop, rap and electronic. Fans and critics tend to generalize the abilities of an artist by calling them a “pop artist” or a “rapper” when in reality, most musicians experiment with different styles and even create styles of their own.
In the buildup to the release of the album, Lil Nas X became known for his internet trolling, which turned heads and made fans excited for what he was brewing.
Nas X has been deemed a “marketing genius” by some due to his antics. His creative use of social media, which utilizes trends and his own flair (style and distinctive attitude), which means he is always the subject of media attention, even if that attention is negative. One of the most prominent examples of this was in March, Lil Nas X sold ‘Satan Shoes’ containing human blood, which sent the media into a frenzy.
Through the project, Montero shows his skills that have grown immensely since the release of his 2019 EP, “7 EP,” which featured songs such as “Rodeo” and “F9mily.”
Overall, “MONTERO” serves as a more in depth look into the mind of one of the biggest stars in the current music mainstream and shows what the future could hold for Lil Nas X and his expanding style and subject matter.