Lil Nas X, Unabashedly Queer.
On March 25, 2021, Lil Nas X released “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” a music video that is taking the internet by storm. It shows him under the Tree of Life with strong Biblical imagery singing with his purple hair falling over his shoulders and clouds in the shape of his face. He sings about having a relationship with a man as they’re closeted. The video then goes to show him later being stoned to death, and slides down a pole to Hell. Upon landing, his clothes are changed into black and white shorts and black combat boots. His shirt is shedded, showing his tattoos and his red braids falling over his shoulders. He struts down the path toward Satan sitting on his throne, surrounded by Greek words that read: “They condemn what they do not understand.” He then gives Satan a lap dance before killing Satan and crowning himself with Satan’s horns.
The imagery in this music video is unlike any we’ve seen before. The aesthetic of the world around him, the final shot of him killing and taking Satan’s place, and the black wings that unfurl upon the horns’ placement on his head is a very strong image. Not to mention how much more effective it is in the context of being a Black, gay man. The importance of the Biblical nature of this video can’t be ignored, either. A press release that was made public accompanying the video discusses the importance of this final scene, stating that it is representative of “dismantling the throne of judgement and punishment that has kept many of us from embracing our true selves out of fear” (McLaughlin). The use of the Bible and its aesthetic is a powerful one, and it’s impossible to deny the impact it has on the music and people’s reactions to the video.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of people had something to say about this video and its impact. We’ve seen the anger that’s come from women standing in their sexuality - from Cardi B and Meg Thee Stallion’s WAP, to Ariana Grande’s God is a Woman, and to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. The anger that stems from this video comes from a different place than the others we’ve seen so far, however. While much of the language is the same (i.e., “think of the children!” and “God wouldn’t want this!”), the discourse ongoing currently is with another intention. They’re not mad that there’s a man dancing on Satan. They’re mad that there’s an openly gay Black man dancing on Satan.
One day after the release of the music video, @MintChipMusic tweeted “The system is targeting kids. Lil Nas X’s fanbase is mostly children. They did the same thing with Miley Cyrus after Hannah Montana” attached with a video of Lil Nas X doing a concert of “Old Towne Road” for children, hyping them up. Shortly after however, Lil Nas X responded, “there was no system involved. i made the decision to create the music video. i am an adult. i am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. that is your job.”
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota had a lot to say about not just the music video, but the “Satan Shoes” that Lil Nas X has begun selling as of March 29th, as a part of the music video. Noem tweeted on March 28th, two days after the shoes were announced.
Not a half an hour later though, Lil Nas X quipped right back at her.
Right-wing pastor Greg Locke also went viral for preaching about the music video. In the video, he admitted not having any idea who Lil Nas X was, and needed to be reminded about Old Towne Road, but still called him a “thug.”
And our favorite right-wing activist Kaitlin Bennett went after him, tweeting that she’s grateful to have been blocked by Lil Nas X. He responded back: “i still see ur tweets sh*tty pants,” and the back and forth went on with Bennett’s response, “Do you still see your dad?” finally ending with Lil Nas X’s final word: “yep and i might f*ck yours.” Can someone say “iconic”?
His process with this song has been made surprisingly public, with his Instagram post alongside the release of the song.
“Dear 14-year-old Montero, I wrote a song with our name in it. It’s about a guy I met last summer. I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised never to be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other Queer people to simply exist.”
He later went on to describe how he feels about the release of the music video: “This is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay [...] out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be” (McLaughlin).
Its effect on others has been monumental, however. Adam B Vary speaks on this subject in Variety, as he writes “I don’t think it’s possible for me, a 41-year-old gay man, to overstate just how monumental it was to see a 21-year-old gay man express his sexuality on exactly the same terms - and at the same level of fame, success and media attention - his straight counterparts have enjoyed for decades.”
There’s one identifying factor that makes Lil Nas X’s video and music different from others: It doesn’t pander to what makes people comfortable.
He is not making art for the white, cis, straight audience that has been the end-all be-all for all of time.
As he tweeted earlier this week, that is not his job.
He’s making art for himself.
He’s making art for those not represented.
He’s making art that will push boundaries.
He’s making art that is unabashedly and unashamedly Lil Nas X.