Impossible to dislike
Jessie Atkinson
11:22 17th September 2021

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The best thing about MONTERO is the music. The second best thing is how many people it might help through difficult times. The third is how many people it’s going to piss off. Taken together alongside its extraordinary marketing materials and the barrier-smashing music videos they come with, MONTERO represents a true revolution in pop, rap and music as a whole: from Lil Nas X onwards, no topic should be off limits.

Mega-hits ‘MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)’ and ‘INDUSTRY BABY’ feature here, but the remaining twelve tracks (plus skit) represent total newness. For long-time fans of Nas, and those who can’t but help have come along with him on his heady ride to superstardom (surely everyone on the face of the earth), MONTERO may be somewhat of a surprise. There are bangers here for sure, but they may not be the kind you quite expected. As with Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, and seemingly every young musician who grew up with the entire world of music at their beck and call, Lil Nas X references myriad genres on his debut album.

There's country, stadium rock, trap and out-and-out balladry here. 

 ‘THATS WHAT I WANT’ for example, is hopelessly catchy, referencing the country notes that got Nas started in its staccato acoustic guitar. It isn’t the first instance of Nas being vulnerable on MONTERO, but it’s one of the most direct: “I want someone to love me/I need someone who needs me” he sings. 

The confessional approach to pop-rap continues from here: he impersonates his naysayers with undisguised hurt on the Elton John-featuring ‘ONE OF ME’. On ‘TALES OF DOMINICA’ he has questions for himself of his own: “Could I be wrong? Was everybody right about me?”. He is explicit about the abuse he suffered from his parents on 'DEAD RIGHT NOW' (“My momma told me that she love me, don't believe her/When she get drunk, she hit me up, man“) and about suicidal ideation on ‘SUN GOES DOWN’ (“Don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life.")

There's well-earned braggadacio on 'DOLLA SIGN SLIME' with an impeccably-placed feature from Megan Thee Stallion, but much of the bragging rights Nas has—and uses—on MONTERO are things that his predecessors have never dared to discuss.

"And I'm happy by the way" he concludes on 'SUN GOES DOWN', the downbeat pop song with the heartbreaking music video, making recovery from suicidal ideation one of his more humble brags. This survivors' satisfaction (though Nas seems to still dip in and out of these darker realms) makes for a consistent emotional thread that runs through the album. Doubtless, there will be plenty of conservatives who hate how candid he is about these feelings. And if they don't like that, they definitely won't like the sex scene in the touching video for 'THATS WHAT I WANT'. Good: one of the best and most revolutionary things about Lil Nas X has always been his political provocation of the close-minded.

But you all knew Lil Nas X was the revolution, right? Don't forget that besides that, he's just a young guy making great music. There are no skips on MONTERO; with it, not only has Lil Nas X delivered a manifesto for all to follow, he has also somehow made himself even harder to dislike. 

MONTERO is out now.

Issue Two of the Gigwise Print magazine is on sale now! Buy it here.

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Photo: Press