There are a lot of ways for listeners to describe experimental rapper Lil Nas X’s debut album ‘Montero’: “beautiful”, “spiritual”, “whimsical”. The self-titled album was released to stream on Sept. 17, and is currently on its way to becoming the Number One album on the Billboard charts.
Montero Lamar Hill, or Lil Nas X, is a Georgia native that first came on the scene in 2018 with his mixtape ‘Nasarati’. However, his career would not fully take off until “Old Town Road (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)” was released in 2019. “Old Town Road” would receive the Grammy for Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks in a row.
Since then, Lil Nas X has cemented his status as one of the nation’s top artists. His last single before ‘Montero’s’ release, “Industry Baby (ft. Jack Harlow)”, has reached over 400 million streams on Spotify. This is the fifth time Lil Nas X has had a song streamed that many times, and the third time Harlow has achieved it.
Though he is best known for his fantastical presentation, ‘Montero’ took an inside look into the life of Lil Nas X, exploring how he has evolved as a person and an artist. Each song either focuses on a specific point or experience in his life.
Lil Nas X has been very transparent on each song’s meaning on his official Twitter page. For example, he revealed that “Lost in the Citadel” “was about this guy I met last fall that I fell in love with, and it crushed me knowing that it would never work.” He also wrote that “Tales of Dominica” was about “[this] beautiful place, and the song is about living the worst place/time of my life. It’s like a metaphor for when you trick yourself into pretending everything is fine when it’s not.”
The tone of each song varies when listening to the album. However, there is a noticeable shift throughout the album from light and upbeat to dark and melodic, and it all ultimately ends on a sad note with “Am I Dreaming”.
“The theme of the song is being on a sinking ship and thinking your last thoughts out loud,” Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter. “So the splash [in the outro] represents dying.”
‘Montero’s’ more somber themes are also present in the promotional and album art, which helps provide additional context for the album as a whole. The imagery surrounding ‘Montero’ was ethereal or fantastical, including an extended “pregnancy” photo series announcing the album’s release date.
The art surrounding ‘Montero’ served to explore his creative priorities with his debut, but also to give fans a taste of his sense of humor. When asked about his nudity on ‘Montero’s’ album art on Twitter, Lil Nas X explained that “it’s supposed to symbolize rebirth[,] also [I] just like being naked”.
Each one of the 16 songs on the album is also part of a promotional fundraiser for various charities. Of those, 14 charities, including Transinclusive Group (“Montero (Call Me By Your Name”), Relationship Unleashed (“Scoop (ft. Doja Cat)”) and The Normal Anomaly (“Life After Salem”, are part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative, which works to address the various issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in the Southern United States.
The two exceptions — the Cade Foundation and The Bail Project — still focus on challenging issues. The Cade Foundation (“Void”) helps support infertile couples to create families by funding adoption or fertility efforts, while The Bail Project (“Industry Baby (ft. Jack Harlow)”) works to end cash bail in the United States.
To donate to any of the 16 charities, potential donors can visit the Montero “baby registry” at www.welcometomontero.com/babyregistry. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend streaming ‘Montero’. It’s the album we didn’t know we needed.