Georgia-native Lil Nas X burst into the music scene with the iconic country bop “Old Town Road” in 2019. He followed that up with other numerous chart-breaking singles, culminating in his debut album “MONTERO.” He had set high standards for himself, and this debut album tested his ability to live up to them. With this most recent release, Lil Nas X also had to establish his style and solidify his place within the rap game. The result was a fun, untethered hip-hop-adjacent album, the variety and free-spiritedness of which represented both strengths and weaknesses.
Energy is a guaranteed element and definitive objective for any Lil Nas X song; he raps with purpose, and the listener does not need to work too hard to know what a song is about. In the titular “MONTERO,” he explicitly expresses his romantic intentions through religious references: “I’m not fazed, only here to sin.” This characteristic brashness and confidence enliven many of the songs on this album. Lil Nas X’s frank and honest attitude is very refreshing. In “SCOOP,” both Lil Nas X and superstar Doja Cat indulge in self-flattery of the highest order. “No I ain’t feelin Sorry… I been in the crib goin crazy/ I been movin’ work on the daily.” On “INDUSTRY BABY,” the rapper celebrates his past accomplishments, as well as the promise of many more. “I told you long ago on the road/ I got what they waiting for.” These songs carry an infectious energy which brings the listener along for a great listening experience..
His direct delivery also takes a more touching turn on certain songs. In “THATS WHAT I WANT,” Lil Nas X expresses his desire to find love, a feeling that he has found difficult to alleviate. “I’m missing out, I know/ These days, I’m way too alone.” While not a particularly unique subject, the raw emotion that Lil Nas X employs during the chorus—“I want someone to love me”—fully connects artist to audience. The ability to evoke an emotional response in a listener is the mark of a true musician, whether it be through profound lyrics, delivery or energy.
Similarly, “SUN GOES DOWN” is a poignant song about the importance of overcoming adversity and understanding the value of life beyond momentary feelings of sadness. The nostalgic, bittersweet beat, along with the track’s lyrics, encapsulate a feeling of acceptance and hope. The album’s variety works especially well regarding the multitude of subjects covered in the lyrics. The topics of “MONTERO” never grow stale, as the rapper keeps listeners on their toes and continually gives them a reason to stay tuned in.
However, the variety of clashing musical styles does not work as well. While this album flaunts Lil Nas X’s ability to work with many different genres, his attempt to fit in rap, pop and rock has mixed results at best. On this album, Lil Nas X is most comfortable and expressive on the hip-hop influenced tracks, and this comfort is audibly apparent. It is difficult to top the conviction displayed on tracks such as “DOLLA SIGN SLIME” with Megan Thee Stallion and “SCOOP” with Doja Cat. On these trap-based songs, Lil Nas X slides onto the beat perfectly, and even if this type of song isn’t your cup of tea, his familiarity is undeniable. However, on the more rock-inspired tracks, such as “AM I DREAMING,” the artist and song do not complement one another. Lil Nas X has established himself as a very skilled rapper and artist overall, yet, he is still trying to find his footing when it comes to other genres. Similar songs such as “TALES OF DOMINICA” and “LIFE AFTER SALEM” also embody weaker points of the album.
Overall, “MONTERO” is a solid beginning to the promising career of one of rap’s most prominent up-and-comers. On “MONTERO,” Lil Nas X stays true to himself. The album brings his characteristic energy and deft delivery, firmly establishing his place among not only rap’s biggest stars, but the biggest names in music at large. Even the album’s flaws represent his willingness to venture into different styles. This is just the beginning for Lil Nas X, an already evident star, bound to only grow brighter.
Album Rating: 6.7
Best Songs: “INDUSTRY BABY,” “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name),” “THATS WHAT I WANT,” “DOLLA SIGN SLIME”
Best Feature: Jack Harlow (“INDUSTRY BABY”)