Lil Nas X’s Liberation Agenda Rides Again

‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ is the perfect reintroduction

Ryan.
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readMar 26, 2021

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Lil Nas X at the MTV Video Music Video Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on August 26, 2019. Photo: Efren Landaos/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

I watched the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” video no less than five consecutive times when it dropped at midnight last Friday, March 26.

When I randomly couldn’t sleep at 6 a.m. later that morning (symptoms of surviving a pandemic), I rolled over and watched it some more. I won’t go over all of the dope little nuances and easter eggs Lil Nas X packed into three minutes and 10 seconds; Mikelle Street did, and you should go read about them. Instead, I want to give appropriate language to the immediate impact this video is sure to have on both viewers and the industry, putting to rest any ideas that Nas X is just a one-trick pony.

Because of the scarcity of public-facing Black queer men in music, the very presence of this song will draw direct comparisons to Frank Ocean’s 2012 Channel Orange release. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. After reading Nas X’s letter to his 14-year-old self noting that the song is about a guy he met last summer, I don’t think he does either. Beyond that, there are enough aural and aesthetic differences for the comparisons to end there; the two artists can exist solidly in their own lanes.

To start, Lil Nas X is provocative and overt with the song’s messaging in a way that’s largely been accessible only to artists with notably less to say. The video tells the story of waking up innocent and unaware, being made to believe a thing about yourself is evil and that you’re hell-bound because of it, followed by the acceptance-turned-embrace of your darkest parts and the conquering power that brings. It isn’t a story specific to Nas X or Black queer men, but goddamn if I didn’t take it personally how clear he is about who he’s speaking for.

To start, Lil Nas X is provocative and overt with the song’s messaging in a way that’s largely been accessible only to artists with notably less to say.

With “Montero,” Nas X took on his big follow-up to “Old Town Road” with some self-awareness and intentionality. Since he first teased the song almost a year ago, I didn’t have high expectations for the whole…

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