This is Why You’re Offended By Lil Nas X’s Black Queer Art
What you see in the artist’s latest is a function of what you bring to it
The video for Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” may not shock everyone who encounters it, but I think it’s safe to say that it is shocking to most people who encounter it. I find this shock largely amusing, but then I’m a Prince fan who played Dungeons & Dragons in the ’80s. I’ve seen this kind of pearl-clutching before.
Everything about Lil Nas X is hilarious and his resting smirk face suggests even he thinks so. He knows what he’s doing with his music, and his videos, and his presence, and he doesn’t care that you know that he knows. Lil Nas X is a troll with a budget, and the most important question about his work is if you are going to be the subject of his trolling. And the quickest way to answer that question is to decide if you are genuinely offended, damaged, or hurt by what he presents — but more importantly, by what he represents. Because no one is really offended by the presence of sexuality or blasphemy in music that they like. What people are offended by is Lil Nas X’s sexuality specifically.
If you don’t like his music that’s completely understandable, though I must admit I’m not at all interested in whether or not anybody likes his music. What I find vastly more interesting is whether anybody is offended by the execution of his rights.
I saw my first Prince record at seven years old; he was naked and riding a pegasus on the back cover of the album. Not once was I ever tempted to strip naked and jump on the back of a sawhorse in response.
Admittedly, Black communities have a different relationship with that question than other communities. We lean a little more conservative on sexual politics in the public sphere than some, and for a variety of historical reasons, most of them traumatic. It’s only within the last generation that Lil Nas X’s career is possible at the level at which he succeeds. Yes, Bessie Smith…