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  • Cy White


It's obvious that the immediate appeal of Lil Nas X's debut album is going to be the hype surrounding his unabashed and fearless expression of his sexuality. However, he's not the first openly gay MC, and isn't even the first to be exceptionally explicit (at least lyrically). All I care about is the music.

Musically, there are some interesting compositional moments on MONTERO. The use of synth horns is a surprising way to add some texture to otherwise one-dimensional beats. Surprising instrumentals, in fact, are a common theme throughout. Giving music that's otherwise uninspiring something to grab on to.

An undercurrent of what sounds like crowd traffic pervades the album. Lil Nas X wants an audience, and he makes it blatantly clear by adding this rumbling undertone of chatter. A clever bit of aural imagery that drives home the point that he knows he's being watched and he loves the attention.

Lyrically, Lil Nas does have incredible depth when he wants to. "DEAD RIGHT NOW" is a highly unexpected follow-up song to the lead single. Away from the visuals, he stands on his own as a lyricist. There's no real need to be as ostentatious as he is. But, hey, this is how art works. "Necessity" is subjective and isn't really the point. Lil Nas X is an entire package, and that includes his penchant for making a spectacle. But removed from it he's still a talented lyricist with clean penmanship. Tracks like "THAT'S WHAT I WANT" and "ONE OF ME" attest to the emotional anchor that drives most of his lyrics. Featuring Elton John on the latter is another way to bring some musical scope to what could be mistaken for superficial composition.

"SUN GOES DOWN" and "VOID" really illustrate the genuine soul of Lil Nas. He's an emotive, tender and unapologetically open artist who, while not the best singer or rapper, speaks from a place of unwavering realness.

Though MONTERO offers moments of rap, it's more or less a pop offering. However, it's got grit and depth, taking it far beyond the glossy, busy packaging to bring the artist back down to earth and allowing listeners to see who he is away from their preconceived notions.

So how does Lil Nas X's MONTERO stand up away from the fanfare, the spectacle, the circus surrounding his persona? Quite well. It's a poignant representation of the young man. An emotional look into the mind and soul of someone who's still figuring out how to navigate a world that will continue to judge him for his existence. He relishes in vexing the masses. But that doesn't mean his heart isn't in the art. Musically it's interesting in parts but does very little to distinguish itself from anything else. However, as a cohesive piece, MONTERO is an earnest work of art that deserves honest consideration simply because Lil Nas X really means every word he says. The man himself isn't a gimmick no matter the cirque du extravagance surrounding him. Listen to MONTERO. The music is what matters, and Lil Nas X does good work to drive that point home.


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