Lil Nas X embraces queer lust and hellish imagery in new music video

By EMILY MELVIN
On March 31, 2021

Photo courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK, Wikipedia

If you ever wondered what going to hell is like, you might expect to enter the fiery afterlife on a stripper pole while wearing thigh high stiletto boots. Or at least that is how Lil Nas X plans on getting there before his date with the devil.

On Friday, March 26, 21-year-old singer and rapper Lil Nas X, most known for his 2019 single “Old Town Road,” released his latest track, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” which was accompanied by a cinematic music video.

“MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” is named after the singer’s given name, Montero Lamar Hill, and exudes power in owning his name and associating it with his true identity: a young, gay Black man.

“In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see. We lock them away. We tell them ‘no.’ We banish them. But here, we don’t,” he said in the beginning of the video as he sat in a beautiful CGI Garden of Eden.

The graphics of the video are ethereal, and its enchanting components of color, style and visual effects easily captivate the viewer and ease them into the realm of temptation Lil Nas X is facing in the video (literally facing, as all of the characters in the video are played by Lil Nas X, further expressing his theme of his own name and identity).

The video proceeds to take Lil Nas X on a journey filled with religious allusions and imagery, leading him to shackles in the Colosseum before lastly strutting his way into hell. The video references the concepts of flawed religion and how one may feel like they can only feel love and lust in private.

Shared in his Genius “Official Lyrics & Meaning” video, the song itself is based on a lustful night Lil Nas X shared with a man over the summer, leading him to write the song the next day. His attraction led to desperation, emphasized in the song’s final lyrics: “Call me by your name / Tell me you love me in private / Call me by your name / I do not care if you lying."

The film “Call Me By Your Name” (2017) held influence on the song, as it was the first gay romance movie Lil Nas X watched and felt represented in with its beauty and vulnerability. His play on the movie title and including his own name is playful and intricate, and his biggest goal with this song and video is to bring queer narratives to the surface of popular media and music.

Lil Nas X prides himself in fully expressing his truest self. The song, and his career, is dedicated to his younger self, in which he shared in a heartfelt Instagram post:

“dear 14 year old montero, i wrote a song with our name in it. it’s about a guy i met last summer,” he wrote. "i know we promised to never come out publicly, i know we promised to never be ‘that’ type of gay person, i know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”

“you see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say i’m pushing an agenda,” he continued. “but the truth is, i am. the agenda to make people stay the f--- out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. sending you love from the future.”

He has been receiving consistent backlash for his video, especially being targeted by highly religious and right-leaning people. Many are dissatisfied with his vulgar and provocative dance moves, lyrics and imagery in the song, claiming Lil Nas X will corrupt children.

Additionally, his inappropriate take of hell is has been deemed unholy by some religious groups. However, this is quite contradictory to other religious beliefs that claim all queer people will end up in hell for simply existing.

Only a few hours after the release of the video, Lil Nas X tweeted “y’all love saying we going to hell but get upset when I actually go there lmao.” People cannot shame a man for his sexuality only to shame him for ending up where his sexuality will supposedly lead him.

Lil Nas X is a powerful, creative and incredibly hilarious performer, and clearly his content is not geared towards every audience. His video, though very sexually fueled, only depicts a clever theme in a fun, queer way.

If you are offended by his video or dislike his content, there is a simple solution: stop watching the video and listen to an artist you do like.

 

emelvin@ramapo.edu

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