The devil works hard, but Lil Nas X works harder

Lil Nas X new song sparks controversy. Photo courtesy of Vulture.

MADELEINE HALL  |  STAFF REPORTER  |  mghall1@butler.edu 

Lil Nas X’s March 26 single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, features him dancing with the devil — or rather, on the devil. Filled with both sexual imagery and biblical references, the controversial music video was met with a mix of praise and outrage from listeners. The heart of the controversy lies within the public’s discomfort with homosexual imagery and lyrics.

The inspiration

The song was partially inspired by the 2017 film of the same name, “Call Me By Your Name,” starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. The song is named after the artist himself — whose full name is Montero Lamar Hill — and references the man who inspired the song.

“It was one of the first gay films that I had watched,” Lil Nas X said in a Genius’ “Verified” Interview. “I thought the theme was so dope, like calling somebody by your own name is love, keeping the love between you two.”

Connor Barak, a first-year arts administration major said he had not seen someone be so unapologetically queer and that it was inspiring to him.

“Queer people have been around for a long time and now he’s bringing that to the forefront and I think that’s really powerful,” Barak said. “The religious symbolism takes the criticism that a lot of the queer community gets and flips it on its head and reclaims the power in that situation.”

Controversy and criticism 

The biblical references in Lil Nas X’s music video are not subtle. One of the main critiques comes from viewers who express anger in using the Bible’s creation stories to promote sodomy. The video features Lil Nas X portraying both Adam and the serpent in the Garden of Eden where they kiss, in addition to him pole-dancing his way to hell and offering Satan a lap dance. The video ends with Lil Nas X snapping Satan’s neck and taking his horns.

Camille Loftis, a sophomore dance performance and French major, said that this was something new she noticed after viewing the video, but it was not something she had an issue with.

“I think it was playing off the common stereotypes of evangelical homophobic Christians and that raises the discussion [about] how different Christians think about anything that is not the heteronormative, biblical norm,” Loftis said.

There has also been criticism of the appropriateness of the video due to the fact that younger age groups also listen to Lil Nas X. Some students, such as Aidan Kohnke, a first-year political science major, felt that the video went too far regarding the exposure to younger audiences.

“In terms of being mainstream, I feel like it went too far, but in terms of him putting himself out there and showing who he is, no — he has the right to do whatever he wants,” Kohnke said. “Younger audiences will likely see it, given [his] previous songs have gone nationally so it may have gone too far for exposing younger children.”

Industry hypocrisy 

In comparison to other recent songs, such as “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, students feel that “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is not nearly as provocative. There is already an abundance of sensual songs about heterosexual relationships, but far less about gay ones.

“I don’t think it’s as bad as WAP, but WAP definitely didn’t get the backlash it should’ve deserved and I think that’s simply because it was straight rather than homosexual,” Kohnke said.

Although some lines of the song are incredibly explicit, Lil Nas X said he intended it this way to bring queer narratives into popular music. The lyrics are different from his previous songs in a way that shows off the artist’s personal side.

“What it represents, the song itself within the industry — it has so many key points, which is why it’s gonna be important for me and a lot of other people, it felt really great,” Lil Nas X said.

Acceptance

Barak said he admired how Lil Nas X created an anthem where he fully embraces his sexuality because he is beginning to normalize queer representation in mainstream music for other artists.  

“Lil Nas is such a huge name, especially in recent years as he’s come into mainstream fame, so him doing something this outspoken carves the path for many smaller artists to express themselves in similar narratives,” Barak said.

In response to the backlash received from his music video, Lil Nas X has used his various social media platforms to not only respond but also to promote his work. He’s clapped back at people on Twitter, reposted TikToks to his Instagram and even dropped extra YouTube videos, truly showing that any press is good press. 

Though not everyone is a fan of what he created, the song’s placement at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart show that whether controversial or not, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” has impacted many listeners.

“I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the sh*t y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay,” Lil Nas X tweeted. “so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”

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