Lil Nas X has left his horseback at the “Old Town Road” and has instead teamed up with the devil in his newest music video. Lil Nas X has been making headlines with his new song, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” specifically due to its accompanying music video. The responses to the music video have been a mix of exhilarating and abhorring. The hate stems from a variety of reasons, but the common thread in the majority of Lil Nas X’s hate comments is homophobia.
“MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” is a hip-hop electropop song filled with heavy beats, sexual innuendos and gay pop-culture references. After “Old Town Road,” many people claimed Lil Nas X would be a one-hit wonder — a musician who would soon be forgotten. The teenager did not give up, however, and released popular songs such as “Panini” and “HOLIDAY.” “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” officially debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 Chart and the music video currently has over 100 million views. Montero is Lil Nas X’s real first name, making this song even more personal for the musician. Both the song and video were released on March 26 and have been gaining streams and views ever since. The song, while extremely catchy, owes much of its sensational popularity to the controversy and subsequent social media attention surrounding the music video.
The music video begins with a dreamy, cloudy fantasy world accompanied by a voiceover in which Lil Nas X says, “In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see. We lock them away. We tell them no and banish them. But here, we don’t. Welcome to Montero.” The guitar eases into the audio as the camera focuses on Lil Nas X, who is dressed as a snakeskin version of Eve and is sitting on colorful grass and leaning against a tree with a giant serpent swirling toward him. Lil Nas X then runs through a mystical garden and eventually finds himself being stoned in chains at the Colosseum.
The video takes a turn when we find Lil Nas X pole dancing down from the clouds into his representation of hell. When he lands, Lil Nas X sultrily struts toward a large castle in over-the-knee, high-heeled latex boots as he’s surrounded by lava and fire. After arriving at the castle, Lil Nas X lap dances on the Devil. The fun ends there, as Lil Nas X ends his video by eventually snapping the devil’s neck and stealing his horns.
The lyrics have religious innuendos as well, as Lil Nas X sings, “I’m not fazed, only here to sin / If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can.” This is also arguably Lil Nas X’s most explicitly homosexual song, as he sings, “You live in the dark, boy, I cannot pretend.” Also, the “Call me when you want / Call me when you need / Call me out by your name,” lyrics are a reference to the “Call Me By Your Name” book by André Acimen and its movie adaptation.
The religious implications and explicitly gay lyrics and video have angered many people, while others have admired and applauded Lil Nas X for it. Homophobia is often intertwined with hate backed by religious reasonings. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community are familiar with the phrase, “You’re going to hell.” However, Lil Nas X decided to spin this hate into artistic expression and satire.
Bennett Owens, a senior double-majoring in political science and history, thought the hate Lil Nas X has been receiving humorous. Owens shared that he felt the video was clearly satire and a spin on the religious hate LGBTQ+ people have received for decades.
“In the video, Lil Nas X is embracing the fact that he’s gay,” Owens said. “He’s poking fun at the idea that he’s going to hell just because he’s gay. He’s like, ‘Guess what? I’m excited about it.’ And people are mad that he’s embracing the idea of going to hell.”
Singers and rappers have pushed boundaries for years and have increasingly grown more open with expressions of sexuality in their lyrics and music video. While it is true many female musicians have received hate for being too openly sexual — such as Cardi B, who was recently compared to Lil Nas X as being nonreligious due to their openly sexual music — most of their heterosexual male counterparts have been praised and rewarded for essentially doing the same thing.
Additionally, people have said “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” is inappropriate for kids. “Old Town Road” was adored by many children, despite having many sexual innuendos and meanings. While Lil Nas X’s career may have started with a younger fan base, the musician is now 21 and his new music reflects his age and maturity.
Katelyn Houghtalen, a senior majoring in human development, saw the controversy about people saying the “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” music video was offensive toward religion and inappropriate. She reflected on a post she saw about older explicitly sexual and inappropriate songs which were not met with tons of online hate and anger from parents.
“I saw this post, and it was saying how The Weeknd won a Kid’s Choice Award for a song about cocaine and we listened to ‘S&M,’ by Rhianna — which is blatantly about sex — when we were little,” Houghtalen said. “When it’s about homosexuality, a song that alludes to sex is suddenly inappropriate. Where was that energy 10 years ago?”
Francesca Hooey, a senior majoring in biology, thought the comments about Lil Nas X’s music being inappropriate for children were being used as a scapegoat for their homophobia.
“I understand that the video is pretty R-rated, but so are most hip-hop videos,” Hooey wrote. “People are just using this as an excuse to express their homophobic feelings toward Lil Nas X for expressing his sexuality in his music.”
Lil Nas X also responded on Twitter to the claims that “Old Town Road” was an anthem for children and therefore he needed to be an appropriate role model for children.
“I literally sing about lean & adultery in [“Old Town Road”],” Lil Nas tweeted. “U decided to let your child listen. blame yourself.”
Nevertheless, Lil Nas X’s social media accounts have been flooded with hate comments. Many have tweeted and posted scathing remarks about the young musician and his sexuality, including politicians like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Almost all of them have used religious reasoning to justify their disgust over the music video.
“Is it the digs at religion people are mad about?” Houghtalen said. “Or is it the fact that it’s just gay?”
While the internet has been in flames of controversy over Lil Nas X’s music video and notorious “Satan shoes,” there has also been an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the song and video. Representation in art forms for LGBTQ+ is important because it normalizes it, paves the road for future LGBTQ+ creatives, pushes boundaries and possibly enlightens other people on other sexualities and genders.
“There are LGBTQ+ people everywhere,” Owens said. “Why can’t they be represented in rap? They should be represented in every genre. In every field of artistic creativity.”
Houghtalen said while it is crucial for there to be more LGBTQ+ representation in general, Lil Nas X coming out is an important moment in pop culture because he is a Black, gay rapper and hip-hop singer.
“Being a rapper, there’s a lot of pressure to be manly and macho, especially in American culture,” Houghtalen said. “I feel like being a gay man is seen as the complete opposite of that. On top of that, he’s also a Black man. That’s two intersecting minorities placed on him. He’s not just a gay man, he’s not just a Black man, he’s a Black gay man. That’s another underrepresented minority group, so it’s really positive to have a role model for kids like that.”
The music video currently has 3.9 million likes and only 400,000 dislikes. Fans on TikTok have created hilarious videos and memes about Lil Nas X’s video and in response to the hate against “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” Lil Nas X is right on page with his fans, as he has taken a fun and hilarious twist on all of the hate he’s gotten. His Instagram and Twitter are filled with memes and salty clap-backs against haters.
“i hope my haters are sad. i hope they are crying,” Lil Nas tweeted. “I want your tears to fill my grammy cup.”
On Twitter, Lil Nas X also laughed after discovering Fox News discussed his music video and questioned why there was a church gathering to discuss his “Satan shoes” despite the ongoing pandemic. He also has posted memes responding to tweets directed at him claiming he will go to hell. Even Kaitlin Bennett, an American gun rights activist, tweeted asking if Lil Nas X still saw his dad, alluding that gay people cannot have healthy relationships with their parents.
“omg if you roll down your window at [Chick-fil-a] playing [“MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”] they give you a free sandwich and a lemonade,” Lil Nas X tweeted.
While Lil Nas X has admitted the hate can get to him and that he hides it with humor, Hooey viewed his continuous effort to respond to the hate and refusal of backing down on social media as admirable.
“The hip-hop culture can be very toxic toward gay individuals, but Lil Nas X is showing us that it is OK to be whoever you want to be and to not be confined by other people’s standards,” Hooey wrote. “I’m glad that he responds to the individuals that hate on social media to show he is not going to back down and he is going to continue to express his true self whether people like it or not.”
It’s not all fun and games for Lil Nas X, as he has spoken out about the distress he’s gone through when he was closeted and how important it is to him now to be openly gay.
“i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay,” Lil Nas tweeted. “So i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”
With the song’s release, Lil Nas posted a letter to his 14-year-old self. In the letter, he wrote how he knows his younger self never wanted to come out publicly and that his younger self promised to never be openly and explicitly gay, nor proud of it. His letter revealed a mindset many young LGBTQ+ people have and how Lil Nas X’s coming out may help others. It also showed a more vulnerable side to the musician — a side that was once scared to be unapologetically queer.
“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry they will say i’m pushing an agenda,” Lil Nas X wrote. “But the truth is, i am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. Sending you love from the future.”