On March 26, Lil Nas X dropped “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” the title track for his upcoming debut album Montero. He had been teasing the song for weeks. After debuting in a Super Bowl LV commercial, the song became a mainstay on the artist’s TikTok account. The most memorable was the series of TikToks where Lil Nas X danced to the song wearing a pair of fake breasts that he had purchased because he was “bored.”
You could say the hype was real.
However, nobody was expecting the cultural impact the song would have. The song is on its second week at No.1 on Billboard’s Global 200. Meanwhile, the video is a 3-minute whirlwind that follows Lil Nas X as he is seduced in the Garden of Eden, stoned to death in the Colosseum, and pole dances to hell to give the devil a lap dance only to murder him and take the throne for himself.
It is also a blatant celebration of Lil Nas X’s queerness.
Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Hill, has discussed his past struggles with religion and his sexuality, asserting in a CBS interview that he used to “pray” that it was “just a phase.” His new song, along with the upcoming album, bearing his name, is a symbol of him embracing his homosexuality. Lil Nas X also published a letter to his 14-year-old self on his social media the day the video dropped acknowledging his growth: “… I know we promised to die with this secret, but this [song] will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”
Lil Nas X also uses his religious background as inspiration for his queer narrative. Opening the Garden of Eden, the audience watches as Adam is seduced by a male snake. The snake represents temptation/sin and, with homosexuality being considered a sin by many Christians, having Adam give into the snake’s “temptation” also symbolizes embracing his homosexuality.
It’s a brilliant subversion that is only bolstered with Lil Nas X’s pole dance to hell as he restyles the idea of “gay people going to hell” as an act of empowerment.
Yet, despite the waves of praise the video has received, it also garnered equal backlash. Notable figures from rapper Joyner Lucus to right-wing media personality Candace Owens and even South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem have all criticized Lil Nas X on Twitter.
However, as the artist cheekily tweeted, “y’all love saying [gay people are] going to hell but get upset when I actually go there lmao.”
In addition to his symbolism-packed video, Lil Nas X also manages to capture the unique experiences of male homosexuality in the song’s lyrics. He makes reference to “Call Me by Your Name,” a famous book by Andre Aciman that was later turned into a movie directed by Luca Guadacnino. Lil Nas X told Billboard that the movie was one of his inspirations to write the song. “That was one of the first gay films that I had watched, and I thought the theme was so dope of calling somebody by your own name,” he said.
Though, when looking at the song only by its lyrics, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is simply a love letter written by Lil Nas X to a guy. In the same interview with Billboard, Lil Nas X said, “Oh I like this guy a lot, and started writing the song the next day.”
Throughout the song, listeners would begin to understand aspects that have been generalized within the gay community — toxic one-sided love, the leisure usage of drugs, and how looks are the predominant factor of hierarchy. If Grindr was a song, this would be it!
Want to know more? Check out The New Hampshire website to listen to our podcast analyzing Lil Nas X’s new song at tnhdigital.com.
Photos courtesy of Columbia Records.