Lil Nas X’s latest release solidifies him as the king of music marketing

“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is as unapologetic as it is controversial

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By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

Before March 26, Atlanta-based pop singer-songwriter Lil Nas X had established himself as much more than a one-hit wonder. Sure, none of the songs he’s released since “Old Town Road” have reached that hit’s uber-popularity, but that’s essentially an impossible threshold to meet.

With that being said, Lil Nas X’s latest release, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is approaching “Old Town Road’s” stratosphere. Between the song itself, subsequent music video and signature shoe drop, “Montero” is generating far more controversy than “Old Town Road”.

The music video starts out with a psychedelic aesthetic and gets exponentially more provocative as it progresses. This provocation reaches its zenith in the outro of the song, as Lil Nas X slides down a pole to the depth of hell, proceeds to dance on the devil, then snaps his neck before becoming a demon-esque figure.

Naturally, the reactions to this video varied from general shock to absolute disgust—the latter of which was felt by many conservative Christians.

Pastor Greg Locke wrote in a recent tweet, “Lil Nas X doesn’t get a free pass because he’s black or because he’s gay. The dude is a Satanist. I don’t care about his skin color or his sexual perversity preference. I pray the power of Jesus Christ breaks the bondage of demonism in this young man’s life.”’

 

Pastor Greg Locke’s feeling was further exacerbated when Lil Nas X released shoes the following day. They featured a bronze pentagram, an upside-down cross, a Bible verse referring to Satan and even a drop of human blood. The shoes were aptly titled “Satan Shoes” and the 666 copies made, each priced at over $1,000, sold out in under a minute.

References to the devil and satanism in music are nothing new; they have been going on for decades. Popular metal band Slayer has featured a pentagram in their music covers, while current hip hop artists Trippie Redd and Lil Uzi Vert have made 666 a part of their moniker and wear upside down crosses. The sole difference between Lil Nas X and these musicians is that his references were so overt and discernible that it’s impossible to miss them looking at the shoes or watching the music video.

Given that he spent almost a year promoting “Montero” and planning the rollout for it, it is obvious that Lil Nas X was not only expecting this controversy but hoping for it too. He has fed into it through social media by posting a fake apology video for releasing the Satan shoes while mocking others who have criticized them or the music video.

He fully understands and is applying the notion of “any publicity is good publicity” in this situation. He understands that any controversy generated around this rollout will only lead to more streams of his song, more views of his music video and a larger platform for him as an artist and presence— and it has.

The song currently tops the Spotify streaming charts and has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube. Many of Lil Nas X’s tweets about the song have received six-figure like numbers on Twitter. The song’s viral status has to do not only with the satanic controversy surrounding the song, but Lil Nas X’s openness about its meaning.

While Lil Nas X came out of the closet almost two years ago, this piece is by far the most open and authentic he has been about his sexuality. It features various references to romantic and sexual relationships with men, an extreme rarity for pop songs—especially ones that are this popular. His authenticity on this song regarding this subject stands out from the rest of his discography which has focused on much simpler, fun and less thought-provoking themes.

Lil Nas X’s responses to the controversy have also been unapologetic. Just one day after the song’s release, he tweeted, “i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the s— y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.”

Only time will tell if the success of this song will increase going forward, but its viral popularity right now is telling. By staying true to himself and not backing down despite being mired in controversy, Lil Nas X has built a massive fanbase for himself that is both vocal and unwaveringly supportive. “Old Town Road” may have put him on the map, but “Montero” further ensures that he’s not leaving anytime soon.

Freeman Alfano can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @freemanalfano.