Montero is high art (Picture: YouTube)
Roughly nine years (that’s what it feels like, anyway) after Lil Nas X first teased his song Call Me By Your Name, he has finally blessed us with the finished single and its accompanying video.
While queerness has been a thread through all of the rapper’s releases – he hinted at his sexuality before coming out with the lyrics of C7osure and rainbow lights on his album artwork, and every look associated with Old Town Road’s awards season run was an endorsement of the yee-haw agenda – Lil Nas X has never been so unapologetically queer than in the video for Montero (Call Me By Your Name).
He is chained up by captors in candy-coloured Regency wigs. He pole-dances in hell. He kisses a version of himself in a paradise where he doesn’t have to hide his true self. He gives Satan a lapdance before straddling the devil to simulate sex positions.
First thing’s first, Montero is an incredible video. There’s only a handful of artists serving us this level of creativity, narrative and innovation in their videos at the moment – Megan Thee Stallion, Beyonce, FKA twigs, Cardi B and Harry Styles come to mind – and Lil Nas X is among them.
As a child of Britney videos who is still impatiently waiting for the sequel to Lady Gaga’s Telephone, I have so much respect for visionary artists that still treat music videos as an art form and a playground to be explored, and Lil Nas X has done that with every release so far.
But Montero isn’t just important because it’s a visual feast. It is a manifesto of queerness and being comfortable with and proud of who you are, and I cannot imagine what it would mean for a queer kid to watch that in 2021 from a mainstream artist.
When I was growing up, you just didn’t really have gay stars. Sure, we had Sir Elton John and the memories of Freddie Mercury and k.d lang, but in mainstream pop, you had to be really, really big to come out, to make sure you had a career left when you did.
Stephen Gately only came out after having seven number ones with Boyzone, Mark Feehily came out publicly after releasing five albums with Westlife. I don’t remember any women coming out as gay or bisexual when I was young.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame any of them for keeping their sexuality a secret. That was something that could ruin careers and attract endless abuse and jokes; newspaper columns are burned into my memory of accusing popstars of ‘living in glass closets’ and ‘jumping on the Bi Bus’.
The lack of representation was even starker when you moved away from pop music and looked at hip-hop. While homophobia exists in all cultures, even those that claim to be allies, LGBTQ+ representations in hip-hop and rap have historically been very low, with many artists using homophobic language in their lyrics.
Up until a few years ago, it seemed impossible that a mainstream rapper would be able to come out as gay.
The last decade has seen milestones reached, with Tyler, the Creator coming out as gay and Frank Ocean revealing he was in love with a man, but homophobia is still rife in the industry.
Homophobic language is still used on tracks, toxic masculinity rules. Boosie Badazz copped major backlash for making transphobic comments about Dwyane Wade’s trans daughter, but he also had a lot of support.
Montero will likely get a lot of hate, despite hyper-sexualised but hetero videos from male rappers being the norm.
So for Lil Nas X to come out at the start of his career was incredibly brave and powerful. I know calling someone brave for being themselves is tiring, but it was.
At the time, Lil Nas X was sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 with Old Town Road with Billy Ray Cyrus, a song insanely popular with children and teens as well as adults. He opened himself up to a world of abuse from the two of the music genres with the most deep-rooted homophobia – country music and rap – by declaring himself to be a Black gay man.
In a heartbreaking note to his 14-year-old self to mark the release of Montero, Lil Nas X 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.’
This is no exaggeration. When a queer kid, particularly a Black queer kid, watches a Grammy-award winning rapper with major street cred and chart success dressing in drag as Nicki Minaj for Halloween, or wearing a pink wig, or performing lyrics about their male partner, they will know that it is acceptable.
They will know that their queerness is valid and loved by so many, and that being queer doesn’t inhibit them from being cool, or from success as a rapper, or from Blackness, or from finding love.
And straight kids will see an out and proud queer man and think nothing of it when their friends come out, or they encounter other LGBTQ+ kids in school.
Lil Nas X is changing the game (Picture: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)
Recently, I was walking in Dublin and saw a group of boys, around 12 or 13, hanging around outside a shop. They were stereotypical lads. One of them wore a Lil Nas X hoodie, and it warmed my heart.
I don’t know if that boy is straight or queer, but either way, he felt comfortable enough to wear that hoodie because to him, Lil Nas X is just his favourite artist. I can guarantee you that no boy when I was in school would have been outwardly wearing the merch of a gay artist, for fear of being mercilessly bullied.
We still have an incredibly long way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance, particularly when it comes to our trans brothers and sisters.
But it warms my heart that kids today can stan JoJo Siwa and go to Lil Nas X concerts and be their true authentic selves, and have more out and proud role models to look up to in the mainstream.
This will lead to aspiring musicians entering the industry being their queer selves and releasing authentic music because people like Lil Nas X led the way, and soon, we won’t have to celebrate those milestones anymore.
In between winning Grammys, creating art and being a style icon, Lil Nas X is proud to be pushing an agenda. It’s not the gay agenda, as much as his critics would like to say that.
His objective is, instead, ‘To make people stay the f*** out of people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be’.
That’s an agenda I’m happy to subscribe to.
Credit: Original article published here.