Lil Nas X has never been shy about his desire to be known around the world, but now, he is seeking to deepen the connection, revealing the man behind the memes—the real “Montero,” his birth name. In his confessional debut album, the musician gives his fans a piece of him—the faux pregnancy belly in his marketing roll-out more metaphor than promotional gimmick. Below, Vogue’s five biggest takeaways after listening to the record.
All that glitters is not gold
Building on the vulnerability of singles like “Sun Goes Down,” Lil Nas X shares the painful parts of his past, and present, position. In tracks like “Void,” he talks about the lows he has hit behind the scenes of what might appear to be a wholly glamorous, successful life; the traps he feels in the way he’s perceived; the pressure to maintain his success; and the loneliness at the top.
He is looking for love
Many of the songs on Montero are about failed relationships. “Dead Right Now” appears to reflect on a circa-2018 breakup in which the other person initially lost interest, but tried to come back into Lil Nas X’s life after seeing his success. Likewise, “Life After Salem” seems to speak of feeling used, and in “Lost in the Citadel,” he sings of an on-off relationship he hoped would last for eternity, but which wasn’t fully reciprocated. On a happier note, in “Thats What I Want,” he lays out exactly what he’s looking for in a partner now, down to the Afro and gold teeth. If you fit the criteria, he’s more than ready for someone to love.
He is still the master genre-bender
Lil Nas X was ahead of pop punk’s current crescendo, recording a collaboration with Travis Barker back in 2019. Now he rides the genre’s resurgent wave solo with a new, diverse generation in “Tales of Dominica,” while “Lost in the Citadel” plays with a classic rock sound, and “Dolla Sign Slime” feels like a tongue-in-cheek take on trap music. It reinforces Lil Nas X’s status as the king of genre-bending—see his country-rap mega-hit “Old Town Road.” With a nod to his countrified beginnings, Montero ends with a track in which he reflects on his legacy with Miley Cyrus—her twang and acoustic guitar front and center.
He knows that he, Doja Cat, and Megan Thee Stallion are this generation’s brightest new stars
In an album full of well-thought-out collaborations, the songs on which Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion feature allow them to rightfully gloat about their success, and reflect on all the work they have put in—whether on their bodies or during overtime in the studio—to get where they are today.
He is finally floating above the noise
In his Apple Music interview, Lil Nas X mentions that he has changed how he reacts to hate. “I’ve learned to let people’s comments roll off my back,” he says. On the track “One of Me,” he is hyper-aware of the negativity directed at him—the commentary calling him a one-hit wonder, a joke, desperate for attention, and all the noise about how he should or shouldn’t act. But he found a way to offer a retort without using a single word, tapping Elton John—a musician with a decades-long career, who has similarly faced massive backlash for his vocal pride—to do the piano accompaniment for the song. The keys that play the track out speak volumes.