Lil Nas X’s debut album Montero is finally here. The viral singer and rapper has long faced accusations of being a “one-hit wonder” since his days of “Old Town Road,” and the Georgia native is finally replying with Montero, an album titled after his own name. His finished product is a genre-bending, addictive album that can be summed up as Lil Nas X times 100.
Lil Nas X first came to the scene with his viral smash hit “Old Town Road” in 2019. Since then, he’s released an EP along with dozens of remixes and garnered the co-sign of artists such as Doja Cat, Elton John and Miley Cyrus.
He’s also come out as gay, which has been a huge influence on his most recent album, which featured singles such as “Industry Baby” and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” which is close to surpassing one billion listens on Spotify.
It’s clear by now that Lil Nas X is a cultural force here to stay, but does his album back it up? The answer is a resounding yes.
The tracks on this album blend pop, hip-hop and rock in a fresh and unique way, and although some of the more pop-influenced tracks can lean on the generic side, it’s still a blend I haven’t seen anywhere else.
On the pop-heavy side, “That’s What I Want” is a fast-paced guitar pop track that at times feels like a run-of-the-mill pop song, but Lil Nas X’s vocals, especially his frequent change of flow, make it sound unique and distinctly him.
And that’s really the highest compliment I can give to the album: It feels like only something he could make. That’s where Montero is at its strongest — when it feels directly inspired by Lil Nas X’s experience in the industry, whether it is about overcoming his “one-hit wonder” branding or navigating the industry as an openly gay Black man.
A great example and my favorite on the project is “One of Me (ft. Elton John),” where Lil Nas X says, “If it ain’t Old Town Road, Lil Nassy ain’t playin.” When Lil Nas X references his personal journey to where he is, the songs feel powerful and one of a kind. This track along with “Void” are on the slower, softer side but are lyrically the best tracks on the album.
It’s also impressive the way Lil Nas X can transition across different kinds of flows and beats, riding each as effortlessly as the next. “Dead Right Now” is an excellent hip-hop track that sees Lil Nas X at the height of his rapping abilities, whereas the aforementioned “One of Me (ft. Elton John)” sees him melodically rapping and singing over a bouncy drum beat.
In contrast, there are some tracks where the lyricism is on the weaker side — and although these tracks are meant to be catchier, pop-ier tracks, they largely fall flat. Without the unique lyricism, they feel too generic, like club background music that everyone tolerates but doesn’t really catch onto.
“Scoop (ft. Doja Cat)” follows that formula and is probably the weakest track on the whole project. The beat is bare and too empty and the bars aren’t as hard-hitting as other tracks, making the Doja feature seem wasted all in all.
Another low point is “Lost in the Citadel,” a pop-rock song that doesn’t quite deliver on its metaphorical meaning enough and instead feels like a worse version of a Twenty One Pilots song.
But when the tracks do hit, they’re some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while. “Industry Baby” and “One of Me” are instant earworms, and the replay value is through the roof.
At times I wished the album felt more continuous and delivered a more thorough story of what Lil Nas X has been through, something closer to the Weeknd’s After Hours which delivers a story almost in chapters. But ultimately, the route chosen here still makes for very compelling singles that illustrate Lil Nas X’s journey.
Despite some weak and generic tracks, Montero is one of the freshest and most enjoyable albums in some time. With addictive, excellent production and Lil Nas X’s style oozing from every direction, Montero is a worthy debut album that showcases his creativity and ability to evolve as he continues to create work that only he can.