“Dorothy, I don’t think we’re on the Old Town Road anymore,” as the saying goes. Lil Nas X ditches the quaint world of horseback commuting for the highway to hell in “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” a music video that explores a queer realm of mythological fantasy, trading in his former Western wear for surreal images that land somewhere far east of Eden.
Most provocative in the new video, perhaps, is a “save a horse, ride a demon” scene in which Nas engages a throned satanic figure in a lap dance, before the devil gets his violent due.
At the same time he posted the wild video late Thursday night, the rapper also took to social media to post an open letter to his 14-year-old self, whom he addresses by his real name — Montero — in explaining why he’s taking his coming out in farther-out directions.
“Dear 14-year-old Montero, I wrote a song with our name in it,” Nas wrote in the message. “It’s about a guy I met last summer. 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. You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. Sending you love from the future. — LNX.”
The lyrics themselves tell a much more down-to-earth story than the video, as “the guy I met last summer” doesn’t sound like too clean-living of a partner. “Baby you livin’ the life but [N-word] you ain’t living right / Cocaine and drinking witcha’ friends / You live in the dark boy, I cannot pretend / I’m not fazed, only here to sin / If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can / Call me when you want…” The track gets still more NSFW, as he describes a trip to Hawaii and admits, “I want that jet lag from fuckin’ and flyin’ / Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin’.”
The video does actually begin in the biblical garden of Eden, with a serpentine-humanoid figure that Nas encounters there mirroring the actual horned devil that he encounters in the underworld toward the end of the video… and seduces with a provocative lap dance. Following that grinding, horn-snapping and head-snapping ensue. If Lil Nas X doesn’t get to reascend to heaven, he at least acquires flapping wings and glowing eyes that signify some kind of (possibly avenging?) angel-hood.
The digital effects-filled video, which Nas co-directed with Tanu Muino, begins with a message: “In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see. We lock them away. We tell them, ‘No.’ We banish them. But here, we don’t.”
The plot is difficult to describe, but thankfully a synopsis was issued to help provide Cliff Notes for following the rampant symbolism in the video.
“The story opens in a lush Garden of Eden where Nas first introduces the theme of duality, which is displayed throughout the video,” it begins. “He plays the role of Adam as well as the snake that tempts him into giving in to the carnal desires he was forbidden to explore, and we see the two merge and become one. Following a nod to Plato’s Symposium displayed on the tree of life, a shackled up Nas finds himself at his execution day in the Colosseum, where he is surrounded by and receiving judgment from various versions of himself. Once he has been executed, he ascends to heaven only to be pulled down to hell where he harnesses his sexuality to seduce the devil and strip him of his power as an evil force — and dismantling the throne of judgment and punishment that has kept many of us from embracing our true selves out of fear.”
Lil Nas X did an interview about the song and video and his upcoming album with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe on the eve of the single’s release. “It’s brought a new confidence out of me,” he told Lowe. “To be able to say, ‘You know what? I want to do this.’ And I don’t give a fuck who’s upset about it. I feel like the moment I put this snippet out of this song, I just started to see a shift in myself gradually. The world’s going to keep spinning. But I can do what I want in my own artistic career at all times or I’m going to fail, for me at least. That’s how I feel.”
The performer had already signaled an intent to go all in with heavy mythological or biblical symbolism, previously posting single artwork for the song that portrays himself as both God and man — or a kind of cupid and man — in a takeoff of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling art.
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