57 Million Views Later...
( @lilnasx / Instagram )
Pole dancing your way into hell sounds like a shitty Tumblr joke, but Lil Nas X has made the prospect extraordinarily appealing this past week.
Lil Nas X stole the internet spotlight as all eyes flew to his new music video for his single Montero (Call Me By Your Name). Featuring overt biblical references, explicit lyrics and a certain satanic lap dance, one can see why the timeline has blown up. Yet when watching the music video itself, there are sincere philosophical undertones and insightful commentary on sexuality as a whole.
Inspired by André Aciman book and 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, Nas X explores the concept of sin and lust in both his song and music video.
He begins the video with a prelude describing how some are forced to hide themselves or lock parts of themselves away; yet in Montero, “we don’t.” The music video is a not-so-subtle commentary on the anti-gay agenda usually pushed forward by religious groups. As the artist is seduced by the serpentine snake, similar to Eve in that indie book I forget the name of, he leans into the idea of homosexuality being a sin and out of his control. Yet, as he faces trial and is raised into the air for salvation, he descends into hell in the infamous pole dance scene.
Although shocking imagery in it’s own right, it also serves as an unmistakable “you thought” to the symbolism from before. He takes hold and control over his identity, regardless of the labels and prejudices against homosexuality.
“Lil Nas X” is Montero Lamar Hill’s stage name. The not-so sneaky reveal of this moniker plays a crucial role in the artist’s commentary of forcibly hiding. As he begs his partner to “Call me when you want/Call me when you need/Call me by your name/I’ll be on the way,” he reveals the desperation he feels to be close with this person. So much so, he wants to hear his own name, not the public figure he is known for.
Of course, no one can ignore the pole dancing, lap dancing, murderous finale. As attention grabbing and Tik Tok-inspiring as it’s been, it also creates dialogue surrounding sex work and autonomy as a whole.
Sex work and embracing female seuxality has been a topic of contention in America. The divisive birth control legislation and lack of employment protections for sex workers has left women in sex work in a difficult situation. In Montero’s acceptance and glamorization of these aspects, he is able to both shock and provoke thoughts around sex work.
I’m not saying giving Satan a lap dance is in a sex worker’s repetoire, but seeing a prominent male rapper/singer embrace a pivotal part of a socially taboo position emphasizes autonomy. Although from a male perspective, Nas X’s connection between sexuality and independence can resonate with women experiencing a similar pressure to suppress.
The public’s reaction to the music video has had massive public approval despite the similar amount of hate speech in response. FKA Twigs both drew attention to the similarities between the Montero and Cellophane music videos, but expressed support in Lil Nas X’s dialogue as a whole. The author of Call Me By Your Name also revealed that if his story had any influence on the song, “then that's beyond anything I could have ever imagined or hoped for” in an interview with the magazine, them.
There have been mixed emotions regarding the music video, but you can’t deny that it is provocative, imaginative and profound.
Kaylinn Escobar is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She is passionate about Greek dramas, bad YA fiction, and Japanese stationery. Her passions are representing marginalized groups, critiquing contemporary trends, and rewatching beloved shows (Fleabag). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @kaylinnescobar for more info.