‘Montero’: First Reaction: Song by Song

  1. Montero (Call Me By Your Name): A song we’ve all heard by now; the endlessly controversial chart-topper that fully eliminated any risk that Lil Nas X would be remembered as a one-hit wonder. My controversial opinion here, is that I find the song itself the least interesting thing about ‘Montero (CMBYN)’. I think the promotion around this song was incredibly well-done, I think the music video is pure art and incredibly ground-breaking. But the music itself, is just meh to me. Beyond some interesting lyricism, this song feels more like a demo than a finished studio version; the vocals are a mixed bag, the production and mixing is rough around the edges and the song – at two minutes, 18 seconds – is too short to fully come into it’s own.
  2. Dead Right Now: This is definitely a step up from the last song. I really like the trumpet-led instrumentation and the production is a lot slicker than on the title track. The lyricism here is affecting and personal; providing a needed contrast from Nas X’s usual irony-heavy persona. My only criticism is I kept waiting for this song to take off in a way it didn’t.
  3. Industry Baby (Ft. Jack Harlow): This is definitely the best pre-release single from this album; the Kanye West assisted production does wonders, the chorus is one of the clearest and most infectious Lil Nas X has ever had in a song. Meanwhile, Jack Harlow brings his A game here and fits surprisingly well on the song. The rich instrumentation here, meanwhile, delivers on the sense of grandeur alluded to in the album’s rollout and on the album cover.
  4. That’s What I Want: It’s very catchy, but a little dated and overly commercial……wait……Ryan Tedder produced this? Ok that explains it. (Otherwise, Nas X presents an obviously very sincere presentation of his loneliness, but it’s not expressed lyrically in a particularly novel way.)
  5. The Art of Realization: Interlude
  6. Scoop (ft. Doja Cat): “I been workin’ on my body / You ever seen a n*gga hit pilates?” is a line that sounds like something off the new Drake album. // 1:35: WHY does Doja Cat put that inflection on her vocals so often, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. This track is gonna be made into some sort of viral Tiktok challenge isn’t it?
  7. One of Me (Ft. Elton John): So I was wondering how Elton John was gonna work on this album, but apparently he doesn’t contribute vocals here, which makes sense I guess. The song dissects Nas X’s opponents with surgical precision: “Word on the block is you fell off and I’m just sayin’ / If it ain’t ‘Old Town Road’, Lil Nassy, I ain’t playin'”.
  8. Lost In The Citadel: “do your dreams still seem in them?” is a real melodic math clunker. // 0:30: wait??? Is Lil Nas X going in a pop punk direction? Lil Nas X has never been the strongest lyricist, and this song is a showcase of that. I enjoyed the sonic switch up here though.
  9. Dolla Sign Slime (Ft. Megan Thee Stallion): This was probably the collab I was most excited for ahead of this album. I have no idea what ‘Dolla Sign Slime’ means, though. There’s some of the album’s cleverest lines here: “Now I’m with the hits like I’m Babe Ruth”. Megan’s contribution here isn’t one of her strongest performances.
  10. Tales of Dominica: Oh no, the lyrics in the chorus are reminding of that awful Dixie D’Amelio song ‘One Whole Day’ (“For one day, one day / I was really, really, really, really sad”). The most genuinely affecting moments here are when Nas X zooms in on small, personal details (“Plastic bed”, “I can’t face her face”)
  11. Sun Goes Down: This song is a beautiful, understated ode to Nas X’s self-hating younger self. I wish this single had performed better commercially. It reminds me a lot of Logic’s ‘1-800’. I suspect this song will help a lot of the people who hear it.
  12. Void: The melancholy expressed on this song seems real, but the expression of it (“I been feeling small as the salt in the sea”) is a little cliched (like ‘That’s What I Want’). It’s not a bad song by any means, I just feel like it treads the same ground as the previous track, just less effectively. I will say, however, that I appreciate these moments where Lil Nas X is more sincere and genuine (as much as I also love when he’s flipping off the haters with his high-camp antics). This is also one of the more narratively interesting songs here.
  13. Don’t Want It: Well-deserved braggadocio here; “I’m fucking living proof that if you want it, you can have anything right before your eyes”.
  14. Life After Salem: I did not expect the Lingua Ignota vibes the first few seconds of this song would give me lol. Going for a ‘Happier Than Ever’ mid-way switch up here, it seems. That electric guitar-infused chorus is killer, I just wish it didn’t dissipate so quickly.
  15. Am I Dreaming (Miley Cyrus): Collabing with Miley is definitely the most left-field choice this album has taken in terms of features. Not a standout, but works perfectly well as an album closer. Lil Nas X sings “never forget me” and one thing’s for certain, after the last few years, I don’t think there’s any risk we will.

Final Thoughts: A respectable debut album. Definitely not perfect (too much filler, features don’t always elevate the songs, lyricism is a noted weak point, etc) but a clear step up from his last EP and his most conceptually-realised project to date. Shows a lot of promise.

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