Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ music video is bold queerness for all the right reasons

Photo of Lil Nas X record
Lil Nas X/Courtesy

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At this point, you’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard Lil Nas X’s latest hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” which has been praised, condemned, celebrated, shunned and everything in between by a variety of audiences from just about every demographic. Lil Nas X’s latest release is steeped in queer references: From the famous book and movie of the same name to the references to his own personal relationship with another man, the song is in no way subtle about its portrayal of the singer’s sexuality. 

In particular, the song’s music video has caused some contention on social media, most notably when Lil Nas X beefed with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and even ended up on Fox News over the video’s promiscuous and sexually suggestive content. Opening on a queer-centered retelling of the story of the Garden of Eden, the video shows the singer dramatically descending to hell as he grinds on a stripper pole, lap dancing with the devil and eventually stealing the devil’s horns — all immediately obvious biblical references. He’s since stated that any religious association is entirely intentional, based on the trauma he experienced as a young gay man in an unaccepting religious household, and dedicated the song to his 14-year-old closeted self. 

The explosion of outrage following the release of the music video was not only expected by Lil Nas X — he wrote on Twitter that he knew he would be accused of “pushing an agenda” — but it was probably desired to an extent, stirring buzz about his upcoming music and narrowing the audience down to fans who would be wholly supportive of his queer identity and all that it encompasses. 

After “Old Town Road” had a 19-week streak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, becoming the chart’s longest-running top single, everyone was aware of Lil Nas X: from the young kids who chanted his songs in their gymnasium to parents and radio listeners of any age. Following such widespread success, it’s reasonable that Lil Nas X might want to swiftly cut down his audience to just those who wholeheartedly support the future directions of his music, which is rooted in queer authenticity, and it in no way seems to be impacting the chart-topping success of his music. 

Mostly, it’s incredible that Lil Nas X can make this music video — and in doing so, be so incredibly upfront about his queerness — and still have his song debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, regardless of what homophobic people may think. The success of “Call Me By Your Name” proves that queer people are a powerful demographic for the music industry, which can only help queer artists of the future in making their songs even more queer-centered and truthful. Lil Nas X has shown us that queer people deserve to have more artists, chart-topping or not, who are unapologetically queer: artists making music for queer people, centered on the unique ideas of the queer experience. 

As long as it is presented boldly and authentically, Lil Nas X proves that the queer experience sells records, which likely wouldn’t have been the case even mere years ago. To even be able to say that Lil Nas X doesn’t need or want homophobic people to listen to his music is all the more angering to them, making listening to his songs all the more rewarding for his queer fans. 

Furthermore, in making this music video, Lil Nas X addresses head-on the problematic idea that queer people are only acceptable if they conform to the notions and ideals of heterosexual society. Queer people have been encouraged to keep their personality and life almost independent of their queerness, being respectable in straight society rather than provocative and challenging anyone’s beliefs. In fact, some of Lil Nas X’s fans in the past have stated that they loved him because he didn’t act like the stereotype of a gay man, making him acceptable to them even if they didn’t support queer people. Admirably through this song, Lil Nas X has tackled this idea held by parts of his fanbase head-on, stating that if fans don’t like his identity — boldly and in its entirety — they shouldn’t be his fans. 

In this sense, Lil Nas X has no responsibility to cater his releases to any demographic, whether it be children who loved “Old Town Road” or the queer fans he seems to be enticing with his newer releases. As long as Lil Nas X remains an authentic, creative and original artist as he does with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” the right fans will follow suit. 

Caitlin Keller covers LGBTQ+ media. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @caitlinkeller20.