Benefits of Controversy: Lil Nas X Strips Down to True Self
Nyasa HM, contributor
Just in time for Easter Sunday, rapper Lil Nas X gave religious people, along with all who listen to his music, something to talk about. While sliding down a stripper pole to hell, Lil Nas X sang his new song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”. While promoting fluidity of sexual liberation, he did something rarely seen before in pop culture- made a song about gay intimacy reach the top charts.
For weeks following up to the release, the 21-year-old artist promoted his new song through tweets, Instagram stories and videos on TikTok. The star began by posting an implied nude to Twitter and things escalated from there. Most of the videos consisted of him grooving to the music up close to the camera, with only his head in the frame. When the bass drops, he moves backwards, displaying a large set of prosthetic breasts. He posted on his Twitter, “Got bored so I bought some titties.”
His actions drew a great amount of criticism. His posts were challenging gender roles, societal expectations and even Christianity. Conservative audiences’ blood began to boil.
As Lil Nas X continued to push gender construct, he and his talented crew produced a music video. For many, the most shocking part of the video was seeing the singer give a lap dance to another man portraying the devil. This was seen as sacreligious. Many people went to Twitter to express their rage, mostly concerned around why this new generation of young queer people aren’t afraid of God. Personally, I agreed that the image was not right- I wanted more attitude from Lil Nas X! I needed bigger hip swaying. More facial expressions. It seemed as though he was free styling his lap dance, and I wish there had been a little more choreography to hit the rhythms with more definition. Although the opportunity to be fully immersed in his body, mind and soul in this performance was missed in my opinion, the message stood out clearly. Lil Nas X is ready to take on the world while being unapologetically himself.
Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande recently released a similar track called “Met Him Last Night.” This song also played with the idea of conversing with the devil. The lyrics state, “Yeah I seen the devil, yeah I met him last night. Had a conversation, yeah I think he’s alright.” Lovato and Grande are implied to have strong relationships with religion that they are intentionally and mindfully observing from new angles. This is prompting the audience to ask questions about the intersection of the religion mixed with sexual orientation, sexual identification, purity and belonging. I hope never stop circulating. Whether individuals choose to be religious, come and go as they please, turn to spirituality or not be anything at all, it’s a beautiful thing that can change the way we look at the world entirely. Bringing accepting, progressive and open-minded voices to the front of our discussion is the next step the world needs.
My hope for the future is that artists continue to create pieces that push the comfort level of their consumers and challenge ideas. Lil Nas X took one of his biggest insecurities, his sexuality, and made it his biggest strength.