Lil Nas X is in album mode. The 2x Grammy-winner and record-breaking artist has finally delivered “Montero (Call By Your Name).” First teased in July of last year, “Montero” has easily been Lil Nas’ most hotly anticipated new song. The snippet of the song went viral on TikTok multiple times, and even though Lil Nas dropped “Holiday,” everyone’s attention was still squarely on that snippet. Obviously, with about half a year’s worth of hype, any song is bound to crumble under pressure. Somewhat surprisingly, “Montero” doesn’t let itself get drowned in the hype. Produced by Take a Daytrip (“Mo Bamba”), Roy Lenzo (“Rodeo”), and Omer Fedi (“Mood”), “Montero” is not just Lil Nas X’s best song yet, it’s also the most fully realized iteration of his genre-bending sound.
While “Old Town Road,” “Panini,” and “Holiday” were enjoyable songs, they were too reliant on gimmicky lyrics. “Montero” finds Lil Nas getting both autobiographical and explicit as he details navigating relationships with a closeted individual and navigating life during the process and aftermath of coming out. The song’s title references Lil Nas X’s real name, and from that point alone, the track digs deeper than almost anything else in his discography so far. With an ever-so-slightly slurred rap-sung cadence Lil Nas croons “Cocaine and drinkin’ with your friends/You live in the dark, boy, I cannot pretend/I’m not phased, only here to sin/If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can.” This suave pre-chorus presents interlocking themes of drugs, homosexuality, and Christianity in just four short lines. “Montero” is about freedom as much as it is about honesty. Although the lyrical themes of the song are heavy, Lil Nas juxtaposes those concepts against a lightweight soundscape decorated with flamenco-inflected guitar and sparse percussion. “Montero” showcases a boatload of artistic development. Lil Nas employs an almost monotone delivery in the hook (“Call me when you want, call me when you need/Call me out by your name, I’ll be on the way like”) that feels like he’s casting a spell to the free the person he’s talking to. By the time he gets to the outro, however, he ups his register for an impassioned post-chorus that proclaims his steadfastness in living in his truth. Melodically, this song is a lot more interesting than most of Lil Nas’ previous efforts. He effortlessly switches from rapping to singing to a wordless hum in the first pre-chorus. The only downside to “Montero,” is that the song is another casualty of the streaming era’s emphasis on shorter songs. Lil Nas really starts to get into his pocket with that final post-chorus, but the abrupt end of the song robs us of hearing him delve further into that pocket. Sure, the shorter length will help with the replay factor of the song, but “Montero” could have definitely benefited from at least one more chorus.
To be frank, “Montero” feels like the first Lil Nas X single to not lean into his penchant for memes. It feels real and honest which results in it being his best effort yet. Montero, his debut album, already looks to be a vast improvement on his 7 EP.