Lil Nas X
Award-winning Atlanta rapper, singer, songwriter, and queer icon Lil Nas X defies social and musical conventions with his genre-blurring takes on hip-hop, which have challenged industry norms and propelled him to number one across the globe. He became an international phenomenon when he moseyed onto the scene in 2019 with a surprise breakthrough that merged country and hip-hop, the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning "Old Town Road." Breaking multiple records along the way with a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, the song became the longest-running chart-topper in U.S. history to date. Buoyed by the success of "Old Town Road," he earned six Grammy nominations and produced a pair of additional multi-platinum hits with "Panini" and "Rodeo" from his 2019 EP 7. In 2021, he shifted the cultural dialogue once again with the pop-leaning smash hit "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" from his debut full-length of the same name. Born Montero Lamar Hill, he issued the 2018 mixtape Nasarati before releasing "Old Town Road" at the end of the year. The track went viral on social media and, once it broke into the mainstream, it accumulated millions of plays on streaming services. Sampling Nine Inch Nails' instrumental "34 Ghosts IV," "Old Town Road" clocked in at just under two minutes but managed to climb into the Top 15 of the Hot 100. While the song could also have topped the Hot Country Songs chart, Billboard made the decision to remove it from the running for not containing enough country music elements. The controversy only helped boost plays, and "Old Town Road" continued its climb up the main chart. In March 2019, Lil Nas X signed with Columbia, just as "Old Town Road" continued to climb the charts and dominate radio airplay, riding a Billy Ray Cyrus remix toward number one in markets from Australia to Germany to Norway -- and a record-breaking 19 weeks in the U.S. (plus a diamond certification). In June 2019, his eight-track collection 7 was released. The eclectic EP included both versions of "Old Town Road" and newer material that ranged from mainstream rap and pop styles to takes on alternative hard rock. The song "Rodeo" included a cameo from Cardi B, while second single "Panini" became a Top Five hit with the help of rapper DaBaby. To cap his banner year, Lil Nas X was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for "Old Town Road," Album of the Year for 7, and Best New Artist. He went on to win a pair of trophies for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video. Later that year, he released his first seasonal track, the Christmas-themed "Holiday." Lil Nas X returned in 2021 with the culture-shifting "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," which found him fully embracing his status as a queer icon and boundary-pushing artist. Within a month of release, the bold anthem topped the charts in at least 20 countries and was certified multi-platinum in Australia and the U.S. He soon followed with another conversation starter, "Industry Baby," which featured rapper Jack Harlow and production by Kanye West and Take a Daytrip. Like "Montero" before it, "Industry Baby" was promoted with a music video that soon went viral, helping boost funds raised for The Bail Project. That September, Lil Nas X released his official full-length debut, Montero, which featured guests Doja Cat ("Scoop"), Elton John ("One of Me"), Megan Thee Stallion ("Dolla Sign Slime"), and Miley Cyrus ("Am I Dreaming").
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 17, 2021 | Columbia
When he moseyed onto the scene in 2019, conquering the charts and mainstream conversation with his country-rap novelty "Old Town Road," Lil Nas X could have been relegated to a pop culture footnote or trivia night as a one-hit wonder. Two years, a very public coming-out, and another number one hit later, he not only remained part of the conversation, but became a driver of the discussion, evolving his sound, pushing cultural boundaries, and expanding his fan base as an irrepressible queer icon. That undeniable charm, defiance, and open heart is on full display on his official debut, the triumphant Montero. A breath of fresh air, the album is one of those instant classics, packed with as many catchy jams as introspective musings, bound together by the character Montero's own relatable perspective as both a hero and a villain, navigating newfound fame while processing his identity as a young, gay Black man in a traditionally intolerant genre. His overflow of emotions is set to a delightful blend of genres, veering from booming rap anthems such as "Industry Baby" with Jack Harlow, "Scoop" with Doja Cat, and "Dolla Sign Slime" with Megan Thee Stallion to surprisingly emotive gems like the touching "One of Me" with guest pianist Elton John, and the biographical, guitar-strummed "Tales of Dominica." These moments of vulnerability are the most welcome shock from an artist who is an expert at pushing buttons, flexing an unexpected artistry and honesty rarely heard in mainstream pop or hip-hop. Indeed, for listeners in search of the club bangers, those occupy less space than the heartfelt fare, but it's all for the better. On the confessional "Sun Goes Down," Lil Nas X reaches out to his younger self, detailing his struggles with sexuality, self-confidence, and suicidal thoughts, a bittersweet motivator that will no doubt connect with fans with similar struggles. The tender "Void," the explosive alt-rock "Life After Salem," and the dour duet with Miley Cyrus, "Am I Dreaming," tug at the same heartstrings, but it's the upbeat Outkast-goes-pop-punk blast "That's What I Want" that delivers on both emotion and energy. As Lil Nas X urgently cries, "I want someone to love me/I need someone who needs me/That's what I f*cking want!" over a bouncy beat and handclaps, his frustration and yearning are palpable. This mix of toughness and sensitivity makes for a compelling listening experience, one that inspires chest-puffing braggadocio as well as quiet sobbing in a dark corner. Montero delivers in droves, a powerful realization of self that boldly places sexuality, honesty, and vulnerability at the fore. © Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo