Lil Nas X at the Met Gala 2021: golden armor over golden bodysuit
Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP
When Lil Nas X appeared a few days ago at the Met Gala, the annual showcase for US stars, he was wearing three outfits at once.
A golden cloak over golden armor over a golden bodysuit, which was not only golden, but also what a bodysuit has to be: skin-tight.
The American pop star as a Russian matryoshka doll: That fit with Lil Nas X, who has been working on making high-contrast complexity a trademark since the beginning of his music career.
Album cover from »Montero«: Flamboyant, multi-faceted, meme-friendly
Photo: Charlotte Rutherford
It all started where a lot starts nowadays, on the Internet. There, Montero Lamar Hill, who was born in 1999, tried his hand at first with funny videos on Facebook and later, not unsuccessfully, with tweets - before he began uploading his own songs in 2018. One of them went viral on the TikTok social network. He himself once summed up this song very simply and aptly with the phrase "two opposites meet". It's called "Old Town Road".
Lil Nas X rhymed "Porsche" with "horse".
Rap met country, two genres of music that until then had little in common, except perhaps their popularity in the US and the general testosterone excess.
At the side of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, the rapper managed a hit that lasted less than two minutes and was number 1 in the US charts for longer than any other song.
Style that is reminiscent of memes
The style of letting two opposites collide so that something new emerges reminded one again of the place where it all began, the Internet.
It was reminiscent of memes that, for example, are based on the coupling of different pop cultural elements.
"Old Town Road" moved like a meme through the net, at some point a remix with a member of the K-pop boy group BTS was added, "Seoul Town Road", the cross-cultural hit not only made Lil Nas X a star on TikTok, but all over the world.
But also a one-hit wonder?
This Friday, after a long wait, Lil Nas X's debut album was released.
It is called like him, "Montero".
With the title song for the album and the accompanying music video, which recently won the "Video of the Year" award at the MTV Video Music Awards, Lil Nas X indicated some time ago that he wanted to be more than just the guy with him Cowboy hat: In the title song it drops Luca Guadagnino's coming-of-age film "Call Me by Your Name", in which a young white man has his first romance with an older white man.
A tableau in front of which Lil Nas X tells his own story.
That of a young gay African American.
In the video for “Montero”, which in turn links biblical scenes with his biography story, the pop star plays various roles bathed in bright colors.
And this is how the entire album works: flamboyant, multi-faceted, meme-friendly.
Take part: Pop-rock star Miley Cyrus, who is now following her father Billy Ray on the guest list.
"WAP" rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who shows Lil Nas X how to do it properly with flexing when it says in "Dolla Sign Slime": "I should have my own category in porn." Have category.
It sounds like: The sensitive experiments of Frank Ocean, just not quite as daring.
The depressive episodes of a Billie Eilish, just not quite as whispered.
Brass, but based on a synthesizer.
Trap beats, but with almost childlike keyboard sounds.
Flamenco guitars, but presumably under the influence of Auto-Tune.
An electric guitar that fortunately only briefly and from a distance reminds of the almost forgotten genre Nu Metal.
A piano that brings to mind Keith Jarrett.
In the end, "Montero" sounds like the eclectic work of a fan turned artist who is damn well informed thanks to the internet. Or, as Lil Nas X once said about the meaning of his line "I'm the industry baby": "I'm that motherfucker that's grown up watching everything". He just pulled everything into it. And you can hear that. He is familiar with allusions, quotes, references. That was also evident when Lil Nas X kissed a dancer on stage the other day; as if he had sampled the kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears.
For his album, Lil Nas X has not only appropriated the referential character of the internet, but also a Zeitgeist-attitude mix, somewhere between the hashtags #nofilter, #bodypositivity and #blessed, i.e. between credible self-disclosure, the admission of insecurities and fears and self-doubt on the one hand - and self-empowerment on the other.
Correspondingly, "Montero" is about loneliness and complexities ("Always thinking: Why my lips so big?") As well as about his concern that he is merely a meme, a joke ("One of Me").
But also from his work-out, from empowerment, his will to show everyone else where he stands: "Top of the game" of course, even if he is only "22".
Last but not least, it's a pop album, of course it's also about love in all its shades.
more on the subject
Pictures from the Met Gala in New York: Woman in Black
MTV Video Music Awards: Lil Nas X wins Video of the Year award
Lil Nas X after coming out: »More confident than ever before«
Before the Grammy Awards: Suspicious SilenceBy Andreas Borcholte
Country rap hit: Lil Nas X sets new number one record
In the end, Lil Nas X stands there like a fluid figure from a video game.
Like an avatar who can change its physical state, its appearance and its image from now on, depending on which adventure, level or song it is currently in.
It's kind of like David Bowie in ultra-fast-forward, a thumb-book-like GIF.
Lil Nas X is wonderfully versatile like the matryoshka at the Met Gala.
What he still has to find is his very own voice.