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Lil Nas X gets lost in the citadel and finds gold on his debut album ‘Montero’

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Final Grade: 8.3/10

Lil Nas X Montero album cover art

“Montero” consists of 15 tracks.

Columbia Records


Ahlgrim: It’s difficult to imagine the type of person who wouldn’t enjoy this album — provided they have operational ears and a human heart.

Of course, “Montero” isn’t flawless. But it’s certainly one of the strongest high-profile debuts in recent memory, and it’s pretty obvious why. Lil Nas X is just absurdly likable. 

One of the reasons I was disappointed by his 2019 EP “7” was that it lacked his peculiar glow, that undeniable charm at the core of “Old Town Road” and its record-breaking reign. Luckily, “Montero” glows as often as it sizzles, snaps, broods, and bursts with passion. 

Lil Nas could have made an entire album of glowy hits like “Old Town Road,” “Call Me by Your Name,” and “Industry Baby,” and it would have been delightful. Instead, “Montero” is impressively flexible, bounding gracefully in between bright acoustic guitar, trap beats, confessional emo-pop, and stadium balladry — infusing each mood with warm melodies and glossy production fit for any top pop star. 

Lil Nas continues to prove the core of his power isn’t aesthetics or gimmicks, as his detractors often argue it is. Understandably, he’s quick to confront these critics head-on, eager to rise above the trolls who were “never really rooting for me anyway.” But after the sheer delight of this debut, it’s hard to imagine he’ll have a shortage of people in his corner.

Larocca: As I wrote earlier, I didn’t expect to feel attacked by any of Lil Nas’ lyrics, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that under the (admittedly genius) gimmicks and blaring horns lies a beating heart, bleeding for love, affection, clarity, acceptance.

On “Montero,” Lil Nas makes vulnerability look easy. It’s like he believes making confessions about heartbreak or reflecting on his younger self’s suicidal ideations is just what you do when you’re drinkin’ with your friends. Honestly, that’s my kind of friend.

If “Montero” is a house party, Lil Nas doesn’t stay dancing in the living room or drinking in the kitchen; he’s also the wallflower sharing secrets with a close friend in the corner, the guy sneaking off to the bedroom with his crush, and the loner dipping his feet into the pool out back.

There’s nothing one-note about this album — it boasts a kaleidoscopic range of emotion, vocal variety, and production elements. I can’t imagine hearing this set of 15 songs, and not coming away with at least one standout favorite. I’ve already listened to “Lost in the Citadel” more times than I can count. 

It’s rare to have a debut album with this much hype already built in before it drops. It’s even more rare to live up to that hype. But with “Montero,” Lil Nas X continued his impressive streak of not having lost since he began. 

Worth listening to:

“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”

“Dead Right Now”

“Industry Baby”

“That’s What I Want”

“Scoop”

“Lost in the Citadel”

“Tales of Dominica”

“Sun Goes Down”

“Void”

“Don’t Want It”

“Am I Dreaming”

Background music:

“The Art of Realization”

Split decision:

“One of Me”

“Dolla Sign Slime”

Press skip:

“Life After Salem”

*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Split decision,” 0 for “Press skip”).

Courtesy By INSIDER

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