The catchy song accompanied by a controversial music video prompts for important discussions regarding the line between religion and culture.
Lil Nas X pictured as the devil in “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” music video.
The rapper whose birth name is Montero Lamar Hill, made famous by his 2019 viral track, “Old Town Road” comes out with a new song embodying his experience as a gay man. It is not a new concept for Christianity and queerness to conflict. Biblical imagery is cleverly used in this erotic song and accompanying music video, including scenes of Hill sliding down a pole to what can be seen as hell and giving the devil a lap dance. These have acted as talking points for many conservative Christian viewers, commentators, and politicians.
A line that particularly rubbed a few critiques the wrong way satirically plays on Christian beliefs: “I’m not fazed, I’m only here to sin / If Eve ain’t in your garden, you know that you can.” In Christianity, it is traditionally perceived that homosexuality is sinful. The story of creation showcases Eve being put on Earth as the first woman to be Adam’s, the first man’s, designated partner. Hill makes it known that whether or not religious onlookers are judging him for whom he loves–he doesn’t care. He playfully pokes fun at the idea of man and woman being the only viable and acceptable combination for love, paying little regard to Eve.
This is not the first time Lil Nas X has said something controversial in a song. He pushes past societal boundaries when he sings “shoot a child in your mouth while I’m riding.” At first listen, this line is jarring and offensive to many, prompting the question: Why is it only okay if it’s a straight person saying it? Many popular songs this year included “WAP” by Cardi B and “Just Like That” by Doja Cat—both songs written by women empowering other women in their sexuality. On the flip side, it is normal for straight, male rappers to talk about their sexual endeavors with women. Often, this is met with much praise. In a Genius interview, Hill explains that it is time for talk of gay relationships to be at least normalized, just as heterosexual relationships portrayed in rap are embraced. The taboo stigma around being gay and the discomfort it brings to homophobic listeners is hoped to be dismantled by Lil Nas X’s example. He explains, “I feel like that’s really important for representation in general, and this is gonna open more doors for…when somebody says this, it’s like, ‘Oh, that person said that and I didn’t think about it.’”
The title of the song itself represents something near and dear to Lil Nas X and to many members of the LGBT+ community. “Call Me By Your Name,” a romance novel about two men in love, was adapted into a movie popular in 2017 before inspiring Lil Nas X’s latest hit. Shortly after its release, the rapper tweeted a screenshot of a letter addressed to his younger fourteen-year-old self.
As our culture changes and our society becomes more tolerant, many more musicians and celebrities are taking their stand and setting precedents for their successors.