A considerable section of the music scene patiently sharpened their fangs waiting for a slip of Lil Nas X to justify its lack of artistic consistency. As with those new expressions that are difficult to fully assimilate after a certain age, the possibility of unmasking an internet phony was anticipated sweet. In addition, the American singer had managed to unite in his contempt a good part of the most conservative audience, especially those for whom country is the musical representation of the most sacred values of the nation.
For these, the overwhelming success of the single Old Town Road it wasn’t going to be easy to forgive. First, because the idea of mixing a catchy country tune with a trap base that included a sample Nine Inch Nails was nothing short of sacrilege. And secondly, because Nas often makes those who dare defy him bite the dust. As the first version of the song was expelled from the genre lists for not conforming to orthodoxy, the one from Atlanta fought back with a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus himself. Spray all permanence records on the Billboard chart it was the sweetest revenge.
Keep in mind that at the beginning, we were talking about the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, it was still difficult to distinguish whether theirs was legitimate, fine irony or a time bomb delicately lodged within the “system” to explode from within. The doubt was even more reasonable for those unaware of the existence of a yeehaw agenda, movement that denounces the whitening of the traditional cowboy aesthetic and that in recent years has been championed by artists such as Solange, Beyoncé’s sister, or Mitski.
Another reason to be suspicious was that Old Town Road, that kind of Do not break anymore infectious and aesthetic 2.0, it began its triumphant rise by sharing on TikTok. The intense and exhausting work on social networks is key in the figure of Lil Nas X since its inception. Order a abusive number from remixes or favor the creation of videos with images from the Rockstar video game Red Dead Redemption II they were clever ways to keep your product alive.
This Nas fluency is based on two different pillars. The first is obviously generational: when he was born in 1999, he was assumed to be a digital native. The second, that already before reaching the current fame achieved certain negative impact in charge of two Twitter accounts in tribute to Nicki Minaj. His tactics were considered spam on the platform and today there are still those who remind him of out-of-tune messages; a clickbait excessive that the singer assumes and for which he has apologized.
In June 2019 and already with the support of Columbia Records, he released the EP 7, which was poorly received by critics. There was certainly nothing that could sustain the gamble in that compilation of uninspired songs. Apart from two moderately acceptable singles as Panini or Rodeo, which continued in his line of country references with Cardi B, the most interesting thing was his public coming out of the closet with the lively and danceable C7osure (You Like). The latter is precisely the most interesting turning point of his career.
Fortunately, today the presence of LGTBI artists in the mainstream it is no longer a rarity. But the debate changes if we talk about a black artist initially linked to trap, a heteronormative genre to the point of bordering on parody on many occasions. And in case it had not been sufficiently clear with C7osure (You Like), Lil Nas X reaffirmed himself with the spectacular video of MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name). In addition to paying homage to the renowned film by Luca Guadagnino, making a lapdance Diablo himself left little room for interpretation. Treatment for the offended: drink two cups without breathing.
It is from this moment that Lil Nas X dons his glamorous suit Huntsman (part of his real name, Montero Lamar Hill) and resume his feverish activity of marketing to promote the upcoming album. He uploaded up to eight videos related to the single to YouTube, a difficult insistence to tolerate at certain ages. He also awarded another pearl: the catchy single Industry Baby, a resounding vindication before its critics and a new challenge for squared minds. The powerful and hilarious images of prison sex dovetailed perfectly with a sticky chorus and a synth trumpet arrangement courtesy of Kanye West.
Anticipated by a controversial teaser in the format of baby shower, on September 17, it was published Huntsman (Columbia Records / Sony Spain), his first LP. Finally, both fans and detractors were going to have fresh meat to comment (with a lot of intensity) on social networks. With an overloaded, dreamy and colorful aesthetic, it appeared as usual in the artists of its generation, with visuals for each song under its arm.
And what does it tell us Huntsman? Are we facing the musical deception of this beginning of the decade or is there an interesting artist behind the media phenomenon? The answer is as ambiguous as its stylistic cataloging. At times it sounds urban, in others it pays tribute to the Beatles and Outkast (very obvious in Thats What I Want), but it also points to those grunge melodies that people like so much rags depres. Huntsman is a modern and unprejudiced pop album, closer to the proposals of Brockhampton or Doja Cat, who accompanies him in the playful Scoop, than those of Migos and 21 Savage.
For this very reason, Huntsman it lacks coherence as a disk. On a musical level and apart from the already known singles, where it probably looks the most is in songs like Dead right now, Don’t want it or One of me, with piano by Elton John. In them he maintains current sounds but introduces more interesting atmospheres than in his previous catalog. It also solves well the archetypal trap of Dolla Sign Slime, with Megan Thee Stallion, and the beautiful closing of Am i dreaming, where Miley Cyrus accompanies perfectly without overshadowing.
Curiously, when it is more conventional at the sound level, in songs like Lost in the Citadel, Tales of Dominica, Void or Life after salem, more reveals who Montero Lamar Hill really is: a musician capable of openly showing the complicated task of growing up as a gay African-American teenager in an environment that is often hostile. There is the Lil Nas X that boasts of Grammys and the Montero that remembers the bullying at school, their internalized homophobia, suicidal thoughts or the instability caused by growing up in an unstructured family.
Despite the good songs and a careful production of the duo Take a Daytrip, their intention to cover too much makes Huntsman not a perfect album. On the other hand, we are talking about a perfect album to define Generation Z. This album, in short, confirms the intuition that Lil Nas X has the ability to faithfully reflect the lives of today’s young people. And last but not least, it promotes the global acceptance of certain aesthetics that in some styles they should already be assimilated. Just for the latter, as evidenced by their metaphorical and literal embrace in the video of Sun Goes DownIt would have been worth it by now.