It’s certainly not uncommon for artists in the music industry to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in their music video visuals and lyrics. Whilst shocking or provoking displays are often dubbed ‘publicity stunts’, many artists pluck topical social themes in a bid to ‘normalise’ topics that are repressed. Lil Nas X is the latest artist to garner controversy with his new music video ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’.
The video, which was released on 26th March and already has 63 million views, opens with Lil Nas X in a trippy paradise – inverting the Christian motif of the Garden of Eden. The rapper’s music video then seeks to subvert traditional iconography, Nas descending to hell on a stripper pole, and dancing on Satan. Whilst the rapper sought to use the visuals to challenge the Biblical teachings that homosexuality will send an individual to hell, Nas enveloped himself in criticism which claimed his video was merely satanic. Lil Nas X is not the first artist to loop their challenges of societal norms into their music videos.
Ariana Grande came under fire for her song ‘God is a Woman’, as did Billie Eilish for her song ‘all the good girls go to hell’ – both of which were deemed blasphemous for gendering God as a woman. However, it’s no secret that artists love causing some turmoil in the name of progression. Nas himself asserted that he wished for his video to address queer narratives in order to start a conversation – that he wanted to flaunt queer lust as a display of gay liberation.
Other artists have backed his piece, Adam Lambert affirming that Nas is giving the LGBTQ+ community a redefined platform. It’s fair to say though that the reception of Nas’ music video has been entirely mixed. Some viewers have claimed that promoting Satan, especially to future generations, is entirely backward, holding to the view that Satan is symbolic of evil. Others have taken a more clinical view of Nas’ video, turning to an analysis of his exploration of demonology. Some have said that demonic imagery is often used as a tool through which an individual may challenge structures of power in order to re-imagine their own alternatives. Nas’ bold and unapologetic use of queer narratives and Christian iconography combined – in an overt manner – is probably the prompt for such a potent reaction to his music video.
Even though Nas follows a long tradition of alluding to queer relations in music videos (for example, Freddie Mercury in drag for ‘I Want To Break Free’), the most explicit displays are very much hushed. Whilst coming out as gay will no longer end a person’s career, Nas is still facing viewer responses implying that God will punish him for what he has conveyed. It is likely that the hot controversy surrounding Nas’ music video will continue to bubble away for quite some time
Written by Rebecca Pearson
Edited by Sophie Alexander – Entertainment Editor
Header Image by Christos Alamaniotis – Head of Design