Everyone is calling Lil Nas X’s name after controversial new single

Lil+Nas+X+in+his+music+video+for+%22Montero%2C%22+which+raised+much+controversy+for+using+Satanic+imagery.

Screenshot from MONTERO(Call Me By Your Name) music video

Lil Nas X in his music video for “Montero,” which raised much controversy for using Satanic imagery.

Lil Nas X became the subject of religion-based controversy in the weeks following the release of his new music video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” 

“y’all told a 19 year old who had just escaped the lowest point of his life that he would never have a hit again. you told him to stop while he’s ahead. he could’ve gave up. but 4 multi platinum songs and 2 #1’s, he’s still here. thank you to my team and my fans,” rapper Lil Nas X tweeted after reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”

The initial release on March 26 was immediately subjected to complaints from the Christian community among others, primarily around the mockery and hyper-sexualization of religion and religious figures. 

“When it comes to art, everybody is going to have a different reaction, and I think everybody is allowed to have a reaction,” said Eileen Cook, a senior at DePaul studying film. “That is what art is about; it’s about inspiring people to think differently. It’s supposed to be provocative.”

 In the music video, Lil Nas X is seen as the face of all characters aside from the figure of Satan. The music video begins with a spoken message from Lil Nas X about not hiding his true self in Montero, both the title of the song and Lil Nas X’s real name. 

In a setting seemingly modeled after the Garden of Eden, a snake that shifts into an omnipresent being tempts the main character. A direct reaction to this, as seen in the second part of the music video, is the main character being chastised for their actions. As the character is kicked out of heaven and sent to hell via a stripper pole, the video enters its third phase. In the final symbolic act, Lil Nas X gives Satan a lap dance before killing him and ultimately replacing him.

 “In my interpretation, the image beginning from the very first words spoken in the video is that people have demonized homosexuality or any types of sexual expression,” said DePaul religious studies professor Christopher Robinson. “And in the end, he destroys that demonization, and he assumes it into himself.”

 This initial controversy of the song was exacerbated by the release of  Nike look-alike shoes dubbed “Satan Shoes.” The sneakers were designed in partnership with MSCHF, a brand with a reputation of being politically and socially active through art-based products intended to confront injustices.

 Only 666 shoes were released to the public, each boasting a drop of human blood in the shoe’s sole, and depicted various references to Satan; the number 666 holds significant value in Christianity as it is described as the number of the Antichrist. The shoes sold out in less than a minute and were symbolically priced at $1,018 in reference to Luke 10:18, a verse in the Bible that describes Satan’s fall from heaven.

 “Art that is rooted in social justice or rooted in communities of oppression is meant to offend,” Robinson said. “If the dominant culture didn’t use its ideology to demonize the other, there wouldn’t be a problem. Rather than use images that confirm what you believe, the images confront what you believe.”

 Despite the controversy surrounding Lil Nas X’s song and means of promotion, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” spent the past two weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and has over 100 million YouTube views.

 “At the end of the day, it is so creative, and it’s something that we have never seen before from a mainstream pop artist,” Cook said.

 The discussion of religion as it pertains to the LGBTQ community, and the potential trauma inflicted, has been a prominent aspect of “offensive art” in recent years. Generally, the relationship between the LGBTQ community and religious institutions has been strained throughout history. 

“Lil Nas X represents a community that has been over and over and over again offended, sometimes in the name of Christ,” Robinson said. “They have been killed and maimed, and their own self-worth has been destroyed by religion. Why wouldn’t they want to offend that religion?”

 “The LGBTQ community has had such a hard time with the religious community for so long; they have always been shamed and outwardly hated,” said DePaul senior Ivy Souter.

 In a tweet responding to religious criticism of the video, Lil Nas X said, “i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the s— y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope you are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have toward ourselves.”

 Lil Nas X had teased the new song for nine months before it debuted in late March, and he appears to have been busy creating content for the release. Lil Nas X dropped a video game titled “Twerk Hero” on Wednesday in which the player controls a twerking Lil Nas X to the tune of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”