Lil Nas X finally released his debut studio album “Montero” on September 17, more than two years after his out-of-nowhere blockbuster single “Old Town Road” and his appropriately titled seven-track EP “7.” That’s a long time in the music business these days to build suspense, raise hopes, and — potentially — risk disappointing listeners. But judging from the early reviews that emerged on the day of release, he hasn’t disappointed anyone.
As of this writing “Montero” has a sky-high MetaCritic score of 90 based on just eight reviews counted thus far: seven positive, one mixed, and none outright negative. It’s early yet, of course, and additional reviews will likely cause that score to fluctuate, but that number could go up instead of down considering that half of those initial reviews rate the album a perfect 100.
Critics are calling the album “impressively eclectic” and “as heartfelt and dark as it is bold.” It “lives up to its wild marketing campaigns” and “pulls together as many bright, witty, and varied textures as his own headline-grabbing wardrobe.” It has “more hooks … than any other big rap album” this year so far. Nas is being praised for his heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics, his wide-ranging musical influences, and his openness about his sexuality — being gay in hip-hop can still be a bumpy road, with stars like DaBaby still publicly flaunting their homophobia. Though the one mixed review so far argues that the album’s “earnestness” detracts from the “absurd brilliance of his defining moments thus far.”
So things should be looking good for the upcoming Grammys. Nas is already a two-time winner for “Old Town Road,” and he earned a surprise Album of the Year nom for “7” despite that project’s brevity and mixed reviews. “Montero” has already produced two major hits — the number-one single “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and number-two peaking “Industry Baby” with Jack Harlow — so commercial success also seems like a safe bet.
But can “Montero” win Album of the Year? Hip-hop hasn’t won that category since OutKast‘s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” almost two decades ago, though “Montero” has a pop bent that could appeal to a wide range of voters. Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow music fans.
Alexis Petridis (The Guardian): “It hits an impressively eclectic sweet spot between hip-hop and pop, leaping confidently from trap beats and martial horns to grinding, distorted hard rock; from music that recalls early ’00s R&B to stadium ballads. The genre-hopping is unified by melodies. Song for song, ‘Montero’ has more hooks – and stickier ones – than any other big rap album thus far released in 2021.”
Helen Brown (The Independent): “Over ‘Montero’s’ 15 tracks, he pulls together as many bright, witty and varied textures as his own, headline-grabbing wardrobe. There’s Latin, rock and acoustic guitar, moody indie moments, yearning concert-hall violin, sidewalk brass and all manner of keyboards (including some jazzy contributions from Elton John). Lil Nas scrolls gleefully through it all, confidently mashing genres.”
Jordan Currie (Exclaim): “With producers like Omer Fedi, Roy Lenzo, Take a Daytrip and Kanye West as well as star-studded features, ‘Montero’ lives up to its wild marketing campaigns and is equally as heartfelt and dark as it is bold … With all eyes on Hill, and his ambitions as a serious musician in question, he gives a definitive answer on ‘Montero.’ He proves that he is a fully-fledged, multifaceted person who can do it all.”
El Hunt (New Musical Express): “‘Montero’ can also feel slightly one-note. Without visuals to add a knowing wink and a flourish of pop absurdity, it sometimes settles into a comfortable groove of trap-influenced drum beats, moody instrumentals, Frank Ocean-y electric guitars and percussive brass peals. Rarely deviating from earnestness, this is at odds with the absurd brilliance of his defining moments thus far.”
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