Authors in Conversation: Hannah and Bethany on Lil Nas X’s Debut, “MONTERO”

Last week, Hannah and Bethany sat in the IC Courtyard to listen to Lil Nas X’s first album, MONTERO. This was Bethany’s first full listen but Hannah’s fifth. Hannah is a huge Lil Nas X fan and saw him perform Old Town Road live in 2019. Bethany has a healthy respect for Lil Nas X’s craft and she is a musical genius. This article is a write up of our conversation, edited slightly to be shorter and more clear.

MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)

Hannah: This song makes me smile.

Bethany: This song makes me smile even though it’s not on my favorite songs list.

Hannah: I love the humming. Did you know, in the Genius lyrics video, Lil Nas X says that the humming is like a mating call that animals make? 

Bethany: No, I didn’t know that. He makes so many different sounds in different registers. It’s like he can sound like multiple different people.

DEAD RIGHT NOW

Bethany: A lot of his songs sound like movie soundtracks, like the credit songs. They are super dramatic.

Hannah: These songs are so good for running. You can’t help but start to sprint when it comes on. This song sounds like another one…

Bethany: “Better Now” by Post Malone! I have a theory that all musical ideas have been used.

Hannah: Horns again!

Bethany: Yes, horns. This is a good one. I would listen to this on my own.

Hannah: I really like this one, but it’s a little sad. The words are sad but also the tune goes in circles a lot.

Bethany: I kind of want to say it’s … lethargic?

Hannah: Yeah I know what you mean. It goes on and on but slowly. The song sounds like how it feels when you’re stuck on someone.

INDUSTRY BABY (feat. Jack Harlow)

Bethany: Horn!

Hannah: This one is the first song with the intro — “Daytrip took it to a ten.”

Bethany: What is that?

Hannah: Take a Daytrip is a producer that worked on a bunch of these songs and they put that in for a lot of the songs they are part of. Oh my god. The “need to uh” sound thingy —

Bethany: So good.

Hannah: Remember when he was getting sued?

[Editor’s note: Nike sued the Brooklyn-based art collective MCSHF over selling Nike Air Max 97s, modified to be Satan-themed, in collaboration with Lil Nas X over the release of the single “Montero.” The modified shoes controversially included human blood in every shoe. Lil Nas X was not sued as an individual.]

Bethany: That was crazy. Feels like a long time ago…. He never really is talking, he’s always singing. Like, even if it’s a rap section he still leans more toward singing.

Hannah: Jack Harlow saying “I send her back to her boyfriend with my handprint on her ass cheek” and Lil Nas X saying “I don’t fuck bitches I’m queer” have the same energy. Like those lines are exactly what he’s saying about how the music industry is more offended by explicit stuff if it’s a man talking about another man than if it’s a man talking about a woman.

Bethany: Or about a woman generally, it’s more ok.

THATS WHAT I WANT

Bethany: This guitar is a reminder of his country days.

Hannah: This song sounds like Justin Bieber type pop.

Bethany: I agree, this song is more straight pop or something.

Hannah: Which he says in “Industry Baby,” that he does pop music. What is it about this song that makes it pop? Like musically what is going on?

Bethany: I’m not certain if this is exactly right, but the chorus for this song has this three-chord progression —  do you hear it?

Hannah: Maybe? 

Bethany: Well, hip hop would more be jumping octaves.

Hannah: Wow. I’m going to try to listen for that.

Bethany: I think I’ve heard this one actually. It was playing at the Matchbox.

SCOOP (feat. Doja Cat)

Bethany: He’s funny! 

Hannah: He’s SO funny. I love how his songs sound kind of … uneven.

Bethany: Syncopated! This one’s also more hip hop classic sounds. The music is sparse in this one. He’s singing with just a bit in the background.

Hannah: The Doja Cat part has the uneven thingy.

Bethany: Syncopated.

Hannah: Syncopated. They both do the thing where they are always singing. 

ONE OF ME (feat. Elton John)

Hannah: This one’s fun because he mentions “Old Town Road”.

Bethany: Do you remember that …

Hannah: Elton John’s cover of “Young Dumb and Broke” by Khalid? I think about it every day.

Bethany: It’s so bad.

Hannah: So bad. But Elton John doesn’t sing in this song.

Bethany: There’s a lot going on with the piano here.

Hannah: It’s very melodic. Especially the chorus.

Bethany: It sounds like there is more of a melody than there is. Like the piano is so crazy that you don’t notice the melody is so simple.

Hannah: Woah. That ending. The piano goes hard.

Bethany: What did Elton John do?

Hannah: I wonder if he played piano? Or maybe it’s a sample? I don’t know.

Bethany: Not my favorite one.

Hannah: No, me too.

LOST IN THE CITADEL

Bethany: I like this one! The melody could be a One Direction song.

Hannah: Oh so true. It’s very pop. Also not explicit.

Bethany: And it’s the sound of a real drum set.

Hannah: What is the alternative?

Bethany: Hip hop songs often use this brrrrr sound, like an electronic sound instead of a drum.

Hannah: Hmmmm I will have to listen for that. OH MY GOD, what is that! Like right before the chorus intro thingy. That’s a classic One Direction move.

Bethany: That’s the lead line! It sounds like electric guitar vibes.

Hannah: A lead line …. 

DOLLA SIGN SLIME (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)

Bethany: Do you think he listens to K-pop? 

Hannah: I feel like yes. Just based off his vibe. Why?

[Editor’s note: Lil Nas X collaborated with K-pop group BTS on a remix of “Old Town Road”.]

Bethany: There’s a K-pop song called “dolla.”

Hannah: Does it sound like this?

Bethany: No.

Hannah: Horn!

Bethany: It’s interesting when he chooses horn vs guitar. The guitar songs are more pop-sounding.

Hannah: Megan laughed! Ohhh, I hear the brrrr thing. Like the drums.

Bethany: Yes! This has more hip hop vibes.

Hannah: His songs are all about industry or like failed relationships. Or at least … personal or professional.

Bethany: Some are like things are sad, but then the next one is like, “just kidding, I’m literally the best.”

Hannah: He really is.

TALES OF DOMINICA

Bethany: It could have been a different person singing! Like he does these things with his voice.

Hannah: Bells! And this sounds like that muffled thing he does. Where it’s like he’s behind a curtain.

Bethany: Oh yes. It sounds like he wrote this song for himself.

Hannah: I’m proud of him. I think his social media is like that too. Like it’s just very him. Natural. This instrumental part is insane!

Bethany: Crazy!

DONT WANT IT

Hannah: Hip hop vibes!

Bethany: His voice is low here.

Hannah: “I don’t want it.” I love how he says that.

Bethany: This recording in the middle … what’s it saying?

Hannah: It’s his awards … “the award goes to Lil Nas X.” What a power move.

Bethany: Oooh, he said devil. “Tell the devil.”

Hannah: “Call Me By Your Name” vibes.

Bethany: I feel like this is a biography. He’s just living his life and we get to see it. In his music but also social media.

Hannah: His TikTok is totally just his daily life. Just things he wants to share.

LIFE AFTER SALEM

Bethany: Salem like the Salem witches?

Hannah: Well, he’s said that it’s like a witch hunt. Like people finding things they hate about him and going after him. This has a heavy beat.

Bethany: This song is kind of like rock music — do you hear that cymbal?

Hannah: This would be good with a smoke machine.

Bethany: This has the full drum kit sounds, instead of just a computer beat.

Hannah: There’s a simple beat. It’s like … dun. Dun. Oh! A cymbal!

Bethany: Radiohead.

Hannah: I wonder if this is about industry or personal relationships?

Bethany: That whistling is crazy.

Hannah: It’s so spooky. Witches. Halloween. John Cunningham and Carter Lang again! But this one has such a different sound from VOID. Or their others.

AM I DREAMING? (feat. Miley Cyrus)

Hannah: Ok this one has a feature, try to guess who.

Bethany: Ok …

Hannah: It’s someone we talk about.

Bethany: Oh, it’s Miley. This whole song has Miley vibes.

Hannah: Lots of guitar. This is the first song with a feature where they sing together. They are harmonizing.

Bethany: It’s nice.

Hannah: Splash noise! I hadn’t heard that before!

Bethany: What is this?

Hannah: That was like fifteen seconds of pool sounds. Crazy!

Bethany: It is!

Bethany: Is it over?

Hannah: Yup, it’s just 40 minutes. What do you think?

Bethany: It’s such a spread! I really liked … I don’t know, actually. I guess LOST IN THE CITADEL, TALES OF DOMINICA. I like sad songs.

Hannah: I really like LOST IN THE CITADEL. And DEAD RIGHT NOW.

Bethany: I’m not a fan of ONE OF ME.

Hannah: Me too, it’s kind of boring. Except for the piano. I love when he says, “That’s what I fucking want.”

Bethany: Yes, that’s great. INDUSTRY BABY is the most bopping for a party.

Hannah: For sure.

Bethany: Wow.

Hannah: Double wow.

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