Not very long ago at all, hardly anyone had heard of Montero Lamar Hill. One record-breaking first single, “Old Town Road” (the remix won him a Grammy), and an eponymous debut album later, the artist better known as Lil Nas X has already reached superstardom. This alone is unexceptional. Call it the nature of fame, the path from anonymity to Album of the Year at the Grammys — he’s been twice-nominated, once in 2020 and again in 2022 — sometimes skews vertical.
That said, even among a constellation of social-media savvy superstars, Lil Nas has done something exceptional. He has somehow managed to cram the moment-seizing, media-mesmerizing, to-be-discussed-on-Monday happenings that punctuate a storied career into just about a single year.
And he made it gay.
Before he launches his Long Live Montero tour in Detroit at the Fox Theatre on Sept. 6, with another date the very next day, here are five key moments that we can’t stop thinking about:
Billy Porter ‘That’s What I Want’ music video cameo
The “That’s What I Want” music video is textbook Nas. It’s a sex-infused, high-energy, high-production-value video that tells a Montero-branded story. In this case, Nas starts a torrid relationship with a male-presenting football player who leaves him to start a family with a woman (in dramatic fashion). In the culmination of what can only be described as gay fantasia, “Pose” star Billy Porter stands at the altar of a church. Nas processes down the aisle in a white wedding dress and teary-eyed mascara. Porter hands Nas a black guitar which he wields to deliver the last word, in the logic of a music video. It’s a campy retelling of a tale as old as time.
Montero takes Maury
Drawing from the cast of “That’s What I Want,” Lil Nas X collaborated with tabloid TV titan Maury Povich to create a 21-minute episode of Povich’s show that was so realistic, many viewers didn’t realize it was a joke. Nas reprises his role as Montero from that video for a high-drama sit down with the football lover and his wife. And yes, someone is NOT the father! Nas and company clearly had a lot of fun exploring the music video narrative on television’s most melodramatic stage. They breathed life into a … tired corner of television, queering its central drama along the way.
‘SNL’ Pride Month song
Anya Taylor-Joy and Lil Nas X wrapped up Season 46 of “SNL” in 2021, delivering a critically-acclaimed episode complete with a very gay sketch on the eve of Pride Month. Taylor-Joy and the repertory cast romp through Pride Month clichés — unrequited party crushes, theories of neoliberalism — as the pandemic subsides (momentarily, as things turn out). Lil Nas X appears toward the end, and he has some queer icons to thank.
Montero gives Satan a lap dance, GOP governor fears for souls of impressionable youth
In the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” music video, Lil Nas X gives a lap dance to none other than Satan himself. A related collaboration with streetwear brand MSCHF produced “Satan Shoes,” limited edition of the 666 shoes, purportedly made with a drop of human blood. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota tweeted “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive.’ But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.” Nas’ mic-drop response: “Ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!”
BET Awards surprise ending
In shimmering pharaonic garb, Lil Nas X gave an Ancient Egypt-themed performance of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” alongside dozens of backup dancers. It was a typical awards show performance with lots of special effects and an elaborate set. It even ended in one of those carefully choreographed frozen poses. That is, typical until Lil Nas started making out with the backup dancer to his left.