On March 26, Lil Nas X released his new song and music video “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” and soon after, people were quick to criticize it as “vulgar” and “immoral,” yet those people clearly missed the point of the satirical “gotcha” of the song and music video.
This song is not meant to promote Satanism. It's about a man being open about his sexuality and sexual encounters and taking the saying of “all gay people go to hell” and throwing it back at the people who say it. Yet for all of his openness, Lil Nas X is still facing backlash for speaking his truth, because even if it is in a satirical manner, the song is about much more than the devil and Christianity.
This is not the first time this sort of backlash has happened to musicians speaking out about injustices either related to religion or sexuality.
One of the most quintessential examples is when Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” was deemed “blasphemous” by the Vatican for scenes of the singer cutting her wrists in church and dancing in front of KKK-like burning crosses. But once again, the critics missed the point that Madonna and director Mary Lambert were making about racism.
A more recent example is when Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B released “WAP,” a song about the women’s sexual desires. The video, where the women wore dominatrix-like outfits and grind on each other in a shallow pool, was also criticized. Most of the criticism went toward the song’s lyrics, however, for the same reason as the video, because it depicted women owning their sexuality.
So yes, all three of these songs and the artists have been criticized for their musical decisions. But why is that a problem? The problem is the clear hypocrisy that has risen out of all this.
Shortly after its release, several high-profile men began criticizing “WAP.” Speaking to Far Out magazine, artist CeeLo Green said, “I get it, the independent woman and being in control, the divine femininity and sexual expression. I get it all.” But “at what cost?” Green asked. Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, called it “really, really, really vulgar.” James P. Bradley, a Republican congressional candidate in California, said it made him “want to pour holy water in my ears.”
The hypocrisy then comes when male rappers’ explicit, even violent lyrics — like Too Short’s “Freaky Tales,” Eminem’s “Kim” or Three 6 Mafia’s “Slob On My Knob” — hadn’t been torn apart like “WAP.” CeeLo Green must have forgot that he, too, had a song expressing his own sexual desires, because the song “Horny” can be seen as just as “vulgar” as WAP.
The hypocrisy for Lil Nas X comes due to many decrying “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” for being “satanic,” but rap history proves that hypocrisy.
DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood album cover depicted him doused in blood, and his “Damien” series was about him taking advice from the devil. Some other examples include the fact that Big L’s “Devil’s Son” is regarded as a hip-hop classic, and then there was horrorcore, which was an entire genre where artists waded in the darkness.
“If hip-hop listeners really had a collective no-fly zone for satanic imagery, then it wouldn’t be so prevalent in hip-hop lore,” wrote Andre Gree in an article for Complex. “And if the criticism for the song was truly about defiling religion, there would be similar smoke for the numerous sexual scandals involving priests, pastors and young altar boys. Cries about the depiction of the devil are an easy way out for many people who don’t want to publicly admit that Lil Nas X’s sexuality bothers them.”
So if people are going to be critical of “WAP” and “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” for the sexuality and “satanic” vibes, then they need to stop being hypocritical and targeting queer and women artists.
Another ridiculous reason both “WAP” and “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” are also criticized is on the grounds that they “corrupted children.”
Joyner Lucas saluted Lil Nas X for the video “creating viral moments, making people talk and creating content he already knew you were going to react to.” He called it “a formula guaranteed to work,” but then tweeted a sentiment that essentially said Lil Nas X should be cognizant of kids in his creative process because children liked “Old Town Road” and subscribed to him on YouTube.
Lil Nas X replied, “I literally sing about lean & adultery in old town road. u decided to let your child listen. blame yourself.”
Similarly, “WAP” is by no means Megan Thee Stallion or Cardi B's first song, so parents should already know that their content is inappropriate for children. Cardi B said she wouldn't let her toddler jam out to "WAP," but added that that should go without saying since her music is for grownups.
"No, of course I don't want my child to listen to this song and everything — but it's for adults," she said.
Lil Nas X, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Madonna are all adults making music for adults. They have no responsibility for what any child but their own is listening to. If a parent claims that their music is “satanic” or “vulgar” or “corrupting children,” then they shouldn’t listen to it themselves or let their children listen to it; it is as simple as that.
Furthermore, these artists clearly hit home with their target audience, because “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and “WAP” held No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for four weeks and drew 1.1 billion clicks on streaming platforms. These artists know their audiences, and if you don’t like their music, then you probably aren’t who they wanted their music to reach. Everyone in the United States has the freedom to express themselves, and that includes in art.