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    Why Lil Nas X’s “Montero” Is More Than Just An Album — It’s A Cultural Shift

    “There’s a lot of anger there, similar to how very masculine straight men get mad at very femme men — they’re like, ‘How dare you be a man and be this way?’”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed the impact of Lil Nas X's new album, Montero. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can also find BuzzFeed Daily wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Zach Stafford about Lil Nas X, his new album, and the impact he’s making on pop-stardom. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: Last Friday, the moment the entire world was waiting for finally happened. Lil Nas X released his debut album, Montero. And you wrote a beautiful piece for MSNBC about Lil Nas and how meaningful it's been for you as a queer Black man, that we finally have an openly gay Black pop star. Can you tell us about how this moment feels for you?

    The album art for Lil Nas X's album Montero
    Columbia

    Zach Stafford: I’d never been so proud of someone before. And I do believe that, and it was really shocking to feel that much pride. I do love Lil Nas X — I've always loved him. When I was at BuzzFeed, we did things with him, which was really fun. And he's a really nice person. But I never really understood the gravity of the situation until it had happened. 

    What was really the thing that moved me to write the piece was a conversation about Michael K. Williams, the actor who passed away recently, from The Wire and Lovecraft Country. I was being asked to cover his death. And in the midst of us talking about that, I was just so sad because Black queer death is all we talk about. And I said to someone at MSNBC, you know, Montero comes out in like 10 days — what's there to talk about it there? I can bring it up there and just frame this as a larger history of Black queer representation and how hard that march to this moment has been and how people like Michael K. Williams have paved the path. And, you know, Mykki Blanco and all these people. 

    And it's gotten us to a moment in which Lil Nas X can release a very gay, very Black pop album, and everyone's expecting it to be the album of the year. So when it happened and it was 11 o'clock Pacific Time and I'd heard the whole album, we're finishing up edits to go live in the morning, I said to myself, “Oh, this is actually good. Thank God.” I was so worried, like with so many gay things, it was not going to be good. And I was going to have to just fake it being good because it was for the culture. So finally, it feels like a moment where I'm proud because it's good, and it's a prideful moment, and we can all celebrate something and be really authentic in the ways that Little Nas X is being so authentic. So it's a great time. I'm really happy.

    BuzzFeed Daily: As we all know, Lil Nas X exploded onto the scene in 2019 with his record-breaking hit "Old Town Road." His popularity has just grown and grown every day since then, and his success is so notable because he is a Black queer artist. He's not the first Black queer artist by any means, but he is one of the first to really break through in this mainstream sort of way. What do you think it is about Lil Nas X that allowed him to break down these barriers?

    Lil Nas X in the Old Town Road video
    Columbia

    ZS: I think he is talented — he's incredibly talented, but there have been incredibly talented people since the beginning of time. We've all known that. And there's artists that have been able to come out and many artists that have never come out. 

    But I think it's a mixture of talent and timing. He comes at the perfect moment. He's on the right side of history. We know that there are more LGBTQ people than ever that are Gen Z. Social media has really democratized the music industry. Music industry executives have to look to TikTok and SoundCloud to see what the next thing is. So I think it was all wrapped up in the perfect moment. And he just knows the internet so, so well that he was able to kind of manufacture it. 

    But I also just think that he's at a moment in which we see through things like Pose and Moonlight, that Black queer people are being allowed to exist. And he grew up in that moment. And he doesn't have the baggage that even I have about growing up and being Black and queer in Atlanta — where I partially grew up, where he's from. And through that, he's become so free. And I think we all connect to that authenticity and the joy of it all, because as I said earlier, it's just this moment of "Let's look at how happy that we are here at this moment. We face so much death over the years, and now we can finally just sit some joy." And he's that joy. He's so quintessentially joyful at all times.

    BuzzFeed News: So even though Lil Nas X is currently the most popular, there have been numerous queer Black musicians throughout history. Artists like Little Richard, Big Freedia, and Frank Ocean have been paving the way for decades for little known acts to come onto the scene. But now that he's here, it's clear that he's changing the game. So what do you think Little Nas X's success will do for the next generations of Black queer artists?

    Lil Nas X in gold armor at the Met Gala
    Sean Zanni / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

    ZS: I love this question because the answer's so good, and it's that you don't have to wait to come out. Everyone you just mentioned, even Frank Ocean, had to wait years before they finally said their full truth. And I think even in many ways, Frank Ocean is still working through that truth in public. He's a very private person still. 

    But so many artists like Elton John even came out at the end of his career. George Michael came out at the end of his career. Football players come out at the end of their careers. And that's why we're at this moment where these younger folks are saying, "You know what? I'm going to begin this journey being my whole self." And that is so incredible for young people, because I think all of us, as queer people, know the burden of a closet and having that door closed for so long, even artistically makes your art not better and makes it worse. 

    So what I think is going to happen is young, more young people, are going to step into their full selves thanks to a Lil Nas X. And thanks to Troye Sivan, too, and Adam Lambert, we can never forget who famously was blacklisted for kissing a man. And I think they're going to be able to create even more radically cool, interesting things that we've never seen before because they don't have to do what was done before they can create new paths. So I'm really excited for the music industry and seeing what happens next.

    BuzzFeed Daily: While most people in the music industry have been extremely supportive of Lil Nas X, of course, there have been a few folks who are not as supportive. Rappers like DaBaby and Boosie Badazz have both said things about Lil Nas that are straight-up homophobic. It's been encouraging to see a lot of the hip-hop community embrace and defend him, but why do you think there are some artists who are so resistant to someone like Lil Nas X?

    @lilnasx / Twitter / Via Twitter: @lilnasx

    ZS: I think about this a lot lately, too, because it ties into similar conversations we have about masculinity and a lot of men's anger at queer men or trans folks, in that we as queer people present a future and a promise that all these constructions you have defined your life by — that you have to be one way to be a man; you have to be one way to be a woman; all these really strict guidelines — aren't actually real. You can find a lot of freedom outside of them. 

    And I think there's a lot of resentment and anger there, especially in rap, where they're saying, "Wait a minute, you don't have to like rap about X thing? You don't need to go to jail? You don't need to do all the stuff to be successful? There are other routes, and I've been wasting and focusing my life on all this other stuff?" There's a lot of anger there, similar to how very masculine straight men get mad at very femme men — they're like, "How dare you be a man and be this way?" 

    So I think those rappers have that type of thing going on for them. And there's also just them doing what they were told to do. Rap is always, and every musical genre, has been all about demeaning and criminalizing queer bodies. Film and television has done the same thing. These people grew up in those cultures, and they were told, "You want to be successful like Eminem? Make fun of gay people. Look how famous he got." And now we're seeing a backlash and a tide changing. And people like DaBaby are facing the consequences that are going to be here to stay forever. 

    They're caught in a cultural change. And it's shocking to them, because they're like, "Wait, in the rap I grew up listening to, that's what you did, and you were seen as a hero. Now I'm being canceled? Now, I can't book Lollapalooza, when before DMX booked Lollapalooza for saying the same thing." 

    So I think it's confusing and is a shock to the system. But they're about to learn. They are learning. And DaBaby — that's a whole other mess. I wrote about DaBaby, and [I got] a lot of death threats from people [where] the consistent theme was, "How dare you try to cancel a good man, a man who's trying to take care of his family?" And I do think that's where these folks that are homophobic are coming from. They really haven't learned yet that this ideology they've built their lives around isn't real and that it's not a thing that they should be following. So they see us critiquing them, as destroying this other person. But I see it as a calling them in, to be like, "Hey, guess what? That's over. That's a new chapter." And that's why Lil Nas X is so scary to them, because he's like, "It's changing. This is not going backwards."

    After Saturday Night Live revealed its first round of hosts for the upcoming season, and Will & Grace star Debra Messing gave us some of her thoughts about one of them in particular: Kim Kardashian.

    Why Kim Kardashian? I mean, I know she is a cultural icon, but SNL has hosts, generally, who are performers who are there to promote a film, TV show, or album launch. Am I missing something? https://t.co/WYrobkv8Fi

    Twitter: @DebraMessing

    Debra tweeted: “I know she is a cultural icon, but SNL has hosts, generally, who are performers who are there to promote a film, TV show, or album launch. Am I missing something?"

    We also discussed the relationship advice Harry Styles offered up after he spotted a fan holding a sign that said, “Should I text him?”

    🎥| Full video of Harry’s words of advice tonight to a fan who’s sign read “shall I text him?” “My personal opinion is that, if there’s any sort of games… TRASH TRASH TRASH!” via alliefriese

    Twitter: @UpdateHLD

    "In my opinion, if you should, this isn't even a question," said Harry, adding, "If there’s any sort of games: TRASH TRASH TRASH!”

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com.

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