Montero (Call Me by Your Name)

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"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)"
Single cover
Original single cover, designed by Filip Ćustić
Single by Lil Nas X
from the album Montero
ReleasedMarch 26, 2021 (2021-03-26)
Recorded2020
Genre
Length2:17
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Lil Nas X singles chronology
"Holiday"
(2020)
"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)"
(2021)
Music video
"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" on YouTube

"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" (stylized as "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)") is a song by American rapper and singer Lil Nas X. First previewed in a Super Bowl LV commercial in February 2021, the song was released on March 26, 2021, through Columbia Records. Written by Lil Nas X along with its producers, Take a Daytrip, Omer Fedi, and Roy Lenzo, the song is the title track from Lil Nas X's upcoming debut album Montero, which is expected for release in mid-2021.[2][3][4]

The song is noted for its queer themes, including its sexually explicit homosexual lyrics, taking its name from the LGBT romance film Call Me by Your Name. While the song, music video, and associated promotion received positive reception from some, they were also contentious among certain social critics in the United States, as they were deemed immoral or harmful to children, particularly the Satan Shoes.

"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, giving Lil Nas X his second number-one hit on the chart after "Old Town Road". Elsewhere, the song topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, and peaked within the top ten of the record charts in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Background[edit]

In 2019, Lil Nas X released "Old Town Road", a single that would go on to set a record for the longest-charting number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100.[5] However, with some people dismissing his success as a one-hit wonder, Lil Nas X wanted to depart from the country trap sound of "Old Town Road" when working on his debut album; instead, he focused on rap, pop, and R&B, influenced by Drake and Nicki Minaj.[5] Take a Daytrip, who produced the song, described the process behind creating the song as serendipitous.[6] In early 2020, Lil Nas X asked the production duo to executively produce his debut album, and started recording ideas on his phone during COVID-19 lockdown. In a recording session, Lil Nas X came up with the lyrics "Call me when you want, call me when you need, call me in the morning", which led to producer Omer Fedi recording a guitar part, which was then done on banjo.[6]

Originally titled "Call Me by Your Name",[7] Lil Nas X played a snippet of the song in a Twitter video on July 9, 2020, as well as in the background of various TikTok videos, including one that was addressed to American rapper 6ix9ine.[8] It was featured in a Logitech commercial that aired during Super Bowl LV in February 2021.[9][10] On March 9, 2021, its release date was announced via Twitter, along with its cover.[11] The single cover was created by Spanish–Croatian artist Filip Ćustić and features Lil Nas X as both Adam and God in a reinterpretation of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.[12][13]

painting
The song's cover art features Lil Nas X in a reinterpretation of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.

The song's title is taken from Lil Nas X's first name, while the subtitle is a reference to the 2017 LGBT romance-themed film of the same name.[14][15][16] André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name from which the film was adapted, expressed that he was grateful and humbled that Lil Nas X had written a song with the same name as his novel.[17] Lil Nas X later stated the film was one of the first queer movies he had ever seen that felt "very artsy" and made him interested in the concept of "calling somebody by your own name as lovers and trying to keep it between you two", inspiring him to write about it.[18]

On the day of the single's release, Lil Nas X shared an open letter to his 14-year-old self on Twitter, reflecting on his choice to come out at an early age and his nervousness about the song.[19][20] However, he ultimately says it "will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist" and expressed his desire to let people be who they are.[19]

Composition[edit]

"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" is a hip hop[21][22] and electropop[23][24] song with guitar and handclaps in syncopation.[25] Billboard described the track as a "flamenco-like track with a subtle trap beat",[26] while Consequence of Sound called it "flamenco and reggaeton dipped in pop".[27] Slate noted the song's "dembow-style rhythm" while the chorus was compared to technopop in the style of Gary Numan.[28] Lil Nas X's vocals in the second verse were likened to a cross between Juice Wrld and Iann Dior.[28] The humming section following the chorus was included as a sort of mating call.[29] A longer version of the song, dubbed "Satan's extended version", adds an extra half-minute and features an additional iteration of the chorus as well as a longer outro.[30][31]

The song is played alla breve at 90 beats per minute and was originally published in G minor, with a vocal range from G3 to G5.[32] Like previous songs by production duo Take a Daytrip, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" is in the Phrygian mode and was described as having a "Middle Eastern or Moorish or Spanish sound".[6] Its chord progression, D–E–D,[32] goes up and down a minor second, which was intended to create and release tension.[6] Guitarist Omer Fedi plays the banjo on a harmonic minor scale, which was later processed with reverb and Auto-Tune.[33]

The song, like many of Lil Nas X's past projects, features queer themes.[34] Renting out an Airbnb at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to work on his debut album, Lil Nas X revealed that it was written about a man he met in mid-2020, who was partying and taking drugs while in quarantine.[14][19] In its lyrics, Lil Nas X tells his lover he no longer wants to be on the down-low.[35] He sings about a trip to Hawaii and features the line "shoot a child in yo' mouth while I'm ridin'", which was intended to help break the stigma around references to gay sexual practices in music.[14][19] Lil Nas X revealed he was afraid of turning away straight fans with an explicit lyric about gay sex, but decided "if they feel offended, they were never really here for me."[5] The lyrics also discuss the pressure Lil Nas X feels in representing the LGBT community ("A sign of the times every time that I speak") and include a reference to the 19 weeks his single "Old Town Road" spent atop the Billboard Hot 100 ("A dime and a nine / It was mine every week").[29]

Release and promotion[edit]

The day before the single's release, Lil Nas X did an interview with Zane Lowe, saying "The world's going to keep spinning. But I can do what I want in my own artistic career at all times or I'm going to fail, for me at least."[19] Following its release, he launched a promotion on Twitter where he gave out $100,000 worth of Bitcoin.[13] He also offered $10,000 through a pole dancing challenge on the social media platform TikTok, with the hashtag #PoleDanceToHell.[36] Another promotional tool was a collaboration with augmented reality mobile app Jadu, in which users can interact with a volumetric video-generated Lil Nas X wearing red angel wings.[37][38] In addition, a free browser game titled Twerk Hero was released, in which players control a virtual Lil Nas X twerking to "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)".[39] Developed by Roni Games using the Unreal Engine, the rhythm game has four levels, each accompanying a scene from the song's music video, and was noted for its jiggle physics.[40][41][42] Lil Nas X also unveiled several T-shirts in a collaboration with Pizzaslime.[43]

The original track and music video were released on March 26, 2021,[44] while an extended version was released on March 29.[30] In addition, Lil Nas X released a number of follow-up videos via his YouTube channel, including a muffled version (titled "MONTERO but ur in the bathroom of hell while lil nas is giving satan a lap dance in the other room") on March 28,[45] an instrumental version (subtitled "But Lil Nas X Is Silent The Entire Time") on March 31,[46] a behind-the-scenes look behind the song's recording process (subtitled "Official Video except its not the official video at all") on April 5,[47] and a lo-fi version (subtitled "but it's lofi and something you can study to lol") on April 9.[48] The lo-fi version was produced by L. Dre and Zeuz Makes Music, and was previously uploaded to the latter's YouTube channel a few days earlier.[49] On April 23, he released an a cappella version along with an accompanying music video in the style of The Brady Bunch.[50]

On April 13, it was reported that the song was briefly removed from streaming services that day for unknown reasons, after Lil Nas X had asked his fans to stream the song "because it may no longer be available tomorrow".[51] Columbia Records released a statement that the situation was "out of their control", but declined to explain why.[51] However, later the same day, Billboard reported that the song was not being removed from streaming services, with no further details provided.[52]

Lil Nas X is scheduled to perform the song as the musical guest on the last episode of season 46 of Saturday Night Live. Airing May 22, 2021 and hosted by actress Anya Taylor-Joy, the episode will also feature the performance of a new song by Lil Nas X.[53]

Satan Shoes[edit]

Tying into the music video's theme, Lil Nas X collaborated with art collective MSCHF Product Studio to create 666 individually numbered pairs of Nike Air Max 97 "Satan Shoes" adorned with pentagrams, inverted crosses, and the Bible verse Luke 10:18.[54][55][56] They also contain 66 cc (4.0 cu in) of ink mixed with one drop of blood from a member of the MSCHF team in the sole, which was collected over the course of a week.[57][58][59] The shoes, which were priced at $1,018 per pair and sold out in under a minute,[59] were compared to comic books by rock band Kiss and Marvel Comics that were printed using the band members' blood.[60] Nike, Inc. was not involved with the design or release of the shoes,[57][61] and later filed a lawsuit against MSCHF for trademark infringement and dilution.[62][63] In defense, MSCHF claimed that the shoes were meant to be a form of art for display and not to actually be worn. A U.S. District Court in New York approved of a temporary restraining order against MSCHF, thereby preventing further sales of the shoes, though they were already shipped to their buyers.[64][65] The lawsuit was eventually settled, with MSCHF issuing a voluntary product recall and buying back any Satan Shoes at their original price.[66]

Music video[edit]

Production[edit]

The music video for "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" was directed by Tanu Muino and Lil Nas X and was released alongside the single.[34] Shot over two days in February 2021,[67][68] it features Lil Nas X as various characters in biblical and mythology-inspired scenes.[34] While in Los Angeles, Ukrainian music video director Muino expressed her interest in working with Lil Nas X to Columbia Records; the label contacted her in late January 2021 while she was working on the music video for Cardi B's "Up".[69] She spent two weeks on pre-production with her collaborators before shooting with Lil Nas X.[70] Muino drew inspiration from Dante's Inferno and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, including The Garden of Earthly Delights—a triptych depicting heavenly and hellish imagery and the Last Judgment.[69] It was Muino's first video as co-director, part of which was done remotely via Zoom after she had falsely tested positive for COVID-19.[69] Anthony H. Nguyen was responsible for the make-up in the video while the hairstyling was done by Evanie Frausto.[71] Visual effects for the music video were done by Mathematic, a French animation studio based in Paris, in a process that took seven weeks.[67] They opted for a video game-inspired look in order to spread a "message of tolerance".[67]

In an interview with Time, Lil Nas X revealed that inspiration for the video came from the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants and the film Call Me by Your Name.[68] He also discussed the music video for "Cellophane" by FKA Twigs as an influence, stating, "I wanted to see some things people have done in music videos with the pole—and I felt like Twigs did a really amazing job at that... I wanted to do my own take on it."[68] Vulture reported that this was an homage to honor Twigs following her loss to Lil Nas X in the Grammy Award for Best Music Video category.[15] However, "Cellophane" director Andrew Thomas Huang posted a comparison of the two videos' visual similarities on Instagram, explaining that Lil Nas X's label had contacted him prior to the recording of the video to possibly direct it and had instead hired the same choreographer.[68][72] He further elaborated, "When someone who is commercially successful makes work that lives so similarly next to ours and profits from it on such a massive scale, then I felt like I had to speak up", but said he blamed record labels rather than Lil Nas X.[68] FKA Twigs and Lil Nas X later had a conversation regarding the comparison and praised each other's videos on Instagram.[73]

Synopsis[edit]

Lil Nas X depicted riding a pole down to Hell

Following a voice-over introduction where Lil Nas X discusses no longer having to hide in shame, the music video starts with the singer portraying both Adam and the snake in the Garden of Eden.[16][19] The snake seduces Adam using its third eye and the two kiss.[16][19][26] The next scene features Lil Nas X in chains at the Colosseum as he is judged by versions of himself in Marie Antoinette wigs and stoned by spectators.[19][34][74] After he is killed by a thrown butt plug,[75][76] he starts to ascend toward an angelic figure in Heaven before grabbing onto a pole, which sends him down to Hell as he pole dances.[15][35] He makes his way over to Satan and proceeds to give him a lap dance wearing Calvin Klein underwear and thigh-high boots with stiletto heels.[16][19][35][77] After snapping Satan's neck, Lil Nas X crowns himself with the horns as his eyes glow and wings emerge.[19][74]

In addition to its biblical references and symbolism, the music video features a running theme of duality, including good vs. evil and masculinity vs. femininity.[16] A Greek quotation from Plato's Symposium is shown on the tree of life: "After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half".[16][19] The scene in the Colosseum was seen as a reference to the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate,[78] while the judges' costumes were inspired by the all-denim outfits worn by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in 2001.[69] The Latin phrase "Damnant quod non intelligunt" is written on the ground below Satan, which translates to "they condemn what they do not understand".[16] According to a press release accompanying the video, the final scene represents "dismantling the throne of judgement and punishment that has kept many of us from embracing our true selves out of fear."[16]

An analysis of the music video's symbolism by historians compared the snake figure to Lilith from Jewish mythology, who has often been depicted as a serpentine demon. The stoning scene saw Lil Nas X represented as a Christian martyr and the angelic figure was seen to represent Ganymede from Greek mythology, who is widely regarded as a symbol of homosexuality.[79]

Reception and controversy[edit]

The song and music video received praise from several outlets for being "unabashedly queer".[34][77][80] Variety's Adam B. Vary wrote that the video "changed everything for queer music artists", noting that some LGBT artists like Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block and Lance Bass of NSYNC sang about women while staying closeted, while others like Elton John and Ricky Martin did not explicitly sing about their sexuality.[77] He described the sexual imagery, including the pole dance, as evoking images of Madonna or Janet Jackson, without the need to hide his homosexuality.[77] He also remarked that artists like Frank Ocean and Troye Sivan were bolder about their sexuality, but had not reached the same level of commercial success as Lil Nas X.[77] David Harris, a magister of the Church of Satan, approved of the music video's portrayal of consensual sexuality as well as the ending of Lil Nas X crowning himself Satan.[74]

On the other hand, the music video received criticism from social critics in the United States, some of whom deemed it immoral or harmful to children.[74][81][82] Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem, conservative pundit Candace Owens, and evangelical pastor Mark Burns all reacted negatively on Twitter, as did rapper Joyner Lucas and athletes Nick Young and Trevor Lawrence.[83][84][85] In response to criticism, Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter: "There is a mass shooting every week that our government does nothing to stop. Me sliding down a CGI pole isn't what's destroying society" and "I am an adult. I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job", among other retorts.[81][82] However, he also confessed that the backlash was "putting an emotional toll" on him.[64]

The negative reception to the song and music video was characterized by the Los Angeles Times and Vice as illustrating a Satanic panic and compared to past moments in popular music history, including jazz music being referred to as "the devil's music" in the early 20th century, John Lennon's comment in a 1966 interview that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", backmasking accusations, the Parents Music Resource Center's "Filthy Fifteen", Madonna's music video for "Like a Prayer", Lady Gaga's music video for "Judas", and Nicki Minaj's performance of "Roman Holiday" at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.[60][86] Esquire referred to it as "beelzepop" and similarly compared reception to Gaga's "Judas" and Minaj's "Roman Holiday".[87]

The controversy has been described being part of the marketing strategy for the song. Neena Rouhani of Billboard depicted the social media outrage as his "greatest marketing tool", and Kevin Meenan, a music charts manager at YouTube, described it as "very explicit", and that controversy was his goal.[88] Jon Caramanica of The New York Times compared the controversy to bait, and a performance of moral panic, noting how he uses Twitter as a "performance space [...] with an almost limitless audience".[89]

The visuals of the music video became popular on social media, with the pole dance becoming a meme on TikTok.[90] Additionally, the music video and its reception were lampooned on a Saturday Night Live cold open, with Chris Redd as Lil Nas X discussing the controversy with Chloe Fineman as Britney Spears.[91]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of April 10, 2021, with 21,000 downloads, 46.9 million streams, and 1.1 million radio airplay audience impressions.[92] It also debuted at number one on Billboard's Streaming Songs chart and the US Rolling Stone Top 100, and at number two on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart.[92][93] The song reached number one on the latter chart during its third week, selling 19,500 downloads and rising from number 3 to become his second leader after his 2019 hit "Old Town Road" featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.[94]

In the United Kingdom, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" was the most-streamed song during its week of release, with 6.8 million plays (including 2.5 million video streams), and debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart on April 2, 2021 – for the week ending date April 8, 2021 – becoming Lil Nas X's second number one song in Britain following "Old Town Road" in April 2019.[95] The song sold 62,000 copies and was streamed 8.6 million times in its second week at the top. The song spent five weeks atop the chart.[96]

In the Republic of Ireland, the song also debuted at the top of the Irish Singles Chart on April 2, 2021 – for the week ending date April 8, 2021 – becoming Lil Nas X's second number one song in the Irish Republic following "Old Town Road" in April 2019.[97] The following week, it stayed atop the chart and was the most-streamed song in the country that week.[98]

In Australia, the song debuted at number 16 on the ARIA Singles Chart as the highest debut of the week and soared to number 3 the following week becoming his second top ten hit on the chart. The song later reached its peak of number 1.[99]

Track listing[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Jaxsta via Billboard.[104]

Charts[edit]

Chart performance for "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)"
Chart (2021) Peak
position
Argentina (Argentina Hot 100)[105] 62
Australia (ARIA)[106] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[107] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[108] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[109] 2
Brazil (UBC Top Streaming)[110] 9
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[111] 1
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[112] 19
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[113] 42
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[114] 1
Denmark (Tracklisten)[115] 2
Euro Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[116] 9
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[117] 1
France (SNEP)[118] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[119] 2
Global 200 (Billboard)[120] 1
Greece (IFPI)[121] 1
Hungary (Single Top 40)[122] 3
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[123] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[124] 1
Israel (Media Forest)[125] 1
Italy (FIMI)[126] 10
Japan Hot Overseas (Billboard)[127] 9
Lithuania (AGATA)[128] 1
Malaysia (RIM)[129] 10
Mexico Airplay (Billboard)[130] 20
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[131] 7
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[132] 2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[133] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[134] 1
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[135] 53
Portugal (AFP)[136] 1
Romania (Airplay 100)[137] 32
Russia Airplay (Tophit)[138] 91
Singapore (RIAS)[139] 3
Slovakia (Rádio Top 100)[140] 81
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[141] 1
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[142] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[143] 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[144] 2
UK Singles (OCC)[145] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[146] 1
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[147] 22
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[148] 21
US Rolling Stone Top 100[93] 1

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[149] Gold 10,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[150] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[151] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)"
Region Date Format Version Label Ref.
Various March 26, 2021 Original Columbia [100]
United States March 30, 2021 Rhythmic contemporary radio [152]
Various
  • Digital download
  • streaming
Extended [101]
March 31, 2021 Instrumental [102]
Italy April 2, 2021 Contemporary hit radio Original Sony Music Italy [153]
United States April 6, 2021 Columbia [154]
Various April 23, 2021
  • Digital download
  • streaming
A cappella [103]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]