All The Cool Things You May Have Missed While Mesmerized by Lil Nas X’s Album Cover Reveal

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Almost three years after rapper/singer Lil Nas X independently released his viral hit Old Town Road, we are finally getting a full album. Good art takes time, and everything we’ve seen in his upcoming debut full-length, and self-titled album “Montero” reminds us of that fact.

Firstly this image is gorgeous, full stop.

When musical artists make intimate work, usually the cover is more “toned down.” Muted colors, little going on in the background, facial close-ups, etc. However, that wouldn’t be in character for this artist. Lil Nas X has shown through the memes and his art that the “extra-ness” is part of him. He doesn’t play with respectability politics and is gonna be as gay as he wants.

The spectacle in this cover is really everything except his nudity. For one, he has shown us this before, but also because the nude body is very common in art and history. It is both nothing special and a political statement that he is not hiding anything in this album. Lil Nas X is holding nothing back.

Created to loop infinitely, the top of the image lines up with the top of the image.

Album stack three times to show a never ending image. (Image: Columbia Records.)

In addition to this cool element, there are symbols from already released music videos and songs. Rich text alluding to rich text.

Most discussed on Twitter are that the uniforms from his most recently released track “Industry Baby” ft. Jack Harlow. The highlighter-pink prison uniforms are not only only are marked by inmate numbers, but the back of the uniforms and down the leg is the same silhouette of the artist on the cover of album.

Because this shows him physically more exposed than any other video (so far), it is easiest to see the butterfly tattoo he has on his neck, too. Butterflies have been used to symbolize transformation and beauty—and they also decorate the cover. There is even a chrysalis in frame on the right side of the album.

Though “Industry Baby” isn’t as other-worldly as the previous music videos, it does show Lil Nas X the world of Montero itself. Jack Harlow slips a book entitled “Book of Montero” through the bars as he pushes the library cart through the hallways. A visual cue to the meditation practices in Hinduism, the book’s cover features a person sitting with their 7 chakras (energies) aligned. That vertical, linear image can almost be seen on the album cover.

Because the “Book of Montero” held the physical manifestation of what Lil Nas X needed in that moment (a hammer to break out of another metaphor), we didn’t notice that this would represent the album and his peace in his sexuality.

From the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” music video, the most obvious allusion to the album is the colors of the overall world and the “sin” tree on the right side—a tree that is now completely bare.

The Greco-Roman inspired structures in the background of the artwork are decorated with Corinthian columns of Black faces. These are the same style as the faces on the statues throughout the music video. They are most prominent in the second verse when he is at a trial that ends with a stoning with butt plugs. There are statues behind him as he is led in and the audience in the stadium are crusty haters in stone form.

When he ascends to heaven (before sliding down to hell on a pole) there is that same cool up and down between planes—Earthly to Heavenly to the Underworld.

From the followup single “Sun Goes Down” (which not enough people talk about), Lil Nas X begins water bending on this astral plane that looks like it is in this Montero world. The water/flow is present on the cover of the album.

The video has Lil Nas X revisiting moments from his past, including when he used to work at Taco Bell—a company that he now reps for. A few days before this video released, he even tweeted about it.

If these all these visual connection to the album cover exist, that leaves me with questions as to what else is being hinted. For example, that purple orb on the top left is crashing into the building. Are we okay? That looks pretty destructive and I am interested in seeing how that shows up in the album.

The day after the album cover reveal, Lil Nas X released a 1-minute video track list that began with a battle royale-esque drop out of the sky we might see in Fortnite or Apex Legends, but in his birthday suit.

In addition to the already released tracks “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” “Sun Goes Down,” and “Industry Baby” ft. Jack Harlow, the video announced “Dead Night Now,” “That’s What I Want,” “The Art of Realization,” “Lost In The Citadel,” “Tales of Dominica,” “Void,” “Don’t Want It,” “Life After Salem” and “Sun Goes Down.” Features include fellow Gen Xer Doja Cat (-_-) on “Scoop,” Miley Cyrus on “Am I Dreaming,” Megan Thee Stallion on “Dolla Sign Slime,” and the legendary Elton John on “One of Me.”

While I love “Industry Baby” and “Montero,” I would love to get more songs like “Sun Goes Down” on the album. If I’m being greedy, I also want more music videos to gush over, too.

(image: Lil Nas X, Columbia Records.)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.