Lil Nas X, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" video
Lil Nas X breaks ample new ground in the splashy music video for his new song. A long-haired man slides down a pole to hell and gives Satan a lap dance before casually snapping the devil's neck and taking control of the underworld.
Yet with the predictable reaction triggered by "Montero" — the given first name of the 21-year-old who went viral in 2019 with "Old Town Road" — Lil Nas X is also tapping into an age-old pop-music tradition: the satanic panic.
Conservative commentators and politicians, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, have expressed alarm over the video's imagery. Veteran pop fans will recognize all this from earlier controversies with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Lil Nas X's clever twist on this ignoble tradition is his braiding together America's anxieties about the devil with America's anxieties about gay people.
Yet as in the song "Montero" — a peppy, up-tempo number about the weaponization of shame — Lil Nas X has interspersed moments of disarming earnestness among all the jokes. Yes, this lovable button-pusher makes pop music. But what he does is pop stardom.
Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
Lana Del Rey, "Chemtrails Over the Country Club" (Interscope)
Recognition of Del Rey's stature as an auteur was unjustly slow, but with 2019's "Norman F- Rockwell," critics declared her to be a Great American Songwriter. Her seventh album subtly shifts her languorous sound. She sings more in a breathy upper register and leans into country and folk, particularly on "Breaking up Slowly."
The album considers the cost of fame. "White Dress" conjures her innocent, 19-year-old self, and makes a good joke about entertainment industry misogyny with a make-believe Men in Music Business Conference. On "Let Me Love You Like a Woman," Del Rey declares she's "ready to leave LA," and much of "Chemtrails" tests out alternative locales for her seductive, subtly arresting songs.
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Demi Lovato, "Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over"
• Shakey Graves, "Roll the Bones X"
• Ryley Walker, "Course in Fable"