Lil Nas X has built an image that is just as much about sending up his haters as it is about creating clever and catchy tracks. Following up directly on his star-making “MONTERO (Call me By Your Name),” “J CHRIST” is as hilariously and purposefully offensive as it is genuinely thought-provoking and fun.
The self-directed video that accompanies the new single sees Lil Nas X playing street ball with the devil and ascending the cross to the joy and pandemonium of white-garbed disciples. It is deliberately provocative and Lil Nas X clearly knows it. If his erstwhile haters are aware of the irony of their own cruelty and belligerence as Lil Nas X cosplays as Christ (anyone remember why the big C ended up on that iconic cross? No?) remains to be seen.
Lil Nas X hints through the lyrics that he might know something that those right-wing pundits don’t know about God’s plan. It’s not all that difficult to guess if you really think about it. After all, what message does Christianity preach if not to love and accept your fellow man? Could it be that God might actually love gay people a little more than those who ridicule and abuse them? Hard to say, but it’s a good theory.
The fact is that a Black, gay man like Lil Nas X is always going to be a target whether he courts controversy or not. That he manages to laugh about it and use it as creative inspiration is wonderful. That he has to learn to laugh it off is decidedly not. In his video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” Lil Nas X snapped the devil’s neck as an ode to turning his head away from the hatred surrounding his identity. Now the devil is resurrected for yet another basketball game.
Two years ago Lil Nas X released “THAT’S WHAT I WANT,” a heartbreakingly stunning song about wanting to be loved that shows the musician sobbing in church in a wedding dress. Lil Nas X has spoken openly about praying to God when he was younger to make him stop being gay. Why are critics so focused on their addiction to being offended instead of these repeating themes? LGBTQ people are no more accepted now than they were two or even five years ago. The violence, the bans on the care and the anti-LGBTQ bills that float by in Congress constantly, it’s all there and yet the idea of a Black gay Jesus Christ is so deeply reviled that you would think we learned nothing from Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Lil Nas X struts past these loud mouths in stiletto heels and perfect hair, dropping track after track and plugging his ears to their venom. With his talent, beauty, and intelligence, he really shouldn’t have to.