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Don’t Let The ‘Montero’ Controversy Distract From Lil Nas X’s Superior Musicality



By Da’Shan Smith

First thing’s first: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is another bona fide banger from Lil Nas X.

Now, let’s briefly address the controversy surrounding the song’s music video. Gay Black artist slides down a pole to hell after being sentenced for a steamy makeout session with an alien snake? Check. That artist happens to be wearing androgynous costumes, colorful wigs, skintight latex, and manicured acrylics? Check. After arriving in hell, said artist gives Satan a scandalous lap dance? Check. Right-wing pundits suspecting the gay agenda and sacrilegious ideology are plaguing the mainstream and, therefore, negatively influencing children? Check. Check. Check.

The music video for “Montero” is a textbook media spectacle. It’s already following the “WAP” effect, where Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion caused a ruckus in their sex-positive Willy Wonka factory of moist “macaroni in a pot.” Their world of gyrating choreography, Mugler-designed pasties, and unexpected cameos from the likes of Normani, Rosalía, and Kylie Jenner celebrated variations of womanhood, body positivity, and sexuality.

It’s as if mainstream artists know how to use a certain formula now: release a catchy song on the pulse of trends and a stunning video that showcases their most polarizing traits, then reap the rewards of the inevitable culture clash. Like Cardi B mockingly confesses at the end of her No. 1  smash “Up”: “Look, got to play it safe / No face, no case!” But there’s beauty in the video for “Montero” in its newly liberated expression of identity — one that Nas X says he’s yearned to sing and visualize since age 14.

But the video’s controversies distract from the musicality of the song itself. Judging by its No. 1 peaks on iTunes and Spotify in its debut week thus far, there are fans who believe, simply, that it’s a banger — so much so that they are spending $1.29 on the audio-only MP3s and streaming in the millions without watching the contentious clip. Sure, that discourse will most likely lead to higher listening numbers (something Lil Nas X himself understands better than anyone), but the key to charting is consistency. And Lil Nas X is starting to show cohesiveness in his sound as he conquers his own lane of pop music, inspired by the genre-blasting inherent to its hyperpop influence.

When Lil Nas X debuted “Old Town Road” in December 2018, what started as a TikTok trend and Twitter meme turned into a viral hit. Because of those origins, the overnight Columbia Records label deal and re-release in March 2019, and the oh-so shocking idea of a Black man singing country music and then fusing trap into it, “Old Town Road” was initially taken as a parody, even as it eventually achieved a record-breaking 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Although hyperpop’s cacophony of random noises and infectious looping effects served as a base for the sonics of his eventual debut project, 7, the EP served a melting pot of genres and brooding tones, as heard on “Panini,” which swapped country for a punk chorus amid its digitized cadences, and the Cardi B-assisted “Rodeo.” There was a childlike quality to the lyricism and the instrumentation on 7. Many took that to be a sign of an artist not taking his craft seriously. But the inflection mirrored the angst of a queer person struggling to grow up and come out. Off-kilter rock fuels each track — even the coveted banjo sample of Nine Inch Nails’s “34 Ghosts IV” on “Old Town Road.” On 7, Lil Nas X is a dark, lonely soul facing adversity in being his true self.

There are music listeners who detest the packaging of pop, but still subscribe to the giant ways in which it defines popular culture. But it becomes even more perplexing to experience hyperpop, a variation of pop music that’s dominated by queer talent and thinking. As some critics suppressed the genre’s seriousness in the 2010s, a scene bubbled in popularity underground.  In 2014, genre pioneers Sophie and A.G. Cook played London basements while Charli XCX threw a Clueless prom-like rave at New York’s Webster Hall. In 2015, Holly Herndon received widespread critical acclaim for her album, Platform. Flume’s 2016 album, Skin, won the Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album.

The proto-success of hyperpop calls back to the techno and industrial house scenes of queer Black artistry in the Midwest — particularly, Detroit techno duo Drexciya. They were reinventing and resurrecting the sound of disco for a new age of technology and a raving party scene of the late 1980s into the early ’90s. An entire scene emerged of afrofuturism intersecting, resulting in mainstream pop acts like Grace Jones.

Trace the trajectory of underground electronic music for almost 30 years, and things are different on the mainstream tip. At the moment, the artist who stands tallest on the scene owing to this rich history is Lil Nas X. By this stage in his career, a pop icon has eased into the art of conceptual storytelling. If 7 served as the coming-out story, then fans have started speculating that his forthcoming debut album might document his tales of being out and sexually active, balancing romance with international fame.

The first single, “Holiday,” flirted with the singer’s proclivities over a trap beat, trolling the tropes of Christmas music. “I might bottom on the low, but I top shit / Switch the genre on you hoes, do a rock hit,” raps an artist selling game to the public. Although “Holiday” didn’t see the commercial success of “Old Town Road,” “Panini,” or “Rodeo,” a Tay Keith production credit shows that Lil Nas X’s hyperpop and cyberpunk has clout in hip-hop.

“Montero” is more aggressive than earlier works, the “rock hit” foreshadowed by the first verse of “Holiday.” The track’s key songwriters and producers include the twosome Take a Daytrip that was also behind “Panini,” and Roy Lenzo. Another is Omer Fedi, who is on the pulse of the pop-punk’s present fusion with hip-hop, as heard on Iann Dior and 24kGoldn’s “Mood.” Similar sensual energy and a lustful flamenco beat pervade “Montero,” which is underscored by guitar plucking and rhythmic clapping.

On it, Nas X begs for that phone call to link up with the one he envies, a closeted romantic partner whose eluding his own sexual demons. He wants to hear “I love you” during secret pillow talk but has yet to receive a response. Haunting the track is harmonious humming, as if the unrequited love is being reflected back at him. One could read the melodramatic ambiance and themes as a successor to Rosalía’s “Malemente.” Lil Nas X has transformed into a Thanos of modern pop, merging genres for artis-defining statements. Like Drake or Rihanna, Lil Nas X exhibits how he can musically and artistically maneuver through waves. He’s mastered the art of trolling the masses; now, it’s time to dive deep into the music.





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Challenge Sneak Peek: The All Stars Will Be ‘Tested Like Never Before’



Twenty-two All Stars from The Challenge are going to “be tested like never before.” The goal: To find out “who is the greatest amongst all of these legends.”

An extended sneak peek of the premiere episode The Challenge: All Stars, streaming exclusively on Paramount+ beginning April 1, features alums from Real World, Road Rules and Big Easy Fresh Meat arriving in the Andes Mountains of Argentina with one goal: beating the best and capturing $500,000.

The first competitor to make their grand debut: Inferno winner Katie Cooley.

“The last time you saw me, I had two black eyes when I was leaving Cutthroat,” the nine-time competitor declares about Season 20, which was filmed back in 2010. “Back then, I was known to be a little feisty. I’ve definitely calmed down over the years,” the wife and mom adds, while old footage of her losing her cool during The Ruins rolls.

What does the Godfather (aka Mark Long) have to say about his triumphant return? And who makes a funny entrance — and stumbles right out of the bus? Watch the entire clip above, and do not miss The Challenge: All Stars only on Paramount+.



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Will Teen Mom OG’s Leah Ever Accept Amber?


Leah turned 12 during tonight’s Teen Mom OG episode, but her mom Amber decided not to join her daughter’s family-only birthday party. Now, can the MTV mom fix the “bond” with her mini-me?

The context: Gary asked Leah what she wanted to do for her birthday — and if she wanted to invite her other parent for a small, family-only get-together with Kristina, sister Emilee and Grandma Tonya (Amber’s mom).

“I don’t want to,” Leah told Gary and Kristina about Amber, even though he said it was “important” to spend time with her. “We don’t really have a bond like that. Twelve years, and she hasn’t really done anything. That’s kind of been Kristina’s spot.”

Kristina’s take: “I’m just the bonus mom.”

But Gary didn’t want Leah to write off her mother because “at some point,” she should try to have a relationship with her.

“All she did was give birth to me,” Leah responded, which Gary refuted.

“She might not have always been there, but she was there,” he stated. “I just don’t want you missing out on something that could be there. But if you’re not letting her come over and you’re not letting her spend time with you, then you’re never going to have what you missed.”

Leah concluded that Amber could come to the gathering. But Amber was conflicted.

“I feel like if I go, I’m going to feel a bit uneasy,” she told her producer Townsend during a phone call. “Once Leah stops making excuses of seeing me, I want to have a good relationship with all of them. I really do. But if this is how it is, I’m just going to give it space.”

Right before the celebration, Gary told Leah that her mother wouldn’t be coming — and that Amber wanted to do something for dinner separately.

“I don’t want one-on-one with her like that,” Leah responded and said she would tell her mom later.

After the festivities — which included plenty of gifts and a hibachi chef preparing dinner — Amber told her brother Shawn via Facetime about the situation.

“She thinks I missed her birthday party, but I would like to just do something alone with her and nobody’s responding,” Amber said. “She thought since she was turning 12 years old, she told me she was independent. There was things she was telling me that you would have f*cking flipped. I told her I would give her some time.”

But Amber took issue when Shawn said she was “absent” during Leah’s childhood.

“I wasn’t absent. In fact, I took care of her by my damn self before I went to f*cking prison,” Amber retorted. “I’ll be absent if it keeps her away from sh*t she doesn’t need to f*cking be around. I’ll be absent. But I’m not absent. I was still in her life.”

Amber claimed that Gary and Kristina did “not do their part” and had told her “lies on some things.”

“It takes a lot of work to make up for 12 years,” Shawn said.

“I want her to know that we do have a bond, and she will miss me if I don’t come over the way that I used to,” Amber stressed. “I want her to understand, don’t look at your f*cking mother and say, ‘I don’t have a bond with you.'”

Keep watching Amber and Leha o Teen Mom OG every Tuesday at 8/7c.



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Challenge Reunion: The All Stars Reveal Who They’re Most Excited To See



The Challenge is all about relationships — friends and foes included. And when the All Stars take the field on April 1 — streaming exclusively on Paramount+ — the players are about to see some pals and adversaries.

In the video below, we asked the 22 iconic players — some of whom viewers haven’t seen since the early 2000s — to reveal who they are the most (and least) excited to see. While Inferno winner Kendall is thrilled to be back with her Campus Crawl cohort Darrell, Real World veterans Beth and Syrus both chose each other because they are “real friends” outside of the game. And then there’s Teck, who hasn’t missed a beat since his Real World: Hawaii days.

“Of course, I’m excited to see the ladies,” he states in the clip above. “You know I want to see who is going to be in the house with me!”

Who is looking forward to reuniting with her bridesmaid and former roommate? Who isn’t exactly thrilled to see her former Duel 2 cast member? And why doesn’t Jisela vibe with this Gauntlet 2 alum? Watch the group above — and do not miss the premiere of The Challenge: All Stars on April 1 on Paramount+.



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BTS Condemn Anti-Asian Violence And Discrimination: ‘We Will Stand Together’



Violence against Asian Americans has risen dramatically over the past year. The coalition Stop AAPI Hate has tracked nearly 4,000 incidents of discrimination over the past year alone, as NPR reported earlier this month, though experts and advocates stress that the actual number is likely much higher. In March 2021 alone, a gunman in Atlanta killed six women of Asian descent amid widely circulated social-media videos of other brutal anti-Asian attacks in New York City and elsewhere.

The members of BTS have taken to Twitter to speak out, both in English and Korean, against this uptick in violence and racist incidents as well as to reveal that they themselves — J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Suga, and V — have faced discrimination, though they stressed that their experience doesn’t compare to recent violence.

“We send our deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones,” the note begins. “We feel grief and anger.

“We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look,” it continues. “We were even asked why Asians spoke in English.

“We cannot put into words the pain of becoming the subject of hatred and violence for such a reason. Our own experiences are inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks. But these experiences were enough to make us feel powerless and chip away our self-esteem.

“What is happening right now cannot be dissociated from our identity as Asians. It required considerable time for us to discuss this carefully and we contemplated deeply on how we should voice our message. But what our voice must convey is clear.

“We stand against racial discrimination,” the note concludes. “We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.”

In 2020, as anti-racism and anti-police violence protests overtook the nation (and certain international cities as well), the BTS members spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter and even donated $1 million to the cause — a show of support quickly matched by fans.

Read the group’s note in full, in English, above.



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How Aneesa Paved The Way For Powerhouse Women On The Challenge


In keeping with a curse that’s nearly as powerful as the Bambino’s or Billy Goat’s, Aneesa Ferreira, who’s been competing on The Challenge since 2002’s Battle of the Sexes, was eliminated on the most recent episode of Double Agents. Though she’d sent home powerhouse Tori and racked up three daily wins en route to the end of Season 36, she was snuffed out at the last second by Big T in “Fire Escape,” a hog-tied race that didn’t play to her strengths.

“Losing before the final has been my reality for the last however many seasons,” Aneesa lamented. “[But] this loss feels so different…this is the one where I kind of left it all out there.”

And leave it out there, she did — when Aneesa said in the preceding Crater deliberation that she helped to pave the way for the game’s current crop of powerhouses, she wasn’t kidding.

How?

Well, let’s not forget that — though she lost to Big T — Aneesa is an established elimination-round assassin. In her 19 years and 14 seasons competing on The Challenge, she’s racked up 10 wins (that’s in addition to 30 daily wins) and set a record for most elimination-round appearances with 21. She was so feared on 2005’s Gauntlet 2, her first season to feature elimination rounds, that Beth quit on the spot simply for learning that Aneesa was her opponent.

“I hope Beth is shaking in her boots because I’m ready to kill that b**ch,” Aneesa famously observed before leading the Veterans team to her first final as female captain.

(And as for Gauntlet 2 quotes, Aneesa was full of ’em: Lest we forget she challenged Cara to “suck my d*ck, bitch” during a heated argument, and later observed — also of Cara — that you “can’t turn a ho into a housewife.”)

And while Gauntlet 2 involved maneuvering through a team format, it was 2006’s The Duel — the season that reduced The Challenge to a single-player format — in which Aneesa more demonstratively began to emerge as a powerhouse. Forced into an alliance of survival with fellow misfit Svetlana, Aneesa took out Paula in the series’ first-ever installation of “Pole Wrestle,” settled a score with Robin by beating her in “Ascender” and sent Diem packing in “I Can.”

And 2009’s The Duel 2 took her even further. Again, Aneesa found herself as the game’s resident punching bag, but never said die, and eliminated Shauvon, Paula and Tori to land a spot in her second final.

Sadly, The Duel franchise also officially generated Aneesa’s curse of the eleventh-hour elimination, as she was the last woman to be sent home on the show (eventual runner-up Svetlana edged her out for the last finalist’s spot). Aneesa would later be the final woman sent home on The Inferno 3, Rivals II alongside Diem and Bloodlines alongside her cousin Rianna. And, to add insult to injury, she was the penultimate woman eliminated on Total Madness.

But even before kill-or-be-killed was a staple of the game, Aneesa wasn’t afraid to make waves. On her introductory Battle of the Sexes, she stuck out her neck to plot to oust Road Rules emblem Emily from the game. Emily had used her power in the game to vote off feared competitors like Rachel and Veronica as a means to secure her own standing on the women’s team, a routine that Aneesa saw as unsportsmanlike.

“That’s not teamwork to me,” Aneesa said, who was eventually eliminated for her strategy but widely lauded for it.

So will Aneesa’s win ever come? Here’s hoping. In the meantime, she said she’s thrilled to have achieved one particular goal on Double Agents, though it came at the expense of her own standing in the game.

“The one thing I wanted was a woman of color winning, and there’s nothing left but women of color,” she said as she took her final steps away from the game. “My purpose is fulfilled ,and I feel incredible that I was a part of it.”

Be sure to see if Aneesa can finally break her curse when The Challenge: All-Stars starts streaming on April 1 on Paramount+.



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Lil Nas X ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ Reactions



If there was any doubt that Lil Nas X is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, look to the sequence of events that’s taken place over the past 72 hours to alleviate it.

On Friday, he dropped “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” a highly personal song about queer love that he wrote was “very scary” to release. “People will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda,” he wrote in an accompanying note on social media. “But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

He was right. People were angry! Not at the song specifically, but at the video’s much-discussed, much-shared climax — in which he gives Satan a lap dance — and at the subsequent news that he’d be releasing “Satan Shoes,” black sneakers featuring an inverted cross and actual human blood. It’s a great tie-in! (They are already sold out.) Lil Nas X has never missed a moment to make the biggest impact possible, and this was no exception.

Because Newton’s third law states that every Satanic twerk has an equal and opposite heavenly prayer, the responses to this were swift (and predictable). Kristi Noem, South Dakota’s governor, tweeted about the exclusivity of the sneakers, saying, “But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.” Rapper Joyner Lucas bemoaned the video’s content in light of how LNX had become a favorite of children thanks to “Old Town Road.” And there was plenty more.

Lil Nas X, expert poster, succinctly and resolutely shut down these (and other) criticisms, notably centering his replies around his right to create the kind of art he wants: “I made the decision to create the music video. I am an adult. I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job.”

He told Governor Roem, “ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!” He released a winking “Satan’s Extended Version” of the song. He uploaded an “apology” for the sneakers on YouTube that is hilariously not an apology at all.

And, in my personal favorite moment, LNX also put a new version of “Montero” on YouTube — a “MONTERO but ur in the bathroom of hell while lil nas is giving satan a lap dance in the other room” video that plays on similarly excellent videos like this and this.

All his handiwork goes to show something that’s evident to everyone who is even a little bit as online as Lil Nas X: He had a head start, he knows what he’s doing, and he will win. This is all free promo for his new single. So, as a wise man once said, don’t care, didn’t ask, stream “Call Me By Your Name.”





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Bop Shop: Songs from UMI, Demi Lovato, Bachelor, And More




UMI, Demi Lovato, Bachelor, and more are this week’s Bop Shop picks.



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Lil Nas X Slides Down A Stripper Pole All The Way To Hell In Incredible New Video



When Lil Nas X rewrote the rules of the game with “Old Town Road,” it only made sense that the viral hit’s eventual video would be a blockbuster. But the artist’s hard pivot from meme-maker to cinematic visionary has been at least a little unexpected, while certainly most welcome. The ambition of “Holiday,” “Rodeo,” and “Panini” was only matched by their respective reaches — hundred of millions of views and counting.

But nothing could’ve prepared us for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” The long-teased track is finally here, along with a video that is not easily summarized. But one scene — indeed, perhaps the most-traveled clip so far — involves Lil Nas X giving Satan a lap dance. Please enjoy.

The whole thing is celestial and dreamy, rich with wigs and costumes like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and more than a little biblical as it complements the song’s exploration of queer love. LNX is the star, of course, playing numerous parts and embodying both the protagonists and antagonists. The entire odyssey culminates in the aforementioned lap dance in the bowels of hell, where the artist arrives after sliding down a stripper pole all the way down from the clouds.

LNX, posted a note, addressed to his teenage self, to social media that provides context about the song’s creation. “Dear 14-year-old Montero,” it begins, “I wrote a song with our name in it. It’s about a guy I met last summer. I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised never to be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.”

“You see this is very scary for me,” the note continues, “people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be. Sending you love from the future.”

Check out the incredible video above.



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Scarypoolparty’s Los Angeles Has A Song For Every Mood



Alejandro Aranda spent a season on American Idol, but he’s always been a being of his own creation. He performed technically dazzling original compositions as part of a showcase that tends to favor belting covers. He greeted judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie with an understated “What’s up, homies?” during his audition. And since 2019, when he released his stark, genre-agnostic debut Exit Form, Aranda has used his major-label platform to wedge the weird, hard-edged sounds that fuel him into a mainstream pop career. No easy feat, but Aranda is such a gifted stylistic polymath that it magnetizes him; his songs blend industrial darkgaze, soulful trip-hop, mathy heaviness, and dizzying piano rhapsodies into a recording and performing alias he calls Scarypoolparty.

The staggering result, seemingly impossible in the streaming age, is something wholly his own, a path not beholden to trends or dictated by focus-grouped nostalgia. It’s the cold, metallic Queen of the Damned soundtrack filtered through the warm lights of his home, Los Angeles, and of Aranda’s own lived experience. His new EP, titled after the city itself, captures what it’s given him: the emotion, the part-time jobs, the long talks, the longer drives, and every moment in quarantine.

“A lot of these songs were definitely lockdown songs,” Aranda tells MTV News. “I think a majority of them were self-reflection on where the city is, where I live, and daily life — daily going out and trying to do things, and you can’t, and you have to stay inside and make sure everything is OK in that area.”

For last year’s Doom Hologram, Aranda recorded vocals directly into his MacBook, unknowingly prefacing the Zoom-call collaborations he’d rely on finalizing this new EP. The brevity of Los Angeles as a four-song EP likewise allows Aranda to tighten up his own arrangements, making it his most accessible collection yet. Instead of downbeat, seven-minute meditations or hourlong piano improvisations, he leans into pop structures even as he rushes toward the horizon fusing trap, classical piano, and cocktail bravado. He even reined in some of his more experimental tendencies: “Originally, I had three songs on the EP and then I had this metal song that I was going to throw in there, and I was just like, you know what? I want it to make sense.”

The result is Los Angeles in its many shades, cohesive yet sprawling like its namesake. Below, Aranda breaks down the EP track by track and mood by mood.



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