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It’s Lil Nas X’s world, we’re just living in it

With that one track, produced for less than $100, the rapper made history. ‘Old Town Road’ became the longest running single to sit at number one on the charts, and kicked off a debate about the definition of country music.

Can you believe it’s been almost three years since Lil Nas X dropped ‘Old Town Road’?

With that one track, produced for less than $100, the rapper made history. ‘Old Town Road’ became the longest running single to sit at number one on the charts, and kicked off a debate about the definition of country music.

Lil Nas X himself became the first openly queer Black artist to win a Country Music Association Award. He’s won two Grammys, 5 MTV Video Music Awards, and continues to break chart records. He was also named one of the 25 most influential people on the internet by Time.

His first full-length album ‘Montero’ is here, and it’s both a commercial and critical success - cementing X’s status as one of the biggest pop stars of his generation.

So why does everyone love rooting for him? And does the ‘Montero’ live up to the hype? To unpack it all, presenter Osman Faruqi is joined by music critic for The Saturday Paper, Shaad D’Souza.

 

Guest: Music critic for The Saturday Paper, Shaad D’Souza

 
Show Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

##OSMAN:
Welcome to The Culture a weekly show about the latest in the world of pop culture, arts, entertainment and taking your horse to the old town road.

I’m Osman Faruqi and I’ve got the horses in the back, and the horse tack is attached.

Can you believe it’s been less than three years since Lil Nas X dropped Old Town Road?

With that one track, produced for less than $100,  the rapper made history. A lot of history. Old Town Road became the longest running single to sit at number one on the charts, ever, and kicked off a debate about the definition of country music.

Lil Nas X himself became the first openly queer black artist to win a Country Music Association Award. He’s been described as one of the most influential people on the internet.

A few weeks ago he dropped his first full length album Montero, and both commercially and critically it’s been enormously successful - cementing Lil Nas’s status as one of the biggest pop stars of his generation.

So why does everyone love rooting for him, and his new album really as good as everyone else? To unpack it all I’m delighted to welcome back to The Culture Shaad D’Souza, music critic for The Saturday Paper.

##SHAAD:
I’m back

##OSMAN:
You're back to talk about Lil Nas X, and this is something really interesting. So every week on the show, we get people messaging us, writing in and asking us to cover different things. And I've never seen, as many people get in touch with us asking us to cover an artist, as we've seen people get in touch with us to ask us to cover Lil Nas X.

##SHAAD:
It's Montero’s world, we're just living in it. That's how it kind of feels on the internet. I don't think there's been anyone in recent memory in kind of like the pop cultural consciousness who it's so easy to root for. His first hit was so much fun. It's like, it's like we've always known him.

##OSMAN:
Yeah, I think there's not anyone who has managed to understand and capture and just dominate the internet, culture, performance, music and all of those things are basically the same thing now, and it seems like he was just made for that space.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, he's been on the internet for a while. He's a he's a child of the internet, and I think I think the kind of like pop world was was kind of waiting for someone like him who can push buttons just so perfectly.

##OSMAN:
So we're going to talk about the album we're going to do about what he's been up to lately, but. I do want to start the story a little bit before Old Town Road, which is the song that brought him to my attention, to most people's attention. I still think it's one of the best songs made in the past decade. But he'd been busy before that track. My first recollection of him, I remember seeing like some tweets he was doing, he was like, really big on Twitter. Is that how he got his first online prominence, or is there something before that that I don't know about?

##SHAAD:
Yeah, he was just kind of like a normal teen online. And as with so many teens who are kind of like going through it, he was also struggling with his sexuality at the time, which we'll get to later. But as with so many things going through it, he kind of became his dad. And in particular, he became a Barb, which is the Nicki Minaj stans. And they are kind of known to be some of the most intense, most aggressive, most divided stands on the internet. And, and like so many teens are drawn to stan culture because it gives you kind of like a sense of belonging gives you like a leader you can look up to. And I think that makes a lot of sense looking at what happened after with his career with him being so internet literate. It's important to acknowledge him as Nas Mirage, which is like, was his handle. 

So mirage is Nicki's last name and Nas, like, you know, it was like he was the child of Nas and Nikki. And he was a very, very active Twitter user, making really intense memes, harassing people who said bad things about Nicki. He's a nice girl, Stan. He was a real stan. He tried to evade it. At first, he tried to disavow his previous life, kind of when Old Town Road was getting big. And then he kind of was like, Actually, that was me. Yeah. So he saw that on Stan Twitter. And that's kind of like this area of the internet that has its own language that is very good at making things go viral. That kind of like starts a lot of means that kind of like coins a lot of terminology. 

So it's not insignificant that Lil Nas started out as a Barb because it shows we might say it shows the devotion to craft, even though it's a particularly kind of like aggressive and weird craft. But he he's a child of the internet in every sense

##Archival tape -- Song: Old Town Road - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
And then 2018 end of the year, Old Town Road hits

##Archival tape -- Song: Old Town Road - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
I think a combination of a song that's really catchy and an artist who understands how to, how to basically harness what you've been talking about, harness the power of the internet, the power of memes to make it go viral. He bought that beat online. He recorded this track. And when you sit down and you listen to Old Town Road, it's a song about nothing. I think he was saying, playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption. The video game, which I think inspired some of the lyrics in the first video of the song before it blew up, was just in-game footage of Red Dead Redemption. And then I'm a little bit hazy on how it sort of crossed over from him making memes on Twitter. And then there was a TikTok challenge that really blew it up. Can you step us through how that all happened?

##SHAAD:
So basically, he releases in December 2018 and it wasn't an accident, and he'll be very clear any journalist he talks to. So he's like, this is not some random viral success. As I said, he was very active on stand to that, which turned into him just becoming kind of like a popular meme page, and he'd already been kind of releasing one or two songs. Before this, he released this mixtape called Nasrati. I don't know if you listen to it.

##OSMAN:
I have. Great title.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, great title. Bad Mixtape. It was very generic version aircraft, which we'll get to later. It all plays into it. But so then he saw kind of like so on like TweetDeck or on TikTok or whatever he saw. A lot of people were doing this kind of like, quote unquote country trap thing using country tropes or, well, not really country trips, unlike cowboy tropes, which is an important distinction in my mind, but not really in the general populace, probably. But yeah, using these cowboy tropes with rap sounds. So he goes on the internet and he tries to find a country trap beat. He buys this one by this Dutch producer for thirty bucks. It samples Nine Inch Nails, and then he writes these songs that are these lyrics that are just funny and using these tropes, and he's like, I'm going to call it Old Town Road, because that sounds like a country and western street and like, it's going to be about horses, because that's what everyone's posting, right? And so. He basically knew that this was in the general populace. I think he had some inkling that like if the song was funny enough and wasn't good enough for me, it could act like a meme in song form. Yeah. And it basically did exactly that. It's basically the most successful meme of all time because it kind of like crosses over to TikTock what people are doing the yeehaw challenge. I don’t really know what the challenge is.

##OSMAN:
I've heard that written so many times, you know, the song was popularised during your time. No idea what the yeehaw challenge involved.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, neither. And then after a few weeks or months of bubbling under, it gets onto the Billboard Hot 100, which is the main US chart at number eighty three. And from there, when something is on the chart, success tends to be get more success not always, but often, especially with a slow burning hit. And then it goes onto the country charts, and I'm not exactly sure the Billboard charts are very obfuscated thing in terms of methodology. I'm not really sure, I guess, because he had tagged a country like I don't really know how it got there

##OSMAN:
Someone at Billboard was like, This song is called Old Town Road. It has to be a country song

##SHAAD:
And like, it's called there's like country guitars. So like, it does kind of like sound like a like a bro country song. And then it kind of starts rising. And I think maybe it gets to number 18 or something. And the country music populace, which is a very conservative, very anti change body, like just a community, they're like, Well, this isn't a country song, so take it off the country charts

##Archival tape -- News report: Entertainment Tonight

##SHAAD:
And like, that's the moment where it kind of like Lil Nas. His fate is sealed because it opens up all these conversations about like, is the only thing that they see is not being country. The fact that he's Black. 

##Archival tape -- News report: Entertainment Tonight

##SHAAD:
And it probably is because like, you know, a lot of country songs at the time and now incorporate elements of rap. Yeah, rap country is kind of like one of the dominant forms of modern country. So there's this huge firestorm. Billy Ray Cyrus sees what's going on a man of the people here of the people. And he is like two Lil Nas. Well, I'm going to go on the remix. And so...

##OSMAN:
They're saying it's not a country song. When I'm on that track, they can't say it's not a country song.

##Archival tape -- Song: Old Town Road - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
And I think within a matter of weeks, maybe it's directly. A week later, the song goes to No.1 and it stays there for 19 weeks, which is the longest any song has ever stayed at the top of the charts. I think it broke Mariah Carey's record for We Belong Together Longer than the Macarena and then Uptown Funk, the longest reign in a very, very long time. And yeah, it was. It was truly unstoppable. Held off so many people like it held off Taylor Swift. It was just the biggest song, and I think we can look directly to that first initial firestorm over what it was as kind of like a moment where because it became a news item and so suddenly everyone heard that song.

##Archival tape -- Song: Old Town Road (Remix) - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
There's a few things that you've just run us through that I think are actually so extraordinary that they all happened within the space of a few months with one artist. I think there's the fact that he wrote and released the song that has the record for being at number one the longest. That in and of itself is an extraordinary achievement. There's the fact that he harnessed not just the internet, but TikTok in particular. We take for granted now that TikTok is a fundamental part of how music operates and how music is, is spread and popularised, and record labels have people whose job it is to scale TikTok and find songs. So that's a huge thing. And then on top of that and on top of him just releasing the song that went to number one. He also sparked this enormous conversation about what is country music, what how two genres work. What role can a young Black man who raps play in this debate? That's an enormous amount of things to happen off the back of, basically just one song.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, it's the kind of thing that it's it's like truly kind of like stranger than fiction. I mean, the the pop, especially the chart pop world, is so cordoned off it is so hard for anyone who's not on a major label to get a foothold. And yeah, it's kind of like an unheard of thing. And I think the the fact that it's so many conversations is one thing. I think the TikTok thing is a little bit more complicated than like. Oh, like, this is such an amazing platform to get things viral, because obviously viral videos had made no ones before, particularly Black Beetles by Rae Sremmurd, it was kind of like springboard off the success of the mannequin challenge. Now what we're seeing, and I think something that was probably true then, but that we didn't kind of like, have enough proof for is that a song still kind of has to be good to get that level of success from TikTok? Because especially now, I mean, personally, I think the bubble has kind of burst. There are so many songs on TikTok and so many challenges and so many creators and users that it's become quite evident that it is harder now for a song to get chart success from TikTok than before. But yeah, it was truly an extraordinary moment. It's it was truly like people say lots of things are unprecedented, but I think this was one of the few things that was actually unprecedented. You know, we might compare this with like, you know, Olivia Rodrigo, we talked about a few months ago, and it's like, that was an example of like, Oh, this debut single goes No.1. And it had all these machinations behind it. Whereas in the Lil Nas case, there was no team pushing it, there was no radio plug. There's there's no publicists. There was no recording budget. He, he paid, what, sixty dollars total, maybe seventy dollars to get this song on the internet. It's truly, truly wild.

##OSMAN:
The song is undoubtedly good. That's why people loved it so much and it's still a really fun song to listen to. But when it was released, it wasn't, you know, we've seen so many artists release a huge track and then disappear or try and do something. And you know, this sophomore is just not good, and they disappear from the scene. That hasn't happened with Lil Nas X. What is it about him that has seen him continue to maintain this role and presence in the culture? It seems to go beyond just the music.

##SHAAD:
Yeah. Why Old Town Road was successful is a tiny bit different from why Lil Nas X is successful. 

##OSMAN:
Yeah, talk me through that. 

##SHAAD:
I have a theory. It's partially unfounded, but I believe it to be true, which is that I kind of have a theory that if children enjoy a hit, it will stay a hit for a very long time. I have a very long tail, and it's the kind of thing that we've seen with Old Town Road, Uptown Funk and Can't Stop The Feelin’ Justin Timberlake song from the Trolls movie, where it's this like, family friendly song. It's the kind of song that the kid can be like. I want to listen to that whole song, and the parent can just put it on repeat and their kid will be happy about it.

##OSMAN:
There's those videos right of him going to schools and the kids are singing. Kids did love this

##SHAAD:
Kids love this song. And I think that is a huge part of Old Town Road’s success. But I think that is different to Lil Nas’ success.

##OSMAN:
Yeah, tell me about that. What is because that in so many ways seems kind of disconnected from the music?

##SHAAD:
Yeah. So the other factor, of course, is that he's an amazing personality. He's so funny online. He's so smart. He's so internet literate. He's not overbearing. Nothing about his online presence feels focus tested. He can make great means about himself that aren't too kind of like self-conscious. And he is just so knowledgeable of like when something will hit perfectly, like the right time to release this meme, the right time to release this remix or whatever, or like what people will find really funny or what people will think is stupid. What will push people's buttons that I think that was, you know, also crucial to alternative success. It's like, OK, if it's like a little dip in the streaming will like this means really funny or like, I'm going to say this weird thing, like he's so genuinely good online, in a way that pretty much no other pop stars are.

##OSMAN:
We’re gonna take a quick break and be right back


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##OSMAN:
2019 is a big moment for Lil Nas X as well. It's when he comes out. For him, it was a really pivotal moment. Can you tell me more about that?

##SHAAD:
Yeah. I mean, you know, it's easy enough for us to say in Melbourne, like, Oh, it seems like, seems weird to have a conversation about coming out. I think it's different. One, blanket, it's different for someone so famous. Like, think of all the gay celebrities, you know, and none of them are as famous as long as X currently. And then two, it's different for him as a Black person, as a rapper, kind of, oh, come back the way he is around. But yeah, from the South. And it was a huge moment for him and he was like, Oh, kind of alluded to it and you listen to Naserati. He kind of talks about like, I have secrets that you don't know. And like he, he had a secret boyfriend in high school in that kind of thing. And then he's like, I was trying to tell you and he like Joseph at work where there's a tiny rainbow in it. It's like, Oh, OK, whatever. But yeah, he comes out on the last day of Pride month in 2019, and it's like a big moment. And again, it's kind of a firestorm because suddenly conservatives once again and being like, Oh, he's like sending this message to kids. And it's like, No, the song is still about horses and like, you know, just random stuff.

##OSMAN:
But it's interesting because those fault lines that you were talking about when it came to the battle over whether Old Town Road was country are basically the same divisions as every issue that he's faced, including when he came out. 

It's this kind of conservative white southern American institutions that he first rubbed up against because he was a Black guy saying he was doing country. And then when he comes out, it's kind of like all these people. We told you this guy was bad and he's the devil's work, and we tried to keep him out of our nice, you know, community.

##SHAAD:
Yeah and like even at the time when he came out like Young Thug who is seen as this kind of like extremely progressive rapper, like he was dresses and stuff, he was like, Good for him, whatever. I don't think he should have come out because I think it would be bad for his career, you know? Yeah, which which I think says a lot about rap music is pop music, and I think that says a lot about where pop music is, is that we think of someone like Troye Sivan, really famous gay pop star. There's still a kind of ceiling for him. There's no precedent for someone out and gay to be having such intense chart success as Lil Nas X was having at the time, George Michael, even kind of Elton John part of his career, like they weren’t out

##OSMAN:
That’s like three decades ago, exactly then and now you're right. Where is that person?

##SHAAD:
Yeah, exactly. So it was a really, really big moment.

##OSMAN:
And so that leads us to Montero

##Archival tape -- Song: Montero (Call Me By Your Name) Instrumental - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
And that fault line I was just describing, I think re-emerged with the release of the Montero Call Me By Your Name, the lead single from the album where Lil Nas X is giving a lap dance to the devil. 

##Archival tape -- Song: Montero (Call Me By Your Name) - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
I thought the video was, like, fun and silly and absurd. People lost their minds about it...

##SHAAD:
...Yeah. Yeah, yeah, it's a good song. I don't know whether we agree on that. I think it's a good song. It's kind of like that. These flamingo handclaps

##Archival tape -- Song: Montero (Call Me By Your Name) Instrumental - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
It's going to bit of a, kind of like, flamenco guitar line. 

##Archival tape -- Song: Montero (Call Me By Your Name) Instrumental - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
It's fun. It's his most overtly gay song or his only overtly gay song to date. 

##Archival tape -- Song: Montero (Call Me By Your Name) - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
He's singing about like sex with a man. He is like giving Satan a lap dance, like in the video

##OSMAN:
He’s referencing the book and film.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Referencing Call Me By Your Name, obviously. And yeah, people lose their fucking mind if people are like, this is awful. He releases these shoes that have like blood in them. It's a whole...and it's like this thing that is like one he believes in the song to. It's a good song, but three he designed it to go that way. He designed it to push the button.

##OSMAN:
I was going to ask you that it's like he's making a meme to troll a lot of people with with this song.

##SHAAD:
Exactly. And I think when he was rolling out the single, he alluded to the fact that he was like, People are going to do this no matter what I do. So I'm going to take all this biblical imagery. I'm going to like, fuck it up. I'm going to make it so weird and intense and explicit. If they don't like it, that's on them. And it went to number one again because it's so viral. And also it's a good song. I think.

##OSMAN:
I don't like the song and I don't like the album. I'm keen to talk about this album because I'm not really talk to anyone else yet about why I don't like it, and I want to figure that out a little bit more because people love this album. People freaking love this album.

##SHAAD:
OK, I’ll go mask off. I didn't like this song at first either, and I hated the album at first as well. And now I like it NOOOOknow, I know, I know. And it's it's because I think...so, I have a main critique about this record, which is that I don't like the way the vocals are processed. And this is why I find his music hard to listen to. I find it to be uncanny because you've got enough like Auto-Tune or Melody and like producers will be like, it's a melody and it's not an option. So you've got enough melody in on the vocals that they sound perfect and you can tell they're processed, but not so much that it feels like an aesthetic choice. And so I think you get a kind of like uncanny valley effect.

##OSMAN:
Is that essentially because maybe he's just not that good a singer?

##SHAAD:
I believe so. Yeah. I wouldn't be able to tell you. But yeah, I believe so. And also, it's something to do with like the way all the production is very light compressed. It's very kind of like airless, like it's busy and it's shiny. And I think the way the vocals are processed is part of that. 

##Archival tape -- Song: Tales of Dominica - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
But that was my initial frustration is like I would listen to the singles and I would be like, Oh, it's like, it's like, I'm not hearing a sing. And then when I grow to like and love the singles which I have with especially Industry Baby coming by a name I wouldn't really listen to, but I love Industry Baby, which is his Jack Harlow collaboration, um, produced by Take a Day- Daytrip and Kanye West.

##Archival tape -- Song: Industry Baby - Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow

##OSMAN:
We’ll be back after the break

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##OSMAN:
In terms of the album more broadly, because I think we might end up disagreeing on it, which is totally fine, but I think probably what I don't like about it is also maybe the reasons why it has done so well. And I think there's the deliberate choices made behind it. So all these songs sound very different. They all are trying to do something different. The videos and the aesthetics for the singles have all been done in a very different style. And I think that's Lil Nas X's, you know, influence there, clearly. 

And you can see how that overused and Tik Tok videos and how these screenshots would go viral and these videos would be maimed. And there's so much variety and all these tracks all perform very well, and they will find their own communities and people will love this one because that's the song they like and people listen to that, that that's what I want, which is the kind of Outkast, you know, like call and response track. 

They're all there, but that's what I don't like about it. You know, it's not the first time an artist has made an album that is just a collection of singles. That's fine, and he's allowed to do that. And some of these tracks individually are also fine. 

But personally, that's not what I like. I don't like the kind of lack of cohesion on the record. And I also think a lot of the songs are just really boring. You put it really interestingly when you were talking about the sort of production of it being so shiny and almost robotic, it is so polished, it's so polished that I think it's lost the essence of the fun and the creativity and the absurdity of Lil Nas X. And I think the videos have that. But I don't think the music does.

##SHAAD:
I kind of agree with you. I think there's something lost in how like kind of big and bright it is. But I think and this is something that took me a while to kind of like get into, but I find the lyrics, especially on the more like upbeat songs are really fun and really smart and really funny. And I think it's still a little bit, not even jarring, but just like it is kind of crazy to kind of like, hear these songs that you'll hear on like commercial radio, and he's like singing about another guy like, I think we can't understate that. That in itself is something kind of wild. I kind of agree with you. It's kind of a grab bag. I mean, at points, I'm like, Oh, I see what's kind of happening? The aesthetic is not really for me, but I understand why people like it. I wish it was just a bit more space. It's like, Yeah, I don't know whether you've watched his BBC One live session, but like the version of That's What I Want that he does on that is like so much nicer. Like, there's just a tiny bit less processing on his vocals, like a real band is playing the song like. And it sounds so much nicer. 

 ##Archival tape -- Song: That’s What I Want (BBC One Live Session) - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
Like when I didn't like the album, I was very much like, oh, like at a party or like on radio in the car with my friends. This is like the perfect music. And like, especially, that's what I want. I think goes down great on the car radio scoop, I think is really good. Also, and Simon's OK, like there are a lot of songs on this that I think are really fun. It's weird, right? Because not always, but sometimes you can tell how an album is going to be from its rollout, right? And so the rollout of this was so, so good. It was just a barrage of like wonderful memes. So it's like there's photos of him and he's like pregnant with the album

And then they're like billboards where he's like, Do you want to take back the real America? Go to this website. The website directs you to like a pre-order page. You know it's so troll-ish in such a charming way. And then he's been doing all these like red carpets and wearing great outfits like he had a great Versace multi piece outfit at the Met Gala. He was wearing a kind of like Rick James style like weird gown thing at the VMAs. Like, and then like SNL, I thought the SNL performances were great. He like, rips his pants, but he's still kind of like, does like a pole dance. And like, it was such a good rollout that I think when you're listening to the album and it's just a collection of kind of like radio hits, you know, like, oh, like, I thought it would be a bit more.

##OSMAN:
Yeah, I think that's a really good point because I think it goes back to this idea that I think we've talked about a few times on this show. I think I'd talked about it with Elle Hunt, when I was talking about Lorde? It's like the promise of Lil Nas X is so great. And we know what he can deliver like in the lead up to the album, the role you're describing. It's all amazing. It's fun, it's artistic. It's it's boundary pushing. It's hilarious, it's tongue in cheek. It's good, it's compelling. And music kind of just doesn't live up to that. And I think you're my actual take is I think everyone who's seen this album is really good. And, you know, maybe it's just my bubble. But also like, you know, I've got a five star review in The Guardian. Like, people really love this album

##SHAAD:
OK but the Guardian gives everything five stars.

##OSMAN:
And I was just going to say that I think it's like people want the album to be good, they want Lil Nas X to succeed. They want to support what he stands for as well as keep him around and keep him making music and doing all these things. So they're saying that it's really fantastic and I see that instinct. 

But I also think it is important to recognise that I don't think that the album lived up to what it could have been. I don't think that Lil Nas X should keep making these hyper produced uncanny valley. I think it's such an easy way to put it sort of music. I think I want Lil Nas X to be number one. I want him to keep doing this sort of stuff, but I want him to feel a little bit more relaxed and comfortable and organic in the music.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, it's really interesting, right? I think one, we have to accept that this is his first album. I think probably there will be room for him to do all that stuff as the first album goes. I think it's pretty good, but you're rooting for him. So bad that on many of the songs where the production is not ideal, you're kind of like listening to his lyrics about, like, you know, never having been on a plane and all like, you know, kind of like, struggling or whatever. And you're like, I really root for this guy. And I think that's such a difference of like believing someone someone's album and their lyrics is such a big deal because I think a lot of the time when you listen to a pop record, you're like, Oh, OK, yeah, but you're not necessarily like buying into it. And I think that's why part of why Olivia Rodrigo Sour was so successful because people were really buying into it as well. I think it's like, you know, when the production falters, I think you can't really fault him as a person and as a star. That is especially why I kind of agree with you. I think like the album is not as good as everyone saying, but I think next album probably will be much better, and I think it will have been made possible because people are so kind of like invested in the project.

##OSMAN:
The most recent thing he's released, and I think this is such an interesting part of his journey going full circle is this cover of Jolene by Dolly Parton

##Archival tape -- Song: Jolene (Cover) - Lil Nas X

##OSMAN:
Dolly Parton posed for a photo with Lil Nas X post that broke the internet to say that break the internet?

##SHAAD:
I don't know. I don’t, I don't think so. 

##OSMAN:
Well, there you go.

##SHAAD:
We can say it

##OSMAN:
We can say it. I'm bringing it back

##SHAAD:
Yeah, yeah you bring it back.

##OSMAN:
And I love that because who is going to argue with Dolly Parton about whose country and what country you know get in the Dolly Parton co-sign? Yeah. And at this stage, that debate that was three years ago, right? We were talking about Old Town Road hasn't even been through. It was December 2018. It hasn't even been three years since that single came out since this debate happened. And it feels so irrelevant, right? Like what genre is Lil Nas X and what is country music? But I like that, you know, Dolly was there just reminding us that, you know, I'm on this guy's side and those of you, that one, you're idiots. And I think that's the other thing about the album that is a much more interesting conversation is just how it's another reminder of the death of genre. I think in a way

##SHAAD:
I think maybe part of what rankles, and part of what maybe people like it is that it sounds like mid 2000s too like early 2010s, radio rock

##Archival tape -- Song: Lost in the Citadel - Lil Nas X

##SHAAD:
A lot of people are saying, like, it sounds like, Hey, I see it, but my initial thing was like, Oh, this sounds kind of like triple j music. And so much of it sounds like triple j music. And I mean that in this kind of like extremely produced, like corporate indie sound

##OSMAN:
That’s brutal, but entirely accurate

##SHAAD:
Totally, and like that’s a lot of music that I really love and and like, I'm not saying I'm saying that affectionately because it's just a style and a trope, but like, yes, so much of it. It's not country, it's not rap. It's like basically rock music.

##OSMAN:
Yeah, do you know what it reminds me of hearing you talk about? That is actually the Kacey Musgraves record the new one, because I think there's another artist who started in the country space. That new record has got everything like this Daft Punk. Yeah, record. It's really interesting, and I'm I'm here for this moment in music. I think it's been happening for a while, but I'm really stoked that all sorts of artists are just letting themselves be led in different directions. And even though I said I dislike the lack of coherence or uniformity on this album, I think it's great that like whether it's Kacey Musgraves, whether it's a little Nas X, they're willing to trust producers and the people that they collaborate with to just make ten songs. It sounds super different to each other, and it's a good point you made earlier. It's his first album, like he's figuring out what kind of music he's going to make and what he likes and what he doesn't like. And as unenthused by it as I am, I'm still extremely on the little Nas X train and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

##SHAAD:
Yeah, and you know what? Like one final thing I'll say on this is that it's only recently where we've asked pop stars to make cohesive album length statements, and it's like Madonna's earliest records. They're like four singles and a bunch of filler or whatever. You know, there's something not quaint, but something almost admirable about making an album that is not like a concept record. I reckon it's cool. I I support him in any and all of his endeavours. I'm so, so on board. No matter what I think of the record shot.

##OSMAN:
Uh, Shaad, thank you so much for chatting to me about all of this today on The Culture.

##SHAAD:
Can I actually, as we end the show, can I make an apology? 

##OSMAN:
Yeah. 

##SHAAD:
This one goes out to Olivia Rodrigo. Actually, not. It's not an apology, but I still feel the same way about Sour. I think it was very harsh. I was like, OK, we're going to kind of test the waters, see how everything goes. I watched her performance at Life is Beautiful Festival. She did a wonderful job doing all her vocals live and a lot of acrobatics. It was very impressive. I also loved the video from Brutal, where in the opening seconds she like, snaps her ankle and this really graphic.

##OSMAN:
Has Olivia Rodrigo kidnapped your dog? Are you being forced to say all this?

##SHAAD:
No, I'm not being held at gunpoint. I would just like to say Olivia Rodrigo, love what's going on with your album rollout and, you know, looking forward to album two.

##OSMAN:
I'll let you know if she hits us up in the damn thing is a reply.

##SHAAD:
Thanks, please do. 

##OSMAN:
Thanks Shaad.

***

##OSMAN:
The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.

It's produced by Bez Zewdie and Atticus Bastow. Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude.

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week.

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