Lil Nas X is no stranger to pushing boundaries.
The 21-year-old pop star has become a household name with his 2019 hit song âOld Town Road,â which sparked debate on topics of race and what qualifies as country music. His latest clip is once again controversial, with some conservative Christian critics saying it went too far.
“Lil Nas X fans like Lil Nas X, and there are many of them,” said Joe Levy, editor of Billboard magazine. “These are people who love what he does, and what he does is as much the internet and as much the visuals as the music.”
The clip sparked an explosion on social media as fans and critics reacted to the gospel imagery, and some members of the Christian community were outraged.
Pastor Mark Burns, minister of the Harvest Praise and Worship Center in Easley, South Carolina, said the video made him feel “disgusted at the highest level.”
âHe has the constitutional right to do it, to say it, just like we Christians have the constitutional right to practice our faith,â Burns said. “Having said that, it’s still disgusting to see a lot of us act like we don’t have sex with Satan on TV.”
Burns said he got worried after watching the clip and seeing Lil Nas X advertise the so-called âSatan’s shoesâ.
Made by the MSCHF company, the shoes are a modified Nike Air Max priced at $ 1,018 with the Bible verse Luke 10:18 written on the toe and an upside down cross and pentagram on the tongue – this the latter being associated with Satan. . Each shoe would even be made from a drop of human blood. MSCHF said the shoes – of which 666 were made – sold out in less than a minute.
“As long as Lil Nas X promotes what we consider to be one of the most damaging images in our culture, which is Satan and glorifying Satan, if that is his belief system, he has the right to worship who he wants to worship, but we have the right not to buy his products, “Burns said.” We have the right to sue the companies that support him and to support him. “
Nike said in a statement Monday that it is suing MSCHF, claiming that “Nike was in no way connected with this project” and that it had “neither approved nor authorized” the manufacture of the shoes in any way. that is.
In a press release from Lil Nas X, the artist suggested the images in the clip were aimed at tackling homophobia. He said he exploited “his sexuality to seduce the devil and undress [him] of its power as an evil force âwhileâ dismantling the throne of judgment and retribution that has kept many of us from embracing our true selves â.
Burns said he thinks there is a better way to promote this post.
âThere are other ways to do it. You could use love. You can use usability, âhe said. âI am against any attack, verbally and physically, against any member of the LGBT, LGBTQ community in this country. But there is a better way to communicate.
Responding to the controversy, Lil Nas X tweeted a letter he wrote to himself, 14, saying in part that “this will open doors for many other gay people to just exist.”
Sarah Marshall is the co-host of the pop culture podcast “You’re Wrong About”, which examines major cultural events from the past. She said the video sent a message to young people that they “can find the strength to be exactly who you are, whoever it is”, and that the reaction to it is just another example of the phenomenon of “satanic panic”.
âIt always has to do with the idea that youth culture is getting too powerful and transgressive and also that American sexuality is getting too shameless,â Marshall said.
Lil Nas X is not the first artist to use religious references to push the boundaries of his music; Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” have also sparked controversy.
âThere is nothing new about this at all,â Levy said. âIn fact, it’s such a mainstream rock-and-roll trope that we have to conclude that Lil Nas X knew exactly what he was doing. He was invoking that heritage.
He continued, âHe’s aware of what he’s doing and he’s doing it in a particular way, and that means he’s trying to control the narrative. But it’s a big world, it’s a big audience and it’s a big story. “
Just two years ago, Lil Nas X, real name Montero Lamar Hill, was a dropout who lived on his sister’s couch in Atlanta. But he dreamed of succeeding.
âLife was me going from a brother to a fraternal homeâ¦ promoting my music through Twitter and barely getting a reaction to anything,â he told ABC. News in 2019.
The artist’s persistence paid off when the song “Old Town Road” went viral on TikTok and then climbed to No. 19 on Billboard’s Country Music charts. Less than a week later, the song was taken off the charts. In a statement, Billboard said the track “does not incorporate enough elements of today’s country music to appear in its current version.”
The move sparked outrage online, which caught the eye of country music legend Billy Ray Cyrus, who tweeted his support for Lil Nas X. The two went on to team up for the now famous remix of the song.
As Lil Nas X continues to blur the lines between hip-hop and country, internet troll and world star, and now heaven and hell, one thing is clear: people are still talking about him.
“I think it’s a really nice video, and it feels like we’re being asked to witness and appreciate a sexuality that just hasn’t been broadcast on Twitter and shown to everyone. this way before, âMarshall said. “And that seems like a brilliant maneuver to do something beautiful and inspiring to me.”