At this point, Lil Nas X is unavoidable. Love it or hate it, “Old Town Road” is a cultural phenomenon, and probably one of the biggest songs of all-time (at least streaming-wise). The Billy Ray Cyrus remix has somehow remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 straight weeks, beating out established acts like Taylor Swift and Drake for that number one spot. Not even heartthrobs like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran can topple it with their pop duet, “I Don’t Care.” “Old Town Road” isn’t just the perfect underdog story; it’s the type of sensation that’s only occurred once or twice in music history.
Just think, only six months ago, the guy was another meaningless Soundcloud rapper. He’s a living and breathing example of an “overnight success.”
That being said, Lil Nas still has a lot to prove at the young age of 20 years old. No one outside of his loyal crew knows what he’s capable of quite yet. “Old Town Road” demonstrated the Atlanta native’s ability to blur the lines between genres-in this specific case, country and rap. On his debut EP 7, Lil Nas shows more of an ability to congregate different sounds and styles (i.e. rock, funk, rap)…but with little to no understanding of how they’re structured.
Take the punk rock-inspired “Family (U & Me)” for example (produced and written with Travis Barker of Blink-182). The guitar chords and drum rhythms are so generic it’s painful. Not to mention, Lil Nas’s lyrics reach a point of banality without ever sounding playful or charming. It’s just boring. To be frank, the whole song sounds like something Bridgit Mendler wrote for that Lemonade Mouth movie.
“Bring U Down” is another head-scratcher, where Lil Nas balances the fine line of blandness and idiocy. Ryan Tedder is credited with helping him write the song, which is baffling in itself, especially after hearing the track. I get he’s not the greatest songwriter in the world, but holy shit, you’re telling me he can’t think of anything better than,”The media’s callin’, oh, baby, that’s TMZ/I’m tellin’ your secrets, so best get ready to grieve.” I can’t tell if this is a lame attempt at trying to be funny, or an even lamer attempt at trying to say something meaningful. Either way, it’s a cringe piece of rock music. Almost worse than anything Kid Cudi did on Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven. At least that record had some genuine ambition.
Ironically, when Lil Nas is staying in his own lane (country/rap), the record becomes a lot more enjoyable. “Panini” is a pleasant piece of ear candy, with gorgeous melodies harking back to the Nirvana days. The track is short, sweet, and very re-playable. Same goes for the banger “Rodeo”-which features fellow industry plant (at least at the time of her arrival) Cardi B. With six writers credited, I can see why people may be skeptical about Lil Nas’s actual contributions to the track as a whole. At least there’s some personality to it though, especially with Nas’s use of the southern twang. The experience is light, fun, and totally unavoidable; kind of like “Old Town Road.” The distorted guitar strings are drenched in reverb, and compliment the rapper’s deep melody perfectly.
The 20 year-old severely loses focus when he expands his creative palette. Nothing outside of what made him famous sounds genuine. And you know what, I really can’t put all of the blame on him. He’s just a young kid trying to make a living. It’s the goofballs at Columbia that thought artists like Travis Barker and Ryan Tedder could help him find his niche. Weirdly enough, the people who signed him forgot he already has a unique perspective. He honestly doesn’t need Daytrip and Cardi B co-signing his work. If Lil Nas is the walking example of an overnight sensation, then Columbia is the living example of a label that clearly doesn’t understand artists outside of their realm (or doesn’t care too). And unfortunately, that’s the reason why this EP sucks. Not because Lil Nas doesn’t have talent; but because the people behind him never allowed him to breathe, and make something memorable.