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MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X: the new song that oscillates between sacred and profane

When spirituality is a controversial source of inspiration for the musical world

By Alessia Amorosini

“In life we ​​hide the parts of ourselves we don't want the world to see, we lock them away, we banish them, but here we don’t…welcome to Montero”.

This is the introduction of the new song by Lil Nas X entitled MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name). In parentheses, the clear reference to Luca Guadagnino's film Call Me By Your Name”, a cinematic success, based on the book by André Aciman and portrait of a deep and engaging homosexual love.

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Un post condiviso da Call Me By Your Name (@cmbynfilm)

The artist Lil Nas X, achieved fame by climbing the charts with the country song “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley's father, confirms his success with the last song, but there are those who talk about scandal.

The video is a representation between the fantastic and the mythological, the sacred and the profane. The atmosphere is Dantesque, full of courtly references muffled by pop tones and the result is a “psychedelic” journey.

Why is the video so controversial? Towards the end, the singer simulates a descent into hell through a lap dance pole and lets himself go to a private dance with the aim of seducing the Devil himself, then killing him and stealing his horns, incarnating in him.

It goes without saying that the tones are ironic and deliberately absurd, it is entertainment, music, lap dance in Calvin Klein boxers and high and shiny boots. Yet the provocation is founded on a deeper basis, Lil Nas X explains that the correct key to the ending is to send a message to homophobes, who are sadly convinced that homosexuals are destined for hell. The dethronement of Lucifer is a symbolic way of “annihilating the system of judgments and punishments that have terrified us and prevented us from being ourselves”.

The video was received with the right hilarity by Gen Z, also becoming an ironic trend on the Tik Tok platform, demonstrating once again how, most of the young people, have a great desire to finally embrace a revolution against all kinds of discrimination.

On the other hand, there are those who have identified Satanism and heresy, because unfortunately, in 2021, for many, an artistic provocation is  is even more shocking than real discrimination, such as the one that the LGBTQI + community still suffers too frequently.

It is certainly not the first time that the sacred and the profane meet in the musical sphere, arousing controversy, just think of the verse of our Fabrizio De Andrè who, already in 1967, in the masterpiece “Bocca di Rosa” wrote: “Even the parish priest who he does not despise the ephemeral good of beauty between a wretched man and an extreme unction - he wants her next to him in procession - and with the Virgin in the front row and Bocca di Rosa not far away, sacred love and profane love are taken around the country”.

Underlining how not even the often bigoted clerical institution was immune to the beauty of a woman considered promiscuous by the country, placing her almost on the same level as Mary.

Returning instead to the contemporary pop music scene, in 2018 the song “God is a woman” by Ariana Grande caused a lot of discussion. In the lyrics, the singer does not claim to proclaim herself a divinity, the intent is not to say that God is a woman but rather that the greatness of women makes you believe that they are “supernatural”. It is a song based on female empowerment, with allusions to sexuality and independence.

Do not miss the funny reaction of this priest to Ariana’s video, very surprised by the various symbolisms: from the three infernal dogs of the Greek tradition to a misquote from the Book of Ezekiel (also present in Pulp Fiction to be clear), up to the reinterpretation of the “Creation of Adam”, the famous work of Michelangelo.

The priest exposes his opinion by not judging and opening up to a constructive dialogue, stating that he appreciates the beat and less the lyrics. Admirable is the desire to open up to the “different” with a smile, without condemning it a priori.

To top it all off, Ariana performs God is a woman Live at the 2018 MTV VMAs, staging a female version of The Last Supper. The ending is moving and powerful at the same time, the singer invites her mother and grandmother to join her on stage. Three generations of women holding hands and giving each other life and support.

“God is a woman” also in a verse of the 2019 song “All the good girls go to Hell” by the young and talented Billie Eilish which refers to the Lord with the feminine pronoun “herself”.

Although the song seems to speak of global warming, with references to the burning hills of California, the video contains evident symbolisms that allude to a spiritual message: from the fall of Lucifer to the wings on fire and there’s the name of St. Peter, although without “St.” it’s clear she’s referring to his figure.

The funny priest did not hold back and reacted with irony to this music video too.

The boundary between the sacred and the profane, between art and heresy, is apparently very blurred and has been crossed several times in music, just think of the controversial figure of Marilyn Manson, one of the greatest representatives of that rock culture defined as “satanic”. One example is the 2017 song “SAY10”, the title deliberately sounds like “Satan”.

In the video Johnny Depp appears dressed in white, as opposed to a Manson in total black, to symbolize the two forces of good and evil: Abel and Cain.

Another very frequent phenomenon in the music industry is that of “backmasking”, that is, hiding hidden messages during recording. A famous example is that of the song “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin (1971) which, when listened to normally, reads in English:

“If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now - It's just a spring clean for the May queen -Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run -There's still time to change the road you're on”.

But if listened to backwards, it would state:

“Oh here’s my sweet Satan, the one little path won’t make me sad, whose power is saint- he’ll give growth giving you six-six-six”.

Other “spiritual” references of great musical exponents can be found in some of their shots. How can we forget the photo of Beyoncé pregnant who is portrayed as the Virgin Mary.

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Un post condiviso da Beyoncé (@beyonce)

The religious theme was also the protagonist of the 2018 Met Gala and, speaking of music, do we want to talk about Rihanna as a Popess?

Religion is an undeniable source of inspiration for the musical world, faith and believers deserve respect but art needs freedom of expression. Can the ideal compromise be found to ensure that the two areas coexist and positively influence each other?