My gums are starting to ache. I’ve been gritting my teeth for the past nineteen minutes and thirteen seconds. The Fourth Horseman has arrived, and he’s brought a “Panini.”
The reigning clown prince of pop music returns with a collection of safe, predictable tunes on his “7” EP to complement his magically genre-smashing hit “Old Town Road,” which he included twice. Regardless of my opinion ofLil Nas X preceding “7,” I was very curious as to which direction he would take this release.
“7” begins with the crowd-pleaser that will be garnering Lil Nas X royalties to the deathbed: “Old Town Road.” Better yet, it’s the remix with Billy Ray Cyrus. This song undoubtedly benefited from the relentless marketing by Lil Nas X and his team. While a bit played out at this point, Lil Nas X understood the benefit of riding “Old Town Road” to stardom and even after 12 weeks, the top of the charts.
While I could honestly write an entire essay on how flummoxed I am about the rise of “Old Town Road,” the next song on “7” grants Lil Nas X the opportunity to take the one-hit chip off of his shoulder.
“Panini” ventures from Lil Nas X’s hip-clop comfort zone to produce an audaciously brief song about the possessiveness of his fans by comparing them to a character from the since-ended children’s show “Chowder.” “Panini” is a massive success at the time of this review’s writing.
In this era of stream-friendly, trend-sailing bops that are as short on time as they are on thought, I expected most of these songs to fit that bill as “Old Town Road” and “Panini” both had been. I was correct on that count, but before long I realized Lil Nas X called on numerous inspirations in the non-singles that dotted “7.”
“F9mily (You & Me)," the third track on “7," is another genre-bender. It ushers in Blink-182’s Travis Barker for his pop-punk prowess to complement Lil Nas X’s indifferent delivery of the same chorus three times then shows him out before the three-minute mark. It is an admittedly enjoyable change of pace but just feels short of the potential that such an interesting pairing could have realized.
“Kick It” is easily the strangest inclusion on “7.” While the song affords Lil Nas X an opportunity to touch on the Hot Country Charts controversy, “Kick It” is more obviously an attempt to garner him much needed street cred that couldn’t be gathered by a song about “Wrangler” jeans on his “booty.” It is more in the vein of popular hip-hop artists not only in its subject matter, but its strange infatuation with out-of-place, yet nicely arranged brass and strings.
“Rodeo” retreats to the country-rap fusion that brought him his fame up to this point. The all-star collaboration with Cardi B utilizes guitar work reminiscent of guitar legend Dick Dale to create a fully righteous marriage between spaghetti westerns and modern music.
“Rodeo” lacks the catchy lyrics that “Old Town Road” offers, but both criticizing the song’s lyrics and comparing the two would be unfair and irrelevant. “Rodeo” was one of the brighter spots on “7” and could join “Panini” as his next big hit.
“Bring U Down” includes both a feature and production from OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, and it’s not hard to tell. The song’s reliance on its mindlessly droning hook and singular, pedestrian guitar solo sounds like it could soon be used in a Nike running ad. While boring sonically, it definitely serves as a potentially frugal opportunity for budding pop artist Lil Nas X, and you can’t hate him for that.
“C7osure (You Like)” is the final new offering on “7," and is another spark of potential for genre-crossover, most aptly with “bedroom pop” fans or fans of other alternative pop communities. It’s brief, yet efficient with its fuzzy piano, talkative chorus and yearning refrain clocking in at two minutes and twenty-three seconds.
Time is an important theme to Lil Nas X. His emphasis on reaching out to many different sectors of modern music speaks not to a lack of authenticity but to his focus on propelling himself while he has the spotlight.
While it is easy to poke fun at his musical and online persona, his understanding of the industry landscape is noteworthy. He should not be faulted for his versatility because Lil Nas X knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’ll surely mosey down the “Old Town Road” of pop stardom for years to come.