After the success of “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X recently released his latest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” sparking a new era in his career. The song faced a ton of criticism after the video aired. Critics weren’t too thrilled by his take on biblical imagery – specifically, the scene where he slides to hell on a stripper pole and gives Satan a lap dance before killing him. On the same day as the release, he revealed a Satan-themed sneaker collaboration with the art collective MSCHF. Pastors condemned the video in their sermons, and social media has been on fire ever since. Also, Nike ended up suing MSCHF for the collaboration. While Lil Nas X is facing backlash, he’s still finding success with the song.
We’ve seen this before
Artists have been receiving backlash like this for decades. In the early 1990s, Madonna faced similar criticism as Lil Nas X for her “Like a Prayer” video. In the video, she’s dancing around burning crosses and kissing the feet of a Black saint, who many thought resembled Jesus. The Vatican at the time called the video blasphemous and encouraged people to boycott Madonna and her concerts. The song was used for a Pepsi campaign, and the company decided to pull the ads after hearing about the video complaints.
Most recently, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion faced tons of backlash for their 2020 hit “WAP.” Many critics called the song inappropriate given the song’s inspiration. And its first televised performance at the 2021 Grammy’s unleashed another wave of backlash.
Does outrage stop success?
We see this pattern where outrage makes the artist more successful in the end. Lil Nas X trolled critics with this apology video. While the criticism made him a trending topic, the song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, the Satan sneaker reportedly sold out in minutes.
“WAP” ended up debuting at number one on Billboard as well. The pair made history as the first all-female rap collaboration to debut at number one. And after the televised “WAP” performance, Cardi’s latest single, “Up,” reached number one. That extended her record as the female rapper with the most number ones on the hot 100.
The outrage “Like a Prayer” received caused Madonna to lose her Pepsi campaign. However, the song and album still reached number one on Billboard. She also won a VMA for the song, and it is now one of Madonna’s most recognized songs ever.
What do you think about this? Is controversy helping artists? Let us know!