Lil Nas X/YouTube
After sliding down a stripper pole to hell, then seducing and dethroning Satan in the music video for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” a flamenco-rooted banger that sent the internet and conservative pundits into chaotic frenzies for its controversial imagery, Lil Nas X is back with another cinematic visual. And this one’s his most personal yet.
On Friday (May 21), Lil Nas X dropped “Sun Goes Down,” a somber track that reflects on the artist’s past struggles coming to terms with his sexuality and identity as a gay man. The track spotlights a slow-whining guitar plucking that lends the composition a melancholic sound, over which Nas X sings: “I wanna run away / Don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life.” The string elements mirror that of “Montero,” which was mastered by the same team, including Take A Daytrip, Roy Lenzo, and Omer Fedi, the producer behind the pop-punk patinas of artists like 24kGoldn and Machine Gun Kelly.
The visual is similarly reflective, beginning with today’s Nas X sitting in a meditative state, floating above a pool of water. He watches visions of past performances and award-show appearances before being sent back to a time when he still worked at a Taco Bell franchise. There’s a cameo from his actual father, R. L. Stafford, who drives him home from work, as well as a reimagining of his high school bedroom. The clip culminates with an emotional prom scene. It starts out lonely, with Nas X surveying the dance floor alone as other couples slow-dance in pairs. At this point, he escapes to a bathroom stall to cry. But after some encouragement from his future self, he rejoins the party. The visual was directed by the artist himself in collaboration with Psycho Films.
It’s a hard pivot from the fast-tweeting, bop-slinging Lil Nas X that entered pop culture with the wild success of “Old Town Road,” showing a different side of the singer and letting listeners into his life. “in the “sun goes down” video i go back in time to visit a younger version self who’s struggling inside, hating himself, & doesn’t want to live anymore,” he wrote on Twitter ahead of the song’s release. “i try my best to uplift him.” This weekend, Lil Nas X will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in a two-part set that will likely include “Montero” and “Sun Goes Down.” Next month, on June 4, he will perform at the Can’t Cancel Pride virtual concert benefiting the LGBTQ+ community along with Demi Lovato, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and more.