Lil Nas X has transcended to new levels of queer cowboy greatness with his latest performance, a soulful rendition of Dolly Parton’s 1973 classic song, “Jolene.”
In celebration of his debut album, Montero, Lil Nas took over BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge with a small band and a flower-adorned mic stand to work some country magic. His cover of “Jolene” invokes the same Western profundity of his first hit, “Old Town Road,” but with a newfound sense of depth and self-awareness.
As he sings “Jolene”’s lyrical tale of a scorned woman, Lil Nas infuses the song with the struggles inherent to his identity as a gay Black man. The lyric “I'm begging of you please don't take my man” is given powerful new meaning in the context of Lil Nas’ own experiences with homophobia and marginalization.
Lil Nas’ version of the song describes a love triangle between himself, a male partner, and a straight woman. Lyrics like, “And I can easily understand/How you could easily take my man” become imbued with themes of queer yearning and the harmful impact of heterosexual normativity. It also doesn’t hurt that Lil Nas’ trademark baritone turns the song into the kind of rich, velvety lullabye that cements in your brain for days.
After coming out in June 2019, Lil Nas X began incorporating his gay identity into his music, conveying his journey of self-acceptance within the LGBTQA+ community. Lil Nas’ latest songs have explored everything from homosexuality as a “sin” to sexual anxiety in prisons, redefining what it means to be queer in America today.
“[People always say] go where you’re accepted and stuff like that, but you can’t always just go where you’re accepted,” Lil Nas told Out Magazine in a recent interview. “You’ve got to go and break down those walls and say, ‘This is my space now too.’”
Montero is now available just about everywhere and has already been hailed as “pop-rap at its proudest, biggest and best.” Ever the fashion icon, Lil Nas has also collaborated with designer Jean Paul Gaultier on a limited-edition mesh top that is available for pre-order now.
Now, do your ears a favor and check out Lil Nas X’s cover of “Jolene” right here:
Top Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
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Holyn Thigpen is from Atlanta and attends Georgia State University, where she studies film and journalism. You can typically find her reading pop psychology books, watching Swedish movies, or googling Adam Driver. Check her out on Twitter @H0lyn.