Commentary

From Adam Lambert’s blurred gay TV kiss to Lil Nas X at the BET Awards: What changed?

Lil Nas X performing at the BET Awards
Lil Nas X performing at the 2019 BET AwardsPhoto: BETNetworks/YouTube

Montero Lamar Hill, better known as the global phenomenon Lil Nas X, is unlike anyone else in the history of music. The 22-year-old gay African American rapper and singer has not only broken barriers in terms of race and sexuality, but has managed to transcend genres (and any other box that the media has tried to put him in, for that matter) more than perhaps any artist.

At his young age he has already had two songs hit number one in the U.S. and in countries all over the world. His debut “Old Town Road” spent 19 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the longest-running number one song since the chart’s creation in 1958. With that achievement he became the first openly gay artist to top the singles chart in the U.S.

Related: Lil Nas X steals the show with blue gown & red hot kiss at very queer BET Awards ceremony

However his latter chart topper “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” takes on an even bigger significance, not just for the man himself but for what the song represents for the LGBTQ community, the country, and the entire world. Take one listen to the song, or one look at it’s music video, and you realize how unprecedented and groundbreaking it really is.

Whether you are personally a fan of his music or not, you cannot deny the power and symbolism of Lil Nas X’s newest release. It is explicitly and unabashedly gay – which at one time would’ve been unthinkable for a mainstream song that has garnered massive commercial success. The ultimate example, perhaps, of how much progress we have really made was his televised performance of the single last week at the BET Awards.

The appearance, which featured Montero flanked by shirtless male dancers, ended with him making out with one of them in an overtly sexual way. When I first saw it, I had an immediate flashback to the 17-year-old me watching Adam Lambert’s performance at the American Music Awards back in November 2009.

I remember how much it meant to me as a gay teenager watching a major musician kissing a man on live TV, in Lambert’s case his guitarist, with no hesitation or shame. What I also remembered, however, was the huge controversy the kiss created in the press, to the point where Lambert was removed from the lineup for Good Morning America which he was supposed to be on the day after the AMAs.

And when Lambert’s team quickly got him on the CBS Morning Show instead, they showed a clip of the kiss that was blurred, even after immediately before that showing the infamous Britney-Madonna kiss at the 2003 VMAs without any censorship.

“So because my kiss was between two men instead of two women it’s somehow different?” Lambert later said he thought to himself at the time. “That proves exactly my point.”

Can you imagine the furor if that double standard happened now? Things have indeed changed. We’ve come a long way since 2009, and Lil Nas X’s brave showing of gay liberation and expression is proof of that.

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