Lil Nas X released the cover art and release date for his "comeback" single "J Christ," paying homage to the figure he deems to have had the "greatest comeback of all time," per his tweet.
The eye-catching artwork portrays the Grammy-winning Pop-rapper seemingly 'nailed' to a crucifix, adorned in fashionable Christ-like attire, surrounded by figures attempting to erect his cross—an embodiment of his self-proclaimed "Christian Era."
This imagery serves as a continuation of the controversy ignited during his previous era when he provocatively descended into hell via a stripper pole and twerked on the devil in his music video to "Montero (Call Me By Your Name.)" The devil had his moment; now it is time for Jesus to shine.
However, before you get out your pitchforks as Lil Nas X would want you to, you gotta remember he is a provocateur. He's not only learned from the backlash that bolstered his previous project but has likely drawn inspiration from past artists who faced similar heat when integrating religious imagery into their art—instances that have since become iconic across various genres.
From Madonna's 1989 "Like A Prayer" to Nas's 1999 Hype Williams-directed video for "Hate Me Now," featuring a controversial depiction of the crucifixion with Nas portraying Jesus—complete with carrying his own cross and wearing a crown of thorns—these moments stirred substantial controversy in their day.
But, times have changed. We've moved past the MTV era, and overall, religiosity has waned. Consequently, Lil Nas X faces far less career jeopardy than the artists who preceded him—a fact he is well aware of. The true risk here lies in the potential fatigue audiences might feel toward his recurring tactics, considering he has already been there, done that.
Lil Nas X, who, like an arsonist, thrives off igniting controversies and watching them unfold, may find himself burned by one too many stunts. But, the pivotal test lies in his music—whether it can match the intensity of the controversies he ignites. Without such balance, he risks becoming an artist reliant solely on the drama he creates.
"J Christ" drops this week on January 12th, along with a music video...Amen.
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