Friday, May 28th, 2021

Lil Nas X – Sun Goes Down

Chance missed by not subtitling it “(Moonlight)”…


Samson Savill de Jong: This song proves how much difference it makes when the person writing it is speaking from real experience. Interpolating Iann Dior’s utterly odious “Holding On”, Lil Nas X makes a sweet and deeply affecting song. There’s a lot of people making sad boy music with these kinds of sounds at the moment, but a lot of them leave out details or insights that allow us to actually understand what they’re feeling, instead just telling you that they’re depressed and expect that to be enough. Nas X knows better. This song exposes his soul, in a way not even “Montero” did, and crucially he does it by telling us about his fears, his feelings, the things that he went through that made him feel like this. There is plenty that will be relatable to people in here, but crucially that’s because we’re relating to him, rather than an abstract concept, and so even if we haven’t been through his specifics, we still understand how he felt. I’d have loved a second verse, and Nas X isn’t exactly revolutionising lyric writing here, but this is a popular sound that has mostly been filled with preening arseholes who have nothing to say but expect your sympathy, and we’ve suddenly got an emotionally raw song that really connects, and the comparison makes it stand out even more.

John Pinto: MONTERO‘s third single flips an Iann Dior track that landed here with a resounding thud. So why are the results so much sweeter this time around? For one thing, Lil Nas X smartly keeps the things that work (Omer Fedi’s sparkling guitar work, a transposed hook) while jettisoning the things that don’t (everything else). It’s also pretty genius to turn a little boy’s nice guy routine into a meditation on internalized homophobia and racism, a sly illustration of trying to hide one’s sexuality by fitting in with a dominant hyper-macho society.

Katherine St Asaph: A perfect rejoinder to people who say lyrics don’t matter. Take away the vocals, and this is an over-short Post Malone song with light orchestral flourishes. The candor and poignancy are all in Lil Nas X’s words and perseverance. This is also exactly how the writing credits work out; imagine if producers Take a Daytrip gave the track to Travis Scott or Big Sean instead. The docked points are for them.

Edward Okulicz: Boiled down to its components, it’s not the most complex or accomplished track, but thinking about how much this must mean to the kids who need to hear their stories told in the past tense, suggesting an actual future, renders almost any criticism moot. But here’s some anyway: it takes some serious skill to take your old, but only partially-buried sadness, and bring it out with such a breezy, singalong melody. This song is a gift.

Will Adams: As hard as it is to keep up with someone who operates at a hundred memes per hour, “Sun Goes Down” is a lovely moment of reflection for Lil Nas X. With a few years, he could polish his message of self-acceptance to be even more powerful, but fuck it: someone out there needs to hear this now.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I won’t bore you with all of the boring personal details of why I love and relate to all of the lyrics except to say: the first CD album that I ever owned, and one of the most seminal works in my life to this date, was Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. Lil Nas X, good on you for letting the whole world know how much of a Barb you are, and for also letting us into the intimately painful and deeply beautiful parts of your personal life. Your fandom (and standom) is proud. 

Alfred Soto: The autobiographical material doesn’t transform Lil Nas’ approach or sharpness, but facts are facts: this is one catchy son of a bitch, catchier than “Old Town Road” and “MONTERO.” The mention of thick lips and color are grace notes, not the point, which will surprise this excellent attention-getter.

Thomas Inskeep: God bless the truly genre-less Lil Nas X, who’s decided to go all-in on being the biggest gay pop star in the world. His “Montero” follow-up, which to me sounds for all the world like a letter to his queer, Black, teenaged self, is basically an “it gets better” song that actually speaks to his own, and thousands if not millions of teens’ around the world, experiences. Musically it’s a bit anemic, as he sings over some semi-acoustic pop-rock, but because of what he’s saying and who he’s, basically, being, I’ll cut him slack. The world needs LNX, and he seems to get it, and that matters so, so much.

Ian Mathers: It sometimes gets overshadowed that, even with all of the many other aspects of being an artist, star, personality (etc etc) that Lil Nas X is very, very good at, he simply wouldn’t be in a position to use those skills if he didn’t also keep putting out very, very good songs (and, mea maxima culpa, I dismissed “Panini” wayyy too quickly at the time). “Sun Goes Down” isn’t going to get the controversy of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and so maybe it’ll get a little less attention, but it’s at least as good, and for anyone waiting for Lil Nas X to do a proper sad banger: your ride’s here.

Nortey Dowuona: I’m beginning to see it. See why old Nas wound up where he is now. Making great records is a difficult thing and one that requires a great deal of time, and little Nas is under a time crunch. The now looming shadow of “MONTERO” is growing bigger every day it doesn’t sit on number 1, and the pressure is on little Nas to win over the world or be forgotten and written off as a fluke and a flash in the pan. But big Nas had the luck of being a “serious” artist, and that can give you time. Pop stars, especially now, don’t have that luck. You’re either dropping monthly or you will be forgotten. That’s why “Sun Goes Down” gives me a little hope. Because it’s very much a serious song. For one, it has a well-produced video in which Nas goes from being a hidden wallflower to the toast of the prom, his hair radiant. It has a swirling, guitar-led beat with chopper drums and loping bass. It even touches on his life as a stan. But Nas does exactly what a serious song like this needs: carry it in his warm, tender tenor, making it buoyant with the sincerity and courage it needs. It’s not meant to be a chart-topper, it’s meant to be a fantastic song. This weekend, I listened to the Q-Tip remix of “The World Is Yours”. It was thoughtful, confident and slick with its wordplay. And it felt strange to look at 21-year-old Big Nas, a baby face with a wisdom beyond his years and the world at his feet. And as I watched “Sun Goes Down”, I saw the same confidence, the same slick word play, the same thoughtfulness and that same wisdom. I’m hopeful that this Lil Nas will fulfill the promise that Big Nas eventually failed and betrayed. Even if he comes only a little closer, that’ll be good enough. “I know, that you want to cry, but there’s much more to life, than dying over your past mistakes and people who threw dirt on your name. The world is yours, my ninja.”

Reader average: [7.12] (8 votes)

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One Response to “Lil Nas X – Sun Goes Down”

  1. funnily enough this will end up directly below “holding on too long” on the sidebar (along with 2 other songs) given the interpolation.