Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow – Industry Baby

The mainstream media found “Montero” controversial. We find “Industry Baby” controversial. We are not the same.


Jeffrey Brister: I’ve followed Lil Nas X casually since “Old Town Road”, and one thing that’s always fascinated me is that, even when his music wasn’t the most compelling or interesting, he was unrepentantly himself, and that seemed to incense people to a degree I didn’t think possible. And the angle of attack was always very clear. Tweet after tweet, article after article, all attempting to deploy homophobic and racist rhetoric against an artist who is unapologetically gay and black. He didn’t go away, he kept making music, kept needling all the right people, never left the public consciousness, and now he gets his victory lap. “Industry Baby” is just three minutes of triumphant stunting, a finger in the eye of everybody that discounted Lil Nas X. There’s just so much joy in this song, with all of its big horns, its lyrics claiming victory–I can’t stop listening. There’s just something about a queer artist getting a W like this that makes me a little hopeful.

Will Adams: This genre of victory lap songs never really do it for me. Okay, great, you got some hits — would you like to make another? Lil Nas X’s gets in some endearingly silly lines here, but overall “Industry Baby” is weighed down by self-seriousness, and dragged further by that awful, Cheap As Free horn section. Did Kanye do that on purpose?

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Lest we forget that the fact that the boldness of a queer Black man’s self-expression can still be considered radical in 2021, Lil Nas X swerves back with a braggadocio and smugness that could be seen as intentionally trolling his haters if it didn’t read as so authentic. “Industry Baby” is a victory lap so well earned not even Jack Harlow can derail it. 

Ian Mathers: Not really 100% sure why Harlow is here, let alone for what feels like a shrug of a verse in this particular context, but the rest of the song is fucking fantastic. Triumphant like a ring entrance, defiant in a way that feels more legitimate than a lot of imperial-level pop (what with The Culture and The Discourse, you know), playfully confident and confidently playful. Watching Lil Nas X seemingly effortlessly nail what sure feels like an ascent to the top has been a real joy. With a feature on the level of the rest of it, I could give this a 10, easy. Either way I’m going to have that chorus stuck in my head for a while.

Thomas Inskeep: Bless a popstar as big as LNX for singing “I’m queer” on a sure-to-be smash single, but take points away for preceding that with “I don’t fuck bitches,” and for including defiantly mediocre rapper Jack Harlow, who refers to his nemeses as “pussies” — nice misogyny, guys! You can hear co-producer Kanye in the faker-than-fake synth horns, and co-producers Take a Daytrip in the way this flatly sounds like much of LNX’s output of late. I love him as a person and personage, but — and so — I really wish his music was better than this.

Nortey Dowuona: The only issue I can sincerely level against this song is the Madea line: it’s such an overused punchline you can feel your eyes rolling in your head. Otherwise it’s a stone cold knee slapper that bounces you right out of your shoes until the scowling horns looping around the bulbous bass drums and martial style percussion and baseball snares, which Nas X easily hops over without even blinking, a smile on his face. And it feels exhilarating. Even Jack Harlow, who constantly exists at a solid 6, peeks his head up, smirking at his far more developed facial scruff and smiling gently at his broad as punch OG, feeling himself and the snares out and finding them more strong than he initially thought. Then Nas X leads us out, knowing now our summer is forever on smash.

Alfred Soto: Live by the meme, die by the meme. The dullest track he’s put his name on. The synth brass and distorted chorus vocals he plucks from a Timbaland production circa 2006. Too early for this revanchism. 

Al Varela: “Old Town Road” seems so far away from us now. The artist we knew in 2019 has evolved from a viral novelty to one of the most expressive and exciting pop artists in recent memory, and “Industry Baby” is the victory lap. If nothing else, it’s the most complete song Lil Nas X has ever made. The waves of trumpets splashing against the punchy bass and Lil Nas X’s cocky but charming hubris is infectious in so many ways. Not just in how perfectly crafted the beat is by Take A Daytrip and (begrudgingly) Kanye West, but also in how both Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow can come off as confident and badass while still indulging in their sense of humor. Lil Nas X can demand a song with Nicki and brag about being sued, while Jack Harlow can send home a girl to her boyfriend with a handprint on her asscheek. This song convinces me that both artists are born to be superstars, and this may be their crowning achievement.

Reader average: [6.3] (10 votes)

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