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Lil Nas X(treme)’s PR Stunts

Photo via Forbes

Published on February 28, 2024, 6:12 p.m.
by CamiLee Downey.

If there is one star in today’s music industry who knows how to get your attention, it is Lil Nas X. The artist began his music career in 2018 with the release of his song “NUMB” and rose to stardom with “Old Town Road,” which holds the record for the longest-running stint as No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at 19 weeks. While this song was his claim to fame for a while, the artist found a new way to put himself in the spotlight: PR stunts.

Making bold moves

The artist is no stranger to making bold choices. In March 2021, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” was released, followed by a music video that has amassed over 565 million views on YouTube. The video was filled with imagery – some would call satanic – that left many viewers shocked and upset. The singer followed the music video by promoting custom Nike Air Max 97s that featured a pentagram, an inverted cross and, supposedly, a drop of human blood. All of this satanic symbolism gained the artist massive amounts of attention in the media and online.

This bold combination of PR moves sparked many conversations about the artist and his music, and the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The singer was later seen walking the red carpet and on social media donning a prosthetic pregnant belly to generate conversation around the release of his self-titled, first album “MONTERO,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

Photo via People Magazine

Going too far?

More recently, the artist announced on social media that he was releasing “Christian music” in a TikTok video on his personal account @lilnasx that subsequently gained over 51.7 million views. This TikTok post left many viewers skeptical about his new song that he claimed to be a gospel song, because of his past use of PR stunts. Many did not believe him, and when his song “J CHRIST” was released on Jan. 12, members of the Christian community were offended by the references he made in his music and on social media.

On Jan. 15, Lil Nas X released a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, to explain the intention behind his “J CHRIST” music video and album cover artwork. In this video, he also apologized for a video he posted on his personal TikTok account where he was dressed like Jesus. “I’m sorry for that,” said Lil Nas X. “That was overboard.”

Losing the shock factor

While the artist’s series of TikTok posts were meant to inspire conversation and generate interest behind his first song release since 2022, the song did not gain nearly as many streams as his hit songs “Old Town Road,” “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby.”

Photo via Lil Nas X’s TikTok (@lilnasx)

For the past three years, Lil Nas X has been using similar PR stunts to generate hype around his music releases, but it seems listeners have gotten bored with his controversial ways and see them as “expected.” Lil Nas X might be losing his touch with his outlandish PR antics.

Will the artist pivot to a new PR strategy, or will he continue with these PR stunts?

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