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'7' is a Hot Mess in the Best Way Possible

4 Stars

7 album cover

Grab your saddle and giddy up for Lil Nas X’s debut EP. An EP exceeding expectations, on “7,” Lil Nas X manages to explore a diverse range of genres, defining himself as more than just a one-hit-wonder, but as a rising star who is redefining the parameters of country music.

Known for his chart-topping single “Old Town Road,” and its subsequent remixes, such as a remix featuring BTS called “Seoul Town Road,” Lil Nas X claimed the top spot on Billboard’s Top 100 for 19 straight weeks — becoming the longest leading billboard number one hit ever — with his country-rap track, beating out veteran number one chart-toppers including Taylor Swift, Drake, and Ed Sheeran. “Old Town Road,” with its contagious beat and southern twang, tore down conventional ideas of what country music sounds — and looks — like. Defined as “country-trap,” it graduated from a TikTok meme to topping the national Billboard charts, but was subsequently removed in March for not being “country” enough. This led to the holy recreation of the song including country icon Billy Ray Cyrus. If Lil Nas X’s success was surprising, the revival of Billy Ray Cyrus’ relevancy was even more so.

“Old Town Road” rode on the coattails of the yeehaw agenda, while blending two disparate genres. While Lil Nas X made the track with a $30 beat and a Nine Inch Nails-generated banjo riff instrumental, it still feels organic — a natural party pleaser. Short enough for ever-dwindling attention spans, “Old Town Road”’s quirky lyrics make it memorable and easily quotable. It’s meme-worthy and perfect for a generation consumed by internet culture and meme pages. All the fanfare of his lead single aside, would Lil Nas X be able to keep up the momentum of popularity he maintained with “Old Town Road"?

“7” amounts to more than just a scramble to rid Lil Nas X of his one-hit-wonder status — it serves up an entreé with “Old Town Road” as the appetizer. As the title suggests, the EP has seven songs including the “Old Town Road” Billy Ray Cyrus remix. Each song is a standalone hit. All are short, but allow Lil Nas X to flex his talents as a musician with a wide range of depth. We continue to experience the “yee-yee juice” flow with “Rodeo,” on which Lil Nas X cements his excellence in country-trap. The track features a verse by Cardi B, a departure from the style of “Old Town Road.” The song features resonating guitar riffs that one would expect from a Western cowboy movie and is almost “country-trap” enough to be comparable to “Old Town Road,” but lands further on the rap side of the country-trap spectrum that Lil Nas X explores.

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“Panini,” a short, bursting synth-pop track with more whistling than actual singing, is not only catchy thanks to its rhymes, but has received a similar amount of attention as “Old Town Road.” “Panini” toes the line of alternative pop and rock, but feels as if it’s an oversaturated version of a Juice WRLD or Travis Scott song, but with the added drum-kick thrown in, it’s impossible not to tap your foot along to the song. While “Panini” doesn’t fill the role as a rock song, Lil Nas X exhibits his aptitude for rock in other songs throughout the EP. Travis Baker of Blink-182 and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic produced “F9mily (You & Me)” and “Bring U Down,” respectively, thus demonstrating the industry’s recognition of Lil Nas X’s capacity for rock music and willingness to catapult him to higher levels of music production. While the musician’s vocals are akin to those of grunge rockers, the tracks showcase his adaptability and refusal to be confined to a single genre.

Lil Nas X attempts to embrace an edgier persona in “Kick It,” a smooth track complimented by brass and drums. “Kick It” distinguishes itself as a one-of-a-kind track on “7,” strengthening his foothold in mainstream hip-hop relative to songs that seek to stand out in other genres. Rounding out the EP is “C7osure (You Like),” it’s bound to please as an alternative pop track. The track’s length is unfortunate — it’s far too short — but its mix of soothing piano chords and calming vocals make it nontheless enjoyable. This track in particular and the EP at large served as a platform for Lil Nas X to come out as gay to his fans. While Lil Nas X tweeted that he thought he made it clear with the EP’s cover art, he elaborates more in “C7osure” as he sings “Ain't no more actin’, man, that forecast say I should just let me grow,” and “this is what I gotta do, can't be regrettin’ when I'm old.”

The EP manages to set Lil Nas X apart from the country blend of “Old Town Road” by incorporating an amalgamation of alt-rock, punk grudge, and rap. While the EP doesn’t necessarily define what kind of artist he plans on being, at his age and place in his career, it doesn’t need to. It’s clear he doesn’t plan on being defined by any singular category. “7” stands out as a charming conglomerate of songs, an uplifting platform that solidifies Lil Nas X’s status as a breakout star of the next generation.

— Staff writer Hope Y. Kudo can be reached at hope.kudo@thecrimson.com.

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