Lil Nas X captured attention with his racy performance of “Montero (Call Me By Your Name”) at Sunday night’s BET Awards when he made out with a male backup dancer during the song.
Among those who viewed the performance was Adam Lambert, who recalled similarly kissing his male keyboard player while performing at the American Music Awards and experiencing some serious repercussions.
“I thought it was hot,” Lambert tells Billboard. “I mean, he’s really giving it to us. I think he is definitely like the gay pop star that is 2021 — he’s bold, he’s controversial, he’s pushing boundaries. That’s what we want our pop stars to do. It’s just taken this long to have it be a gay one.”
While Lil Nas X is being showered with praise for the gutsy performance, Lambert tells Billboard he was engulfed in controversy. “I was pulled off of ABC for a little while,” he says. “They were freaked out, they had Christian parent groups writing in, the censors were freaked out. The thing I found so funny was like, ‘Censors? It’s a kiss! When was that indecent?'”
Looking back, Lambert reveals he was expected to “toe the line a bit, because of the times we were in and the situation I was in with my career.”
These days, Lambert has nothing but love for Lil Nas X. “He’s so grounded and firm in who he is and what he’s about, he won’t apologize to anybody,” he says. “What I love right now with Lil Nas is we need him to be outspoken about it. He is in a position where that works for him, and he’s using it.”
As Lambert explains, the rapper is making the most of the platform his popularity is affording him. “Once you hit a certain point, you get more leeway, you get more credibility; the industry gives you a longer leash, so to speak,” he says. “And I feel like one of the great things about Lil Nas is when you look at ‘Old Town Road,’ you see that this massive worldwide hit helped give him some freedom to make some statements and to make some real art. Timing is everything.”
Lambert also marvels at how far society has come in the decade since his same-sex kiss. “Two men kissing is sort of old news,” he says. “Of course, there’s still a lot of problems, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think for a lot of people, we’ve moved past the shock and the alien nature of seeing gay representation in action.”
He adds: “We are in a very divided, polarized time, but I feel we are on the positive side of that polarity. There is so much good will for someone like him, and I’m just happy to be able to have the perspective to appreciate it.”