Lil Nas X & Outrage Marketing

By Anjali Nayak 

Lil Nas X is a master in marketing. While his tactics may seem childish and frivolous, the rapper is making great strides in both the music industry and LGBTQ+ representation. Through the methods of outrage marketing, Lil Nas X has made himself a global phenomenon as well as a black, queer icon. 

Although the popstar uses outrage marketing through self expression, outrage marketing is more notably used for bad. By definition, outrage marketing is doing something extremely controversial or outrageous in order to attract attention from a group opposed to such ideas. One example is Jake Paul, who finds himself in outrageously controversial scandals in order to stay relevant. Another example is Tyler, the Creator, who earlier in his career was seen as a loudmouthed teenager, using a variety of slurs and uncomfortable phrases in the majority of his songs. Reflecting on his Odd Future days and first few albums, Tyler even admits that his main goal was to attract as much attention as he could and to “piss off anyone who heard my songs.” 

On the other hand, Lil Nas X takes a different approach. After coming from the smash hit “Old Town Road,” the rapper was excited to release his debut album to the world. As a former stan twitter meme account, Lil Nas X is very familiar with the trends of the internet and the best ways to increase longevity. For example, the single Panini had a TikTok challenge attached to the song, as well as the Roblox event for the song Holiday. In 2021, Lil Nas X released one of the biggest songs of the year, Montero (Call Me By Your Name), as well as the music video for the song. In the video, Lil Nas X goes to hell and gives the devil a lap dance. While the music video received a lot of love, devout Christians were extremely angry at the scenes shown in the music video. However, Lil Nas X did not skip a beat, announcing the release of his product Satan Nike Shoes soon after, poking fun at the hate he received from the music video. Advertised as having real human blood in them, the shoes received both backlash and love from two opposing sides, hence, Lil Nas X only got richer. Feuling the rumors of a lawsuit, Lil Nas X joked on his social media platforms that he was going to go to jail. Shortly afterwards he then released another music video, this time for the song “Industry Baby.” Capitalizing off of the lawsuit rumors, in this music video Lil Nas X is in jail, dancing naked, showing off his feminine side, and kissing guys. This was obviously too much for some people to handle. Cyberbullies took to their computers, writing hate comment after hate comment exclaiming that the popstar was “ruining masculinity,” and that they felt “less masculine,” watching the music video. The question then raises, if believing that a confident, queer, black man has made you feel “less masculine,” were you ever really that masculine to begin with? Although he has received much backlash for his album rollout, Lil Nas X has only continued to succeed. As of September 28, 2021, the title track has spent a consecutive 5 weeks as the most popular song in the world. The album debuted at #2, only second to Drake’s long awaited “Certified Loverboy,” as well as racking up 55 million streams. Lil Nas X uses the outrage market to his own advantage, and through the hate and backlash, he stays winning.