Renowned singer, rapper, and gay cowboy Lil Nas X has taken over the charts, taken over my heart, and has now taken the title of not-quite-CEO at Taco Bell. In anticipation of Montero, Mr. X’s forthcoming album, the chain restaurant announced on August 23 that the musician would be filling the role of Chief Impact Officer. It’s a full circle moment for the young artist, who five years ago was holding down a job at an Atlanta-area Taco Bell.
The role is honorary, and it’s not entirely clear what impact his involvement will have on the inner workings of Taco Bell — I, for one, can think of a few Lil Nas outfits that would make for pretty good uniform inspiration. But it doesn’t seem like updated work fits are in the cards. Lil Nas X will work with the Taco Bell Foundation, to support young creatives and, according to Billboard, the musician will team up with Taco Bell to craft an “exclusive experience” (which really, could mean anything). He’ll also work on some special menu updates.
In the meantime, fans of Lil Nas X, of Taco Bell, and of things stuffed with other things, have taken to twitter to get into the nitty gritty, with some requests. With a direct line to the gatekeepers of Big Taco, some fans are asking that Lil Nas ushers in a return of favorites including the Grilled Stuft Nacho, Nachos Supreme, and Mexican pizza. One Twitter user asked Lil Nas to push the chain to pay their staff a living wage, while the rest of the requests under the musician’s announcement were simply too horny to repeat while either of my parents live and breathe.
Recent collaborations between chains and pop superstars have paid off big time, paving the way for collaborations such as this one. A collab between McDonald’s and Travis Scott netted the rapper a whopping $20 million in 2020. McDonald’s, which had faced financial losses throughout the pandemic, saw a spike in sales after the collaboration went live. The burger chain followed the success of its Travis Scott partnership by going on to collaborate with other artists like BTS and J Balvin. It most recently debuted the Saweetie Meal in early August, with — you guessed it — rapper Saweetie.
If the Travis Scott collaboration is to act as a model for fast food chains collaborating with major artists, Taco Bell should let Lil Nas do… pretty much whatever he wants. Scott was reportedly quite involved in the process, naming the meal, drawing animation for the TV ad, and developing merchandise. Like Scott’s fans, lovers of Lil Nas X go extremely hard. But it’s up to Taco Bell not to water down the artist’s identity, and lose out on a major part of his fanbase in the process.
Part of what has catapulted Lil Nas X to stardom is the wonderfully loud, sometimes hilarious queerness he brings to his music, his music videos, and to pretty much everything else he does. It’s encouraging that Taco Bell signed a highly visible deal with a musician who has so openly expressed his queerness, and was recently seen in the “Montero” video giving the devil an extremely impressive lap dance, before licking his face and snapping his neck. I’m sure there are some Taco Bell fans who will be outraged that the chain is partnering with such an openly and proudly queer man. Personally, I just hope Lil Nas X keeps all that same unapologetic energy, no matter how big the corporate deals get.