After topping the charts, breaking records and winning multiple awards for his debut single “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X fast forwards with another single titled “Panini”. The thumbnail supporting the video sees Lil Nas X dressed in a futuristic outfit with a handful of robots dancing behind him. Just like he used social media to push his hit single to the masses, X continues to use media to his advantage but this time he’s telling another story with a glimpse into our digital future.
Before playing the video on YouTube, a 15 second advertisement/commercial about a food delivery serviced called “Door Dash” plays. In the beginning of the video, we’re introduced to a futuristic city where cars fly, people wear space suits and advertisements are now projected in beautiful, neon lights in the sky. We meet Lil Nas X’s co-star, Skai Jackson on a balcony as she stares into the sky at multiple advertisements featuring the singer himself. Lil Nas X can be seen promoting brands like Beats by Dre, Acorn and Fiat among other displays that read “The Future is Yours,” and “XXX”. As the music starts, a visibly annoyed Jackson disappears into the city. However, as she walks down the street, she is stopped by multiple projections of Nas singing the song. “Panini,” finds Lil Nas X singing about his relationship with fans before and after his newfound fame. “Ayy, Panini, don’t you be a meanie / Thought you wanted me to go up / Why you tryna keep me teeny,” he sings. Jackson then runs into a floating, futuristic looking car to escape the projections but just as she finds relief, displays of Lil Nas X singing plays on all the car’s widows. Jackson then runs out of the car into an alley where Lil Nas X songs the chorus alongside a handful of robots. “Just say to me what you want from me / Just say to me what you want from me.” During the second verse of the song, Jackson escapes Lil Nas X by catching a flight out of town. However, once the plane takes off, Lil Nas X lands on the plane’s wing, singing into her window and throughout the plane’s televisions. In attempt to escape, Sky jumps out of the emergency exit of the plane, but Lil Nas X uses a jet pack to follow her. Sky then flies back to her balcony where she glares at the Lil Nas X advertisements throughout the city. The video ends with Lil Nas X pressing a button on his watch and turning those displays into beautiful, neon trees that grow. Sky can be seen staring at them with a look of satisfaction on her face.
Lil Nas X found success this past summer with the smash hit “Old Town Road”. The song which fuses elements of the hip-hop and country genres met a lot of controversy for “cultural appropriation” before Lil Nas X released the record-breaking ‘Old Town Remix” featuring country legend Billy Ray Cyrus. “Old Town Road’s” massive success launched Lil Nas X into the spotlight making him one of 2019 most notable pop icons. The music video to “Panini” starts where the video to “Old Town Road” ends. Like the “Old Town Road” music video, the release of “Panini” was followed by a handful of memes that would go viral the days following its release. Thus far, Lil Nas X has been noted for his effective use of digital media to promote his music and overall brand. The “Panini” video which gives us a perspective into what’s believed to be the future where cars fly, robots dance and advertisements are 10xs worse also correlates with Nas’ effective use of digital media and the futuristic elements and sounds of the song itself. Although the entire video, which finds Lil Nas X chasing a fan in a futuristic world is fictional, the underlying themes of digital media, advertising and overall capitalism makes an impact.
On the surface, “Panini” provides a futuristic experience that is absent of our current reality. There aren’t any flying cars, jet packs or space suits available for our use just yet. However, if one focuses on the storyline which features Lil Nas X chasing a fan using technology and digital media, they may be able to make the correlation. Today, as users of digital media we are exposed to advertisements from big brands and corporations every day. Before watching the for the “Panini” video itself, users must watch an advertisement first. In a capitalistic society where brands and advertisements are directed at users from every direction, it feels as if we are being stalked, especially when these advertisements are personalized just for the individual user. This video also showcases the level of interconnection we experience through digital media. Today, we live in a world that fully incorporates digital media into our lives, even when we don’t want it to. Finally, the video closes with the digital displays turning into trees leaving it to the user to make the connection between the two. Personally, this impressionable scene was a reminder of the beauty of nature and all things natural in this man-made world of digital technology.
Lil Nas X – “Panini”